Sand, grassland, rock. Redwood, oak, pine, sagebrush. Ocean, creek, river, lake. Summer trip planning includes so many options. The diversity of natural communities across California is impressive. Each community has a unique mix of plants and animals, related to the physical and environmental factors of that area such as amount of sun, moisture, air temperature, soil and rock landscape.
From west to east through Central California, here is a tour of some of our natural communities, including some unique physical and environmental features, plus some favorite activities and locations to inspire your summer exploration.
Coast – Crashing waves, tidepools, and estuaries. Dramatic cliffs, sandy stretches, rock arches and towers. Fog and wind keep the coast cool when inland temperatures swelter. Great activities include beachcombing, tidepooling, and kayaking. Check out Pigeon Point lighthouse, Andrew Molera State Park, and Elkhorn Slough.
Redwoods – Coastal giants provide shade and filtered sunlight. Blocked from wind, daytime is warm but foggy nights and mornings are cold along the coast. The ground is duffy and spongy, full of decomposing needles. Creeks provide water play. Climb through burnt out cavities, look up through a snag’s chimney, walk the length of a fallen tree. Explore the forests of Memorial County Park, Butano and Nicene Marks State Parks.
Bay and Delta – Flat water landscapes provide open horizons, great sunrises and sunsets. Summer inland at sea level includes hot, siesta afternoons and warm nights. Hike and bird the tidal flats at Coyote Hills Regional Park. Swim in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta at Brannan Island State Rec Area.
Oak & Grassland – East of the coastal range stretch rolling hills with old, twisted oaks. In the valleys, find carved canyons with tripping creeks under willows and cottonwoods. Hike up a canyon, bike the backroads or laze in a hammock in the shade. Favorite places: Pinnacles National Park, Arroyo Seco, and Henry Coe State Park.
Sierra Nevada – Across the central valley, ascending into the Sierra, the smell of fir, cedar and pine fill the air. A wonderscape of rocky outcrops, creeks, waterfalls, rivers, and lakes await in majestic Yosemite Valley, or along the shores of the American, Feather and Yuba rivers.
High Sierra – Sheer granite, craggy peaks, alpine cirques and arêtes. Tiny wildflowers grow in snow melt ponds. Be ready for hot, exposed days, an afternoon hail storm and cold nights. Backpack between alpine lakes. Go fishing. Explore the landscape around Tuolumne Meadows and Saddlebag Lake.
East of the Sierra – Down the steep Sierra escarpment stretches a high desert landscape. Sagebrush grows below the Sierra skyline in volcanic terrain. Cold nights include Milky Way starry skies. Bird and hike at Mono Lake. Soak in hot springs in the Owens Valley.
Hiking, swimming, or relaxing in a hammock – enjoy the summer!