10 Adventures in Parks You Love

Happy Valentine's Day, park lovers!

Your love for the outdoors will last a lifetime. This Valentine’s Day, celebrate it! Treat yourself (and your loved ones) to one of these 10 great adventures taking place this Valentine's Day weekend.

Photo by David Laurence Sharp

1. Kayak and explore Bodega Bay

Sonoma Coast State Beach - Jenner

Jenner is enviably located smack dab where the Russian River meets the Pacific. And that's why it's one of the most perfect places to kayak. Its compact size, diverse environment, and plentiful wildlife make it a must-do for anyone who likes to get out on the water (including paddling newbies). Harbor seals are particularly fond of this area. Go early to avoid afternoon wind and grab breakfast at Café Aquatica (10439 Hwy. 1, Jenner). If the weather's nice, sit on the deck out back and sip your coffee while looking out over the Russian River.

More details from our friends at Weekend Sherpa.

Photo by Daniel via Flickr

2. Meet new friends and hike Mt. Tam

Mt. Tamalpais State Park - Marin

On Saturday, February 13 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., join Latino Outdoors and California State Parks for a ranger-led hike (2 or 3 miles) and activities in Spanish. It's a great opportunity to get exercise, learn about the local history, and meet new people. Transportation and lunch is included! Please reserve a space by contacting Alicia Cruz at alicia@latinooutdoors.org or (415) 572-2731.

Photo by bexdc via Flickr

3. Snowshoe Through History

Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park - Tahoe

On Saturday, February 13 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., a guide will lead a Snowshoe Through History hike along Lake Tahoe's magical west shore. This easy and fun tour explores the lakefront and the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion estate. Learn about the natural environment that attracted Tahoe's earliest settlers and explore the fascinating history of a Tahoe landmark. Meet near the restrooms in the Day Use side of the park (lake sideentrance off Highway 89). There is a parking fee of $5 per vehicle, and no charge for the program. Bring your own snowshoes, or rent snowshoes at a local sporting goods shop such as West Shore Sports in Homewood.

More details.

Photo by ntch3l via Flickr

4. Find Romance in the Redwoods

Big Basin Redwoods State Park - Peninsula

Celebrate Valentine’s weekend in romantic Big Basin redwoods. Start your day with complimentary morning coffee and cocoa around the stone fireplace in the park's historic visitor center. Choose a peaceful walk among the majestic giants, a fun walk to see how some birds, beasts and plants of Big Basin reproduce, a hike to one of the most beautiful falls in California; a romantic hike to a stunning vista; or share your love of the trails by volunteering with the trail crew. All walks are led by park naturalists. Bring a picnic lunch to share with your sweetheart, and maybe even spend a romantic evening in the park's comfy tent cabins. No reservations are required for any of the walks, and all walks are free ($10/vehicle day use fee).

More details.

Photo by Chris D 2006 via Flickr

5. Visit the Migration Festival

Natural Bridges State Beach - Santa Cruz

Fly, swim, waddle, walk, bike or drive as you migrate to Natural Bridges State Beach for a full-day of activities that celebrate the migration of whales, butterflies, birds and the many creatures that travel. The park will host migratory animal talks, active kids’ games, crafts, skits, live music by the nature-loving 5M's Band, educational booths and displays, and free cake! You can purchase a picnic at the park or bring your own. Day-use parking fee is $10.

More details.

Photo by Kevin Dinkel via Flickr

6. Watch the Sun Rise

Point Dume Nature Preserve - Malibu

We all know the sun rises in the east, so West Coasters are deprived of ocean sunrises, right? Not exactly. This time of year, from Point Dume Nature Preserve's vantage in Malibu, the sun comes up smack dab over the Pacific. Get up before the sun does and go watch the sky and ocean's transformation from grey to pink. From Point Dume's parking lot, it's a short walk on the Nature Preserve's sandy trails to a fenced-off bluffside lookout point with benches. While waves crash below and dolphins play, the sun makes a grand entrance over ripples of periwinkle-pink ocean. Kick back and enjoy the show.

More details from our friends at Weekend Sherpa.

Photo by Charles Nadeau via Flickr

7. Take a Real Hike In LA County (Really!)

Saddleback Butte State Park - Los Angeles

Hiking to a mountain peak in the desert? And you don’t even have to leave Los Angeles County? No special effects here—it’s all natural at 2,955-acre Saddleback Butte State Park. Here you can get a taste of the Mojave Desert from Saddleback Butte, a solitary mountain rising 3,651 feet. Summit it on a 5-mile (round-trip) journey that ascends 950 feet. Enter Saddleback Butte State Park by the picnic area and visitor center off Avenue J, east of 170th St. in Lancaster. There is a $6 day-use fee per vehicle. Open 9:00 a.m. to sunset. No dogs.

More details from our friends at Weekend Sherpa.

Photo by jcookfisher via Flickr

8. Take in the Tidepools

Crystal Cove State Beach - Laguna Beach

Legendary California author John Steinbeck once noted "it is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again." And there might be no place better to take this advice than at Crystal Cove State Park beach, where seemingly endless sand meets plentiful tide pools. Park at the Los Trancos lot off of Pacific Coast Highway. To get to the parking lot, take Pacific Coast Hwy. to Los Trancos and exit to the east. Parking is $15/day or $5/hour and can get validated if you eat at the Beachcomber Café. Take the trail towards the historic Crystal Cove Cottages. Continue past the Beachcomber to the water, with the wide sandy beach to the north. Here's the trick: Instead of heading north, go south along the coastal precipices to find a variety of rocks forming multiple tide pools. If you're lucky (and patient), you'll witness the incredible process of a hermit crab that has outgrown its shell finding a perfect new one to call home.

More details from our friends at Weekend Sherpa.

Photo by SEAthletes

9. Paddle for a Purpose

Salton Sea State Recreation Area - Palm Desert

There’s lots happening at Salton Sea this weekend. SEAthletes is hosting the North Shore Xtreme, the lowest paddle board race in the world. The non-profit organization is hosting the event to drive awareness to the disappearing Salton Sea. A $40 fee gets a paddler access to unlimited races for all crafts: Outrigger, SUP, Prone, Surfski and kayaks. Plus, there’s a weekend-long event, including a Seaside Village, live music, a luau, awards ceremony and beach dance party! Check the website for more details. Saturday will also have events going on by Paddle Pals and an art show by Sea Artists.

More details.

Photo by Don Greene via Flickr

10. Head Down to the Border

Tijuana Estuary at Border Field State Park - Chula Vista/San Diego

Head wayyy south—to the Tijuana River Estuary in Border Field State Park, a sprawling, primarily wetland habitat that's home to some of San Diego's rarest wildlife. Several miles of trails offer great hiking, biking, and horseback riding routes through riparian habitat. For the best experience, bring binoculars and go for a 1.6-mile (one-way) shoreline stroll that packs in some beautifully wild scenery. Or on Saturday, February 13 at 11 a.m. join a group at the Visitor Center for a free walking tour. All ages welcome. No reservations required.

More details from our friends at Weekend Sherpa.

California State Parks Foundation

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