The crescent-shaped beach of Stinson is located about 20 km to the north of San Francisco, on a small strech of land between the Pacific Ocean and a lagoon. From here the costal "Highway 1" runs northwards in a valley for about 60 km, until it reaches the sea again at Bodega Bay.
Yosemite National Park is located approximately 300 km east of San Francisco and is one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. The heart of the park is the Yosemite Valley, on the edges of the valley are vertical granite rocks that have been formed by glaciers. The most famous rock is El Capitan, which stretches almost 1,000 m into the sky.
The Sierra Nevada was created by plate tectonics, the American plate pushes itself over the Pacific plate. The Half Dome is the highest mountain in the Yosemite Valley at 2,675 m. The highest mountains in the national park are over 3,800 m tall.
The name Yosemite (Uzumati) comes from the Miwok people and means grizzly bear. The giant bears are extinct in Yosemite, but there are many black bears in the park. The bears plunder food supplies in tents and even open cars. Park management regulations should be taken very seriously when it comes to groceries in the park, the bears have a very good nose.
The Yosemite Valley was discovered by the whites in 1851 when a gold prospector militia passed by in the war against the Indians. They reported on the beauty of the area and the first visitors came a few years later. Yosemite National Park was founded in 1890.
The Yosemite National Park offers magnificent waterfalls in spring, but is worth seeing in every season. Roads can be closed in winter and the park can be closed in summer due to the risk of forest fires. You should inform yourself about the current conditions before arrival. Check out the link for further informations.
From "Point Arena" another 90 km to the north, you will get to Hardy Creek at Rockport. Numerous cliffs have falled into the sea and offer a spectacular sight. Further to the north, the highway disappears in a forest, until it reaches the Pacific again at Eureka.
Between Eureka and Crescent City the Highway 101 runs through coastal forests with mammoth trees. Here the road is also called "Redwood Highway". From Crescent City you will enter the "Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park". There are over 100 m high redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). Together with the "Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park", a large section of the coastal forests has been preserved.
The "17 Mile Drive" is a famous coastal road on the Pacific Ocean near Monterey, about 150 km south of San Francisco. A popular photo motif is the "Lone Pine Tree" at Cypress Point.
The "Mono Lake" is a lake with a very high pH-value and a high concentration of salt. On its banks there are bizarre calctum formations. The animal species on and around the lake have adapted to the odd conditions of the water.
The "Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park" is located about 400 southeast of San Francisco. The valley with the huge mammoth trees is sensational. The "Giant Forest" is home to the largest trees of Sequoia Park. The Kings Canyon is impressive with its beautiful streams, rivers and lakes. If you stay in the park, you should protect your food from the bears.
Nature in Northern-Californa
San Francisco is home to great national parks and beautiful coastal landscapes. Do not miss the Redwoods, the Yosemite National Park and the 17 Mile Drive. The Golden Gate Park in San Francisco offers a Botanical Garden, a Japanese Tea-Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers.
National Parks in Southern-California and Arizona
If you follow Highway 1 direction Santa Barbara, you will pass the beautiful coast of the Big Sur. Southern California is dry and has several National Parks like Joshuatree, Mojave Desert and Death Valley.
National Parks in Oregon
If you are heading north, you can drive along the wild pacific coast of Oregon or use the inland highway. Whoever chooses Freeway 5 should definitely make a trip to Crater Lake National Park. The "Crater Lake" is particularly worth seeing in the spring, when there is still snow around the volcano crater.