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Wonders of California

Yosemite Falls in California, United States
Yosemite Falls in California, United States / Photo by BorisFromStockdale, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

Although California is one of the states in the United States of America, Americans often compare it to a separate country, e.g. "if California would be a country, it would have the eighth largest economy in the world". We can go on with this comparison – California has more landmarks and attractions than many large countries in the world.

The most amazing wonders of California are:

  • Cliff formations and waterfalls – in Yosemite National Park are located some of the most impressive cliff walls and waterfalls in the world, such as the 1,444 m tall Half Dome or the 739 m tall Yosemite Falls.
  • Unique ecosystems and giant trees – California has the oldest, tallest, and largest trees in the world – on in some places these trees form unique forests. California has also some of the most spectacular desert ecosystems.
  • Modern architecture – California has been one of the most affluent places on Earth for many decades – and thanks to the ambitions of Californians here have been created many spectacular and unusual structures.

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 25 wonders of California

Geological wonders

Yosemite Falls

These falls are 739 meters high, have 7 drops, and are some 28 meters wide. One of the most visited waterfalls in the world. The tallest plunge is 436 m tall.

Yosemite Falls, Upper Fall
Yosemite Falls, Upper Fall / Melissa Wiese, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
El Capitan

Granite monolith with 900 m tall, vertical wall. One of the most challenging climbing routes in the world.

El Capitan, Yosemite Valley
El Capitan, Yosemite Valley in autumn. / Always Shooting, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Half Dome

Granite dome rising 1,444 m tall above the surroundings. One side of the dome looks as if sheared down, thus the mountain resembles a dome that is divided in half.

Half Dome, California
Half Dome / docentjoyce, / CC BY 2.0
Yosemite Valley

Up to 914 m deep, glacier-carved cleft in granite rocks. Impressive landscape. A site of mass tourism with more than 4 million visitors per year.

Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite Valley
Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite Valley./ Jorge Láscar, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Ursa Minor

This beautiful cave was discovered in 2006. The ceiling of the cave is sparkling due to millions of small crystals. The cave is rich with rare speleothems – several meters long soda straws, cave pearls, and others.

Mono Lake

Lake with alkaline water and characteristic, eerie tufa towers. Lake has an unusual, very productive ecosystem that includes also the unique bacteria GFAJ-1 which uses arsenic in its cellular structure. Here live also other endemic species, e.g. Mono Lake brine shrimp (Artemia monica). Paoha island in the lake contains many hot springs and fumaroles.

Mono Lake
Mono Lake. / ™ Pacheco, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
Racetrack Playa


Dry lake in Death Valley, where the "sailing stones" have left traces in the mud. Stones are moved by the wind in wet mud together with thin ice sheets at the moment when ice sheets are melting.

Racetrack Playa
Racetrack Playa. / John Fowler, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Tenaya Canyon

Deep, dramatic-looking canyon. Approximately 16 km long. Walking in the canyon is dangerous and there are stories about the curse of Chief Tenaya.

Tenaya Canyon from Glacier Point
Tenaya Canyon from Glacier Point. / Jordan Semark, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
Kings Canyon

Up to 2,500 m deep canyon shaped by glaciers in granite bedrock. Here is located Kings Gate – a granite peak with a nearly vertical, 610 m tall wall.

Kings Canyon, California
Kings Canyon, California. / Manuel Osdoba, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Yosemite Horsetail Fall

A very tall, seasonal waterfall that in late February, if the weather allows, is illuminated by the sunset. The waterfall is 650 m tall, the tallest cascade is 480 m tall.

Glow of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley, California
Glow of Horsetail Fall in Yosemite Valley / E. Howe, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
Trona Pinnacles

Group of more than 500 tufa spires rising from the bed of dry Searles Lake. Spires are up to 43 m high.

Trona Pinnacles
Trona Pinnacles./ Matthew Dillon, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Moaning Cavern

Cave with vertical entrance shaft. Here died prehistoric people and extinct animals. Water drops created a moaning sound that was heard outside the cave. This effect was lost when the cave opening was expanded for tourists.

Cave formations in the Moaning Cavern
Cave formations in the Moaning Cavern./ highlander411, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Biological wonders

General Sherman tree

Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), the largest tree in the world by volume. Volume 1,487 m3. Height 83.8 m, girth at the breast height 25.9 m. Believed to be 2,300 – 2,700 years old.

Giant Forest with General Sherman tree - the largest tree in the world in the centre
Giant Forest with General Sherman tree – the largest tree in the world in the centre. Note the people at the base of the tree. / Famartin, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Giant Forest

Unique forest with stands of giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) – the largest trees in the world. This is the easiest-to-access sequoia grove but also contains the largest trees – five of the ten largest trees on Earth are located in this grove. Area – 7.6 km2. In California are located several more notable groves of these giant trees.

Giant Forest, California
Giant Forest, California / Davigoli, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Grove of Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva), contains the oldest known individual trees in the world, more than 4,750 years old.

Grove of very old Great Basin bristlecone pines, California
Grove of very old Great Basin bristlecone pines, California / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
General Grant Tree

Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindl.)), the second largest tree in the world. Height 81.5 m, girth at breast height 27.8 m, volume 1,320 m3. This beautiful tree is declared as a National Shrine, a memorial to those who died in the war.

Base of General Grant Tree, California
Base of General Grant Tree / Giles Clark, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Hyperion tree

The tallest announced tree in the world (there are known taller ones), coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl.). 115.85 m tall, diameter 4.84 m. Contains 502 m3 of wood. In total, more than 500 coast redwoods exceed the height of 103 m.

Hyperion, California
Hyperion / © Mario Vaden.
Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows

Some of the largest and most impressive spring wildflower fields in California, more than 1,000 km² large. Diverse types of meadows, rare and endemic species of plants.

Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows in California
Goldfields, Carrizo Plain wildflower meadows / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

High desert environment, area of the richest and most consistent flowering of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica Cham.).

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Del Norte Titan

The stoutest coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl.), with a circumference of 22.73 m, 93.6 m tall. Another great tree – Lost Monarch has a larger circumference of 24.13 m, but this measurement includes multiple stems.

Del Norte Titan with arborist M. D. Vaden in front, California
Del Norte Titan with arborist M. D. Vaden in front / Mario D. Vaden, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0
Redwood Mountain Grove

The largest grove (1300 ha) of giant sequoia on Earth. Here grows also the tallest publicly announced giant sequoia in the world – Hyperion.

Redwood Mountain Grove – the largest grove of giant sequoia. / daveynin, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Lost Monarch

One of the largest coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) in the world. Volume 1,206 mÂł. Height 97.84 m, circumference 24.13 m (includes multiple trunks).

Lost Monarch
Lost Monarch in 2011. / J.daniel.barker, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Archaeological wonders

Chumash Painted Cave

Small sandstone cave with red, white, and black paintings that depict the cosmology of the Chumash people. Age is unknown, between 200 and 1000 years.

Chumash Painted Cave, California
Chumash Painted Cave / Kristina D.C. Hoeppner, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Architecture wonders

Golden Gate Bridge

Iconic bridge, one of the most popular bridges in the world. This 2,737 m long suspension bridge was constructed in 1933 – 1937. Pylons are 227 m high, and the span under the bridge is 67 m.

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge / David Ohmer, / CC BY 2.0

WorldYellow Recommended books

Moon California Hiking: The Complete Guide to 1,000 of the Best Hikes in the Golden State

Moon California Hiking shows hikers the best way to experience all California has to offer-from breathtaking coastal walks north of Los Angeles to challenging backcountry treks in the Sierra Nevadas. Stienstra and Brown include unique trip ideas, including Best Desert Hikes, and Best Hikes for Redwoods. Complete with detailed regional maps, hiking tips, difficulty, and quality ratings for each hike, Moon California Hiking provides hikers with all the necessary tools to head outdoors.

Greetings from California

A fun, fresh tribute to the Golden State, illustrated with gorgeous color photography, fascinating historical images, and cool memorabilia. Learn anew the legends, landmarks, and lore of historic sites, such as Bodie, Point Reyes, the Knights Ferry Bridge, Mission Santa Barbara, Carson Mansion in Old Town Eureka, Death Valley, Glacier Point, and Alcatraz.

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