10 Most Beautiful Places in California

California never fails to amaze its travelers from the gushing waterfalls, to the striking beaches, to the snow-capped mountains, to the colorful wildflower fields, to the towering redwood forests, California really has it all and then some.

01 | BURNEY FALLS, SHASTA COUNTY

Located a short hour and a half away from Redding in Northern California within McArthur–Burney Falls Memorial State Park, Burney Falls are a sight not to be missed! Every angle is just as stunning as the last, and it’s basically impossible to take an ugly photo here. You can hike the trail to the bottom of the falls (more like a walk) and relax on a rock for as long as you’d life – though it does get super misty as you descend down the path! A cool respite from the usual heat in this area. And even better – you can swim here (albeit pretty chilly anytime of year), as long as you stay close to the rock outskirts. Bring water shoes as the ground is rather rocky and downright slippery.

02 | EMERALD BAY, LAKE TAHOE

Ohhh, I’m absolutely enamored with all things Lake Tahoe, and can easily name it one of the best places to visit in California. Period. If you adore shockingly blue waters, snow-capped mountains, and water spots, I have a slight feeling you’ll agree as well.

Emerald Bay is a gorgeous inlet on the western shore of Lake Tahoe, one of my favorite weekend trips from San Francisco. Exploring this area will take you away from the cozy little towns of North or South Lake Tahoe down a scenic, winding road and through the rugged Desolation Wilderness (the name is misleadingly depressing).

03 | SAND HARBOR, LAKE TAHOE

Yup, another one of the best places in California is in Lake Tahoe! Sand Harbor is a gem in the Sierras with crystal clear water and magnificent boulders every where you look! The sand on the beach is perfect and the experience is magnified by the stunning nature all around. The smell of the piney scent and the sound of birds and other wildlife around you makes it feel like a dream you don’t want to wake up from.

04 | MCWAY FALLS, BIG SUR

Big Sur has a lot to offer. From blue hues to the bridge muse — it’s an iconic destination for internationals and locals alike. Follow the coastal road to McWay Falls, a staple of the Sunshine State. An easy walk, the trail above McWays Falls gives us a bird’s eye view. Enjoy it with a friend, or a few!

05 | PFEIFFER BEACH, BIG SUR

Although quite hidden in Big Sur, once you make it there (after a few too many u-turns), you’ll be absolutely amazed. The beach has streaks of purple sand from eroded crystals of garnet. Yes, you read that right – the sand is actually purple and marbled in with black and white sand. Quite rare to say the least. Psst – the best time to witness this purple sand is right after it rains – make sure you bring your camera. Spectacular rock formations are found here as well.

06 | VALLEY VIEW, YOSEMITE

Visiting California for the first time and not visiting Yosemite National Park is a crime. And thank god, I didn’t commit one. The Yosemite Valley, carved by glaciers, fenced by granite domes, watered by the Merced River, hemmed with pine trees, is a dream place for a landscape photographer like me. Inside the park, I visited almost all the vantage points to get that one postcard picture and all views were equally stunning.

07 | GLACIER POINT, YOSEMITE

Gazing over the edge at Glacier Point is not an exercise in uncovering subtle beauty. The obviousness of it can take your breath away. It’s almost too beautiful, and your brain will struggle to take it all in. And that’s surely why Glacier Point is most definitely one of the must see places in California.

From this vantage point, the vast expanse of the Yosemite Valley stretches out below, but your attention will undoubtedly turn first to the majestic curving profile of Half Dome. From there your eyes can follow Tenaya Canyon up and over the High Sierra or focus on the massive Nevada and Vernal Falls as they cascade to the valley floor.

08 | AVALON, SANTA CATALINA ISLAND

Catalina Island is one of our favorite weekend or day trips from Southern California. There are three port options which makes it really convenient from LA and OC: Dana Point, Long Beach, and San Pedro. After just an hour ferry ride, it feels like you’re somewhere on the Mediterranean. Catalina Island is such a gorgeous location with mild weather year around. There are SO many options of things to do; you can have almost any type of trip you’d like from romantic, adventurous, to relaxing

09 | HEARST CASTLE

Hearst Castle is possibly the most fascinating and the most opulent historic attraction in California. When William Randolph Hearst inherited the land from his father, he set about building his dream home: the 165 room Hearst Castle which is set upon 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways.

Hearst Castle today is an incredible attraction where visitors can marvel at William Randolph’s eclectic taste of world treasures (it’s an absolute must-do on any California coast road trip). I don’t think there’s many places where you can walk upon ancient Italian mosaics whilst looking at Egyptian artifacts and medieval tapestries all in the same room. He collected what he liked and placed them where he thought they looked good rather than by eras.

10 | ALAMERE FALLS, POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE

Looking for a waterfall hike in the San Francisco Bay Area? Check out Alamere Falls, a 10+ mile round trip hike that takes you to the base of the waterfall (which flows right into the Pacific Ocean actually!) Don’t expect any peace and solitude as this hike is rather popular, but the views highly make up for it. Note that it’s usually pretty foggy in the morning, so dress accordingly and even though it could be a bit chilly, make sure to bring some water. The gradual up-hill climbs will keep you warm.

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