Climbing in Yosemite - photo Myles McGuinness
From the northern heights of Mount Shasta to Amboy Crater in the Mojave, California is bubbling with signs of a volcanic past and a still-turbulent present. These geological features helped shape the state into what it is today, with lava tubes, craters, geysers, and natural hot springs.
Among the most alluring parks is Lassen Volcanic National Park, where steaming sulfur vents and boiling springs reign.
Mount Shasta itself is actually a magnificent volcano that rises from the flatlands, making it a bucket-list mountain for serious climbers. Its last eruption was in 1786. But those who don’t wish to climb to the summit can meander along paths through wildflower-filled meadows and into the forests. One of the best trails is a two-mile path along the McCloud River.
Near Mammoth Lakes travelers will find excellent hot springs. Some 760,000 years ago a massive volcano exploded in this region, leaving the flat basin that holds Mammoth Lakes. A byproduct of this fiery past is the region’s network of natural hot springs. Three springs in the region to know are Benton Hot Springs, Travertine Hot Springs, and Keough Hot Springs.
At Grover Hot Springs State Park, about an hour southeast of Lake Tahoe, mineral springs bubble up from the earth. The park’s pools are fed from six springs containing low amounts of sulfur. The pools are open most of the year, and the park also has a 76-site campground.
The Amboy Crater, designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973 and just off Route 66, is an example of an almost perfectly symmetrical volcanic cinder cone. A trail climbs around the cone’s western half and leads into the breach, where lava has created lava lakes, collapsed lava tubes, and spatter cones.
With so much pristine nature and the variety of landscapes, public campgrounds abound in national and state parklands. Reservations are strongly recommended, and fees vary depending on site and length of stay.
In fact, touring by RV is another great way to see California. Companies such as Cruise America and El Monte offer a number of rental locations throughout the state, with one-way rentals available. Vehicles range from compact “cab-over” styles sleeping three people to luxury models that are as big as city buses with living rooms, full kitchens and bathrooms, and sleeping space for six or more.
A number of state parks do have restrictions on the length of RVs and trailers. Some at Lake Tahoe limit RVs to 18 feet, while Big Basin Redwoods State Park can accommodate those up to 27 feet. The state park near Hearst Castle, Hearst San Simeon State Park, goes even further, with a 35-foot limit. For details, visit parks.ca.gov.
For more on camping in California, click here.