Top Outdoor Things to Do in California

outdoor things to do in california

With nine national parks, 840 miles of coastline, expansive deserts, and towering mountains, California is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. From kayaking the Channel Islands Sea Caves to hiking in Red Rock Canyon, there is an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy in the Golden State. Here are 15 top outdoor things to do in California that will satisfy adventure seekers of all kinds.

Key Takeaways:

  • California offers a diverse range of outdoor activities for adventure enthusiasts.
  • There are nine national parks and 840 miles of coastline to explore in the state.
  • Kayaking the Channel Islands Sea Caves and whitewater rafting are thrilling outdoor adventures in California.
  • Exploring lava tube caves at Lava Beds National Monument and fishing for golden trout are unique experiences.
  • Paragliding at Torrey Pines and snorkeling at Catalina Island offer breathtaking views and encounters with marine life.

Kayak and Whitewater Rafting Adventures

One of the best ways to explore the Channel Islands National Park is by kayak. Santa Barbara Adventure Company offers kayak tours that take you through the sea caves and allow you to witness the diverse marine life in the area. kayaking the Channel Islands Sea Caves For adrenaline-pumping adventure, California offers a variety of whitewater rafting experiences. Whether you’re a beginner looking for a gentle float or an experienced paddler seeking challenging rapids, there are options for everyone. OARS is a guide company that offers trips on various rivers with different difficulty levels.

Kayaking the Channel Islands Sea Caves

  • Explore the stunning scenery of Channel Islands National Park by kayak.
  • Navigate through sea caves and witness the beauty of the coastal landscape.
  • Encounter a diverse range of marine life, including seals, sea lions, and dolphins.

Whitewater Rafting in California

  • Embark on a thrilling whitewater rafting adventure in California’s rivers.
  • Choose from a variety of difficulty levels, ranging from calm floats to intense rapids.
  • Experience the rush of adrenaline as you navigate through challenging whitewater.

Caving and Fishing Excursions

Looking for an adventurous underground experience? Look no further than the lava tube caves in California’s Lava Beds National Monument, located in Siskiyou County. With over 700 caves to explore, it’s a caver’s paradise. Navigate through the subterranean systems and marvel at the breathtaking formations. The eerie beauty of these lava tube caves will leave you in awe.

If you’re an avid angler seeking the thrill of catching a prized fish, California offers an opportunity like no other: the golden trout. These vibrant-colored fish can be found in high-alpine lakes in the southern and eastern Sierras. Picture yourself casting your line amidst the serene beauty of the Inyo National Forest, waiting for that golden trout to bite. It’s an experience that fishing enthusiasts won’t want to miss.

lava tube caves in California

So, whether you’re spelunking in the lava tube caves or fishing for the elusive golden trout, California has something for every adventure seeker.

Paragliding and Snorkeling Adventures

When seeking thrills and exhilarating experiences in California, look no further than paragliding at Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla. As an avid thrill-seeker myself, I highly recommend taking to the skies and soaring above the cliffs, all while enjoying breathtaking views of the vast Pacific Ocean. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you in awe.

But the adventure doesn’t stop there! Just 22 miles off the Southern California coast lies Catalina Island, a hidden gem for snorkeling enthusiasts. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of Lover’s Cove and behold a vibrant underwater world teeming with colorful marine life and scenic kelp forests. Trust me, as you explore the depths, you’ll be captivated by the beauty that lies beneath.

Snorkeling at Catalina Island

If you’re a fan of snorkeling, Catalina Island is a dream come true. Located just a short boat ride from the mainland, the island’s Lover’s Cove offers an exceptional snorkeling experience. Be prepared to encounter a mesmerizing array of marine life, from playful seals and graceful rays to colorful fish darting through the kelp forests below. To make the most of your underwater adventure, I recommend renting snorkeling equipment from Catalina Divers Supply, a reputable establishment that offers top-notch gear for all skill levels.

So, whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping paragliding escapade or an awe-inspiring snorkeling adventure, California has it all. With Torrey Pines and Catalina Island waiting to be explored, there’s never been a better time to embark on these unforgettable outdoor experiences in the Golden State.

Sand Dune Climbing and Mountain Biking

When it comes to outdoor adventures in California, there are two activities that stand out: climbing sand dunes at Mojave National Preserve and mountain biking in Big Bear.

Mojave National Preserve is home to the Kelso Dunes, the largest dune system in the preserve. These towering sand dunes offer a unique and challenging climbing experience. Strap on your hiking boots and conquer the sandy slopes as you make your way to the top. Once you reach the summit, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding desert landscape. Whether you’re an experienced climber or a beginner looking for a thrilling adventure, the sand dunes at Mojave National Preserve are sure to exceed your expectations.

For those who prefer two wheels over sandy slopes, Big Bear is the place to be. Located in the sunny San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake is a popular destination for mountain biking enthusiasts. The Skyline Trail is a must-ride, offering 15 miles of flowing single-track that winds through picturesque forests and meadows. The trail caters to riders of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced riders seeking an adrenaline rush. If you’re looking for a more structured mountain biking experience, Big Bear Mountain Resort’s Summit Bike Park has you covered. With a variety of trails and features, including jumps, berms, and drops, there’s something for everyone.

Get Ready for Adventure

Are you ready to take on the challenge of climbing sand dunes at Mojave National Preserve or hit the trails for some adrenaline-pumping mountain biking in Big Bear? Whatever your outdoor adventure of choice, California has it all. So grab your gear, bring your sense of adventure, and get ready to experience the thrill of these unforgettable activities.


California truly offers a treasure trove of outdoor activities for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. With its diverse landscape, from the magnificent coastline to the towering mountains, there is something for everyone to enjoy in the Golden State.

Whether you find solace in kayaking the sea caves of the Channel Islands or immersing yourself in the beauty of Yosemite National Park, California provides endless opportunities to reconnect with nature and create lifelong memories.

So, pack your bags, lace up your hiking boots, and get ready to embark on a journey filled with thrilling experiences and breathtaking vistas. California awaits, ready to deliver the outdoor adventure of a lifetime.


What are some top outdoor things to do in California?

California offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including kayaking the Channel Islands Sea Caves, whitewater rafting, caving in lava tube caves, fishing for golden trout, paragliding at Torrey Pines, snorkeling at Catalina Island, climbing sand dunes at Mojave National Preserve, and mountain biking in Big Bear.

Where can I go kayaking in California?

One of the best places to go kayaking in California is the Channel Islands National Park, where you can explore the sea caves. Santa Barbara Adventure Company offers kayak tours in the area.

Where can I go whitewater rafting in California?

California offers various whitewater rafting experiences for all skill levels. OARS is a guide company that offers trips on different rivers with different difficulty levels.

Are there any caves to explore in California?

Yes, the Lava Beds National Monument in Siskiyou County is home to over 700 lava tube caves, providing a unique caving experience.

Can I go fishing in California?

Absolutely! California offers fantastic fishing opportunities. You can try to catch the elusive golden trout in high-alpine lakes in the southern and eastern Sierras. The Inyo National Forest is a great spot for fishing.

Where can I go paragliding in California?

If you’re looking for a thrilling paragliding experience, head to Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla. Soar above the cliffs and enjoy breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Where can I go snorkeling in California?

Catalina Island, located just off the Southern California coast, offers excellent snorkeling opportunities. Lover’s Cove is a popular spot to explore colorful marine life and kelp forests. Catalina Divers Supply provides equipment rental and guided tours.

Can I climb sand dunes in California?

Yes, the Mojave National Preserve is home to the Kelso Dunes, the largest dune system in the area. You can climb the towering sand dunes and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding desert.

Where can I go mountain biking in California?

Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains is a popular destination for mountain biking. The Skyline Trail offers 15 miles of flowing single-track, and Big Bear Mountain Resort’s Summit Bike Park provides trails for riders of all skill levels.

What are some must-see outdoor spots in California?

California offers countless must-see outdoor spots, including the stunning coastal drives of Big Sur and the breathtaking hikes in Yosemite National Park. Other notable spots worth visiting include Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, and Lake Tahoe.

Why is California a great destination for outdoor activities?

California’s diverse landscape and abundant natural wonders make it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you enjoy water sports, hiking, caving, fishing, paragliding, snorkeling, sand dune climbing, or mountain biking, you’ll find endless outdoor adventures waiting for you in the Golden State.

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