Alta California Guide: Central Coast


L.he vast grasslands collide with secluded sandy beaches along the Central Coast that encloses the coast between Monterey and Ventura, while out in the water, one of the country’s least-visited national parks is home to dozens of plant and animal species found nowhere else. From hikes to hot springs to Big Sur, the area offers the ultimate road trip in the state.


Channel Islands National Park

Whether you are a foggy morning kayaker or a deep sea angler or just looking for an escape from other people who are hard to reach Channel Islands National Park is for you. It is a collection of five uninhabited islands (apart from the seals and seabirds) about 20 miles from Ventura and accessible from several coastal ports for day trips or camping. The park’s sheer seclusion is part of its appeal to infrequent bird watchers and nature lovers. Families can find a lot Anacapa Islandwhere a circular route takes visitors to the last permanent lighthouse on the west coast.


Sespe hot springs

The nearly 27 km long hike to this destination in the hinterland of Ojai is best over several days, starting on Highway 33 north of the city. The worthwhile trip culminates in an abundance of spring basins, which, depending on the proximity to the underground spring, range from bathing to almost scalding. While there are plenty of free campsites out there, those unwilling to rush for the overnight experience will find the closer location Willett Hot Springs a shorter – albeit still ambitious 20 mile round trip – alternative. But it’s hard to beat in size and heat Sespe.


Point Sal State Beach

Outside Guadalupe in the shadow of Vandenberg Air Force Base, you won’t find angry homeowners eager to hold onto their pristine beach access. No, the breathtaking seclusion here is earned by a 10 mile circular hike that day trippers take on one of the least accessible beaches anywhere in California. This rarely-visited state park is one of the last of its kind, a stretch of coastline untouched by houses or even paved roads. Bring snacks, a beach blanket, and plenty of sunscreen. It’s a drag, but it pays off.


Nitt Witt Ridge

The largest addition to the state’s folk art scene on the Central Coast is Nitt Witt Ridge, an extremely funky home and historic landmark in sleepy Cambria. Visitors can view what was cared for by eccentricity Arthur Beal‘s old house built with pieces of abalone shell, rusted scrap and lots of stone and concrete over the years. Reportedly, Beal only used primitive tools to carve his hillside residence and worked on the property between 1928 and the late 1970s.


Old lime kiln ruins

Big Sur is a true paradise with its landscape stretching from the treetops to the sea. The rugged terrain is full of hiking, camping, and quiet coves, but few places capture a piece of local history Lime kilns. Now part of a State park, The ovens date back to 1887, when lime was mined and processed in the area. The four towers stand as monuments of another time, sticking out of the earth beneath giant sequoia trees, and are a short hike from a year-round waterfall. •

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