What to do in Southern California’s great outdoors
Southern California is a haven for outdoors activities. This blog explores some of the best things to do while on holiday in the most southerly area of this American state. Colloquially referred to as “SoCal”, the region includes the southernmost 10 counties, including greater Los Angeles, as well as San Diego, which stretches down to the Mexico border.
Expansive urban dwellings are prominent, yet the natural landscape, including beaches, mountains, rivers, deserts and parks, still offers an amazing playground for adventurers.
SoCal is divided into distinctive regions, by politics, culture and economics. Each region is further divided into distinct areas, which collectively create the whole of SoCal. The regions are: Coastal Southern California, Inland Southern California and Deserts of California.
There are a multitude of geographic features to check out. Five National Parks are a must-see, including the Channel Islands National Park, Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave National Preserve and Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
In addition, there are major state parks such as Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Chino Hills State Park, Fort Tejon State Historic Park, Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, Mount San Jacinto, Malibu Creek, Red Rock Canyon and Topanga.
Make sure to investigate with your favourite search engine as this list includes some of the highlights, but certainly not all:
- Angeles National Forest
- Antelope Hills and Valley
- Arroyo Seco
- Big Bear Lake
- Chino Hills
- Death Valley
- Mojave River
- Palomar Mountain
- Peninsular Ranges
- San Bernardino Mountains
- San Diego River
- San Emigdio Mountains
- Temblor Range
- Victor Valley.
Outdoors fun in SoCal
Needless to say there is a plethora of outdoor opportunities that await in SoCal. The general lifestyle outdoorsy, from hiking to biking and camping. There are numerous events that take place year round in SoCal, including festivals, races and competitions.
In summer you can participate in the Big Bear Cycling Festival, the Badwater Ultramarathon, the USA Canoe Kayak National Championships, the Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational, San Diego Beer Run, and a whole lot more.
What is wonderful about the terrain of Southern California is that regardless of your fitness level or adventure level, you’ll be able to find an experience, trail, hike, climb, etc that fits your ability as well as time. Check out the modern hike to plan a trip based on your hiking desires and location. Details based on terrain, shade, water and landscape are all taken into consideration when identifying what will be your epic adventure.
Have you thought about what you might do in a desert in the land of vast sand and heat? Surprisingly there are lots of activities in Mojave Desert and Death Valley such as visiting ghost towns, mining camps, tunnels and abandoned edifices and even cities. With the possibility of fossils and assurance of an amazing sunset, the desert is a geographic landmark that shouldn’t be overlooked.
If you are travelling with children these guys have outlined some good gear ideas to help keep you outside and enjoying life.
Surfing in SoCal
Southern California is the capital for surfing in America. The beaches run along 185 miles of coast from Santa Barbara to San Diego, with a huge choice for all types of surfers.
On any given day, summer or winter, rain or shine, you can find people out enjoying the San Diego surf. For locals, riding waves is more than just a sport, it’s a way of life, as much a part of their daily routine as a morning run is to many other people. And, what was once a sport dominated by adult men it is now enjoyed by all.
With the popularity comes an inevitable crowd, but this is to be expected in such a popular tourist destination. The largest destinations are San Diego and Los Angeles but make sure you also check out your destination based on a local surfer’s perspective. What is great about most of the best surfing locations is that beginners through to more experienced wave riders can take advantage of the same area. Make sure you’re aware of surf etiquette.
Good weather for surfing can be found year round, but best seasons vary by beach. Point Conception (Santa Barbara County) is considered the borderline for what would be known as cold-temperature and subtropical water. In other words, a wet suit is needed for wave riding on this side of town, whereas board shorts are perfect for Orange County and San Diego. While it may be colder waters, it’s said that these are the better beaches for beginners and those learning how to surf.
If you are starting out why not take some lessons. There are plenty of surf coaches only too happy to teach you how to surf.
What would you do in the great outdoors of Southern California?
* Thank you to Sara Stringer for collaborating on this useful post.