When you think of natural wonders in the United States, you probably picture the Grand Canyon, or perhaps even Yellowstone. But did you know there are some amazing natural wonders in California, too? Here are eight spectacular sights every kid needs to see in California!
This post was written in partnership with the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Visit California.
I’m listing the redwoods here first since it was one of the natural wonders in California that my kids still talk about. Our first visit to these majestic trees was almost seven years ago on our Seattle to California road trip. After my recent return to this amazing sight, I can’t wait to return with my kids again. There’s nothing quite like seeing how small you are compared to these giants that will strike awe in kids and adults alike.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
While it’s certainly not the best smelling of experiences, getting a first-hand look our volcanic earth can be awesome for kids. In northern California there’s a little known National Park called Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen Volcanic is the perfect spot for kids to get an up close look and the mysteries of our earth’s layers and volcanic activity. Bumpass Hell is a fairly easy hike even for kids and will lead to a large area of volcanic activity including some pretty cool bubbling mud pots.
Black Chasm Cavern
We’ve visited a few caverns and I’m always amazed at the natural structures that form because of a little air, water, and minerals. The Black Chasm Cavern is located in the Gold Country region of California and definitely fits the natural wonders in California theme of this post. The guides will also point out some crazy formations, including kid favorites like wave bacon and soda straws!
Related Post: Stunning Spots You Must See in Northern California!
While National Parks are recognized for a reason, I admit that sometimes I forget that they each hold something spectacular inside them. The granite mountains, cliffs, and boulders of Yosemite National Park are a signature feature of this park. With the popularity of granite in home construction and design, seeing the real-life source of the product can be a great learning opportunity for kids. If you travel during off-peak times you can easily park at a hiking spot and get out to climb atop some of the granite.
Read more about things to do in Yosemite with kids
When I think of water in California, I automatically picture California beaches. But journeying in from the coast towards the Central Valley will bring you towards the delta region of California. This river delta region is important for the amazing agriculture that grows in the Central Valley. The wetlands of the delta are protected and play home for some amazing birds and water animals, including otters. The perfect way for kids to discover these natural wonders in California is via a kayak as you paddle in and around the wetland islands.
Here’s another National Park that you might not have even known about, the Channel Islands. They’re located just off the coast of Santa Barbara and are a testament to the true untouched beauty of California. These islands are rugged and each have their own unique geography. You won’t find restaurants or hotels on the islands, so plan for a simple day trip or a pack on & off camping trip. If you just want your kids to learn about the natural wonders that make up the Channel Islands, you can visit the Visitor’s Center in Santa Barbara which features some fun hands-on learning opportunities.
While the Pinnacles themselves are a great example of erosion, this area of California is also the perfect spot to showcase the wonders of astronomy to your kids. Out in the deserts region of California there is less light pollution from the big cities, making star gazing truly spectacular. Download a stargazing smartphone app before your trip and bundle up with some snacks to prepare to watch the sky come alive.
Birds Eye View of Earth
While my last natural wonder isn’t exactly specific to California, I think California is an optimal spot for viewing. Have you ever wished you could give your kids a bird’s eye view of our earth. Especially when you’re viewing mountains and rivers? Kids know well how to look from above with Google maps, but what about the chance to see it IRL (parents – that means “in real life” in text speak)? Once kids are tall enough to see over the side, a hot air balloon is the perfect way to share the magnificent beauty of our world with your kids. The physics of hot air balloons is also something pretty spectacular if you happen to have a science geek in the family.
When you’re planning your next family vacation, don’t write off California as just theme parks and beaches. There are some amazing natural wonders in California, all giving great opportunities to teach and share about the earth with our kids!