10 Best Hidden Gems in California

by | Sep 17, 2022 | Destinations, Travel Bucket Lists, USA

As the third-largest state in the United States, California has so much to explore. Located on the western coast of the mainland United States, the state is home to Disneyland, Hollywood, Golden Gate Bridge, and many other tourist attractions. However, California actually offers more than that. Many people probably never heard of many secret hidden gems in California. Are you curious enough to find out? Check out the ten best-hidden gems in California that you will fall in love with.

Different options of hidden gems in California

Coastal Wilderness

Situated directly to the Pacific Ocean, California has an extended range of beaches you must visit. There are stunning views of the beaches, and each place has its own uniqueness. Some of them are rarely visited by many people, making them unspoiled and considered the best-hidden gems in California.

The Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma Coast
Copyright: Eric Stephens

The first hidden gem in California that you must visit is the Sonoma Coast. This stunning coast has long sandy beaches with a ragged coastline, making it even more beautiful. There are also some secluded coves around the coast. If you are lucky, you can find groups of barking harbor seals getting sunlight on the exposed rocks and jumping into the cold water in the Goat Rock Beach area in the northern part of the coast.

In addition, the Sonoma Coast also provides you with the serenity of vineyards along the coastline. This is perfect if you are looking for a place to stay away from the hustle and bustle of city life and watch the beautiful sunset in the Pacific Ocean.

Bowling Ball Beach

Bowling Ball Beach hidden gems in California
Copyright: Mick Haupt

California certainly has a lot to offer when it comes to beaches. Bowling Ball beach is one of the best-hidden gems in California, which many people do not know about. Bowling Ball beach is located in the northern area of Schooner Gulch State Beach. As its name suggests, many spherical sandstone concretions are scattered around the area.

The boulders at Bowling Ball beach are believed to result from millions of years of erosion and concretion. In addition, the scenery on this beach is really amazing. If you are into photography, the combination of beautiful scenery and unique stones will be a great object for you to capture.

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Parks hidden gems in California
Copyright: Priya Karkare

This national park is not far from Los Angeles, and you only need to drive a few hours to get here. This national park is considered one of many hidden gems in California because it is fairly difficult to reach the park. You even need a boat to take you to this one of the least visited national parks in the state.

You will not find any hotels around, only some campgrounds. Therefore, this place is tranquil, and only adorable Channel Island foxes live here. If you want to spend your weekend here, some activities you can do here include camping, snorkeling in the beautiful bays, and cave kayaking.

Mountains and Falls

Besides coastal areas, California is also beautiful for its wilderness in inland regions. There are mountainous areas and national parks that are worth visiting. In these national parks, you can enjoy some hidden gems in California most people do not know about.

Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park
Copyright: Polina Kuzovkova

You will never believe with your own eyes that California has one of the best views of mountains and forests in the United States. Once you go and watch the scenery by yourself, you will think, how come many people do not know about this amazing place? That is why Kings Canyon National Park has become one of the best-hidden gems in California that you must visit.

Kings Canyon National Park is renowned for its giant sequoia trees, particularly its gigantic General Grant Tree in Grant Grove. Towering granite canyon walls encircle Cedar Grove in the eastern part of this national park. Although Kings Canyon National Park looks astonishingly amazing, you should beware of rattlesnakes, bears, and cougars since this park is home to them.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park hidden gems in California
Copyright: Quentin Burgess

The next hidden gem in California that you must visit is Lassen Volcanic National Park. Located in northern California, this national park service is home to clear mountain lakes, steaming fumaroles, meadows with wildflowers, and several volcanoes. This place seems odd to visit, but this is worth it because there are some sceneries you can adore and fun activities you can experience.

Some activities you can enjoy several popular spots, such as hiking in the Southwest or Manzanita Lake Areas or walking to Sulphur Works hydrothermal sites. This site is very educational so you can learn everything about volcanoes. 

Burney Falls

Burney falls
Copyright: Tucker Monticelli

California has many natural wonders, one of which is Burney Falls, a waterfall located on Burney Creek within McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. Although this waterfall is not the largest or highest waterfall in the country, this waterfall is one of the most beautiful waterfalls to visit. The waterfall is somewhat secluded, so few tourists visit and spoil the natural beauty here.

Probably the most interesting part of this journey is the trail you need to take to get to the best spot to watch the waterfall. You will need around 2 km looping from the nearest parking lot to get into the waterfall. The green trees cover the trail along the way, making it look beautiful and refreshing to your eyes.

Mount Tamalpais

Mount Tamalpais
Copyright: Zetong Li

If you are looking for a hidden gem in California that is not far from the glorious city of San Francisco, then Mount Tamalpais is the answer to your question. When you are bored of the hustle and bustle of city life in San Francisco, you can go up there for a short escape. The view of San Francisco Bay from above is gorgeous and relaxing. 

It is entirely free to enter and hike to the peak of this mountain, and you need to take approximately six to seven hours to hike to its peak from Mill Valley. This is one of the great outdoor activities that people in San Francisco should take advantage of. 

Touristy Spots

California also has great hidden gems to experience if you love entertainment and festivals. These places are family-friendly, so you can take your kids and enjoy the vacation together. 


Copyright: Beau Barnett

Regarding touristy areas, Capitola is considered a secret hidden gem in California. Capitola is not merely a tiny seaside town like any other coastal town in California. This seaside town will make you forget that you are standing in the United States. Why? The small city of Santa Cruz has colorful cute buildings alongside the beach called Venetian Court, the infamous residential seaside resort in Capitola.

In this small beach town, there are some shops, restaurants, and alcohol stores that you can roam within walking distance. Besides, fishing and boating services are the most popular activities people seek in this town. If you love surfing, then Capitola is also an excellent place for you.


Copyright: Anthony Fomin

If you really want to go to Europe for a vacation, but circumstance does not allow you to do so, then Solvang is the best substitute for your longing. This Danish village is unique because the atmosphere brings you Danish vibes in every little corner of the town. Located in Santa Ynez Valley, not far from Santa Barbara, this village offers many activities to experience.

You do not want to miss seasonal festivals, such as Solvang Danish Days, held in September. The village will be full of a parade of Danish costumes and a march of horse-drawn wagons. This Danish village experience is perfect for a weekend getaway for you and your family.

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House
Copyright: Wikimedia

If you are into urban legend and local myth, we suggest you go to the Winchester Mystery House. This house is a mansion in San Jose, California, and once was owned by Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearms baron William Wirt Winchester. Following the death of Winchester in 1992, the house became a tourist attraction for those curious about ghosts.

If you want to challenge yourself, The Winchester Mystery House provides visitors with two different types of guided tours, the Self Guided Mansion Tour and Sarah Winchester Garden Tour. So, are you brave enough to discover the mystery surrounding this spooky mansion?

Ready to explore California and the United States?

Explore California with JoinMyTrip
Copyright: Lala Miklós

Among many hidden gems in California that you can experience and enjoy, there are still many spots that have not been covered in this blog. Therefore, you need to go out for yourself and find out more about the hidden gems in California that suit you the most. In that case, JoinMyTrip has a list of great deals for exploring hidden gems in California or the United States with travel buddies and fellow travelers who will complete your adventure. Have you packed your luggage? Let us go now!

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