At 163,694.74 square miles, California is the third largest US state. And I’ll bet you haven’t seen it all. So here’s a handful of locations in populous Southern California that you may have missed—most of them only a day trip away from a Good Sam campground. Add your great/unusual/hidden California locations to the comments.
Red Rock Canyon SP
The ground shook as if by a giant hand and the earth fractured, the surface thrust upward, and then it rained. Torrents of water poured off the uplifted sandstone cliffs, carving gorges in the softer rock. Blowing sand and rain buffeted the cliffs for millions of years, hewing Red Rock Canyon from an otherwise flat, seamless desert to a monument to the forces of nature. Red Rock Canyon SP’s location on an active fault zone has helped to create what today is a fascinating collection of columns, caves and spires. Features include a visitor/interpretive center, nature trails and endless exploration of the unique rock shapes, caves, and vistas.
Twenty-five miles north of Mojave on SR14.
Tecopa Hot Springs
The desert environment has always challenged those who brave its vast expanse. Native Americans managed to survive in near waterless regions in the same ways as the indigenous desert plants and animals, but most importantly, they knew where springs erupted from the dry, barren landscape and flowed life-giving water for much of the year.
Tecopa became a camp for the Shoshone and Paiutes. Today it lures retirees attracted by the 100-degree mineral springs, which are free, open every day all year, with men’s and women’s bathhouses and hot showers. Fifty miles north of Baker on Highway 127. The baths of Tecopa Hot Springs also are worth visiting.
Mojave National Preserve—Finney-Ramer Lakes
The parade of RVs along I-8 mostly miss tiny Finney-Ramer Lakes, which have a rare desert ingredient, a wetlands bird refuge.
A few miles north of the farm belt town of Brawley, California, on Highway 111 the Finney-Ramer Lakes Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Refuge is a stopover on the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds and a protected habitat for nesting birds. You can walk miles of level dikes to bird watch and a public dump station and water fill are within a quarter mile – and it’s all free.
Afton Canyon Natural Area
Interstate 15 crosses California’s lower Mojave Desert and 33 miles east of Barstow a sign dirercts you to Afton Canyon Natural Area, a busy place when man traveled by foot, horseback and wagon. The ephemeral Mojave River (admit it, did you even know there was a Mojave River – with actual water in it?) flows here above ground for most of the year and was a popular watering hole for mountain men, Spanish missionaries, and Native Americans who thought nothing of walking across the desert. Subsequent flash floods, river flow, wind, and sand scouring, have all contributed to a microcosmic Grand Canyon, consisting of dozens of steep-walled multi-colored canyons, narrow crevices, hidden nooks and crannies that beg to be explored. Because of the abundant water and riparian growth, it is a good wildlife watching spot.
South Family homesite
For 17 years, from 1930 to 1947, author Marshal South and his family lived on Ghost Mountain – a remote, waterless mountaintop that is today part of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. South chronicled his family’s controversial primitive lifestyle through popular monthly articles in Desert Magazine. Today the South’s home lies in ruins—crumbling adobe walls, a rusted bed frame, and cisterns used to catch seasonal rainfall. A one-mile trail at the foot of Ghost Mountain in Blair Valley, off Highway S-2, climbs 1,200 feet to the site.
You can find Bob Difley’s RVing ebooks on Amazon Kindle.