California’s Top 10 Natural Treasures

Just as the U.S. Congress passed budget measures that will cut spending on the EPA’s Land and Water Conservation Fund by $149m, or 33 percent, the Nature Conservancy announced its “Top Ten California Treasures.”

These treasures are California’s most iconic parks and recreation areas, but thanks to budget cuts their future will be in jeopardy.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund uses money from federal oil and gas leases to create parks, protect wildlife habitat and provide recreational opportunities for all Americans. In its nearly 50-year history, the program has protected almost seven million acres of parkland and natural areas across the country and more than 37,000 parks and recreation projects in America—including some of California’s most iconic and recognizable places—that are crucial for attracting tourists, funding jobs and generating tax revenue for the state.

The LWCF has been particularly important for California, which has received approximately $1.2 billion over the past four decades—double the amount received by any other state.

Keep reading to view stunning pictures of these wild places, and learn how you can help save the nation’s most important natural areas for future generations.

>> Up Next: Number 10

10. Sequoia National Forest: As broad as their cousins—the redwoods—are tall, Giant Sequoias have amazed school children, presidents, and visiting kings and queens. Stretching more than 102 feet around, Sequoia National Forest is home to some of the biggest trees found anywhere on earth. Located in the southern Sierra Nevadas, the park also contains Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 United States.

>>Up Next: Number 9

Image Credit: Flickr – pak21

9. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: Containing some of Southern California’s most pristine beaches and recreation areas, the 154,095 acres of the Santa Monica National Recreation Area draws visitors from throughout California and around the world. Congressional action could have detrimental impacts to Santa Monica, as cuts proposed by Congress would eliminate $3.75 million in funding.

>>Up Next: Number 8

Image Credit: Flickr – jvoves

8. San Diego National Wildlife Refuge: The refuge offers year-round recreation opportunities but come spring or fall it is a haven for both the migratory birds who come here to nest and breed and for the people who come to watch them.

>>Up Next: Number 7

Image Credit: Flickr – Port of San Diego

7. San Bernadino National Forest:The San Bernardino National Forest is where the Inland Empire goes to play. This forest serves as Southern California’s outdoor, year-round recreation destination, and it also provides valuable watershed protection.

>>Up Next: Number 6

Image Credit: US Forest Service

6. The Redwood National and State Parks: Grand and majestic, these 300-foot trees tower over California. People around the world are drawn to marvel at these giants. There are also plenty of opportunities to splash around with river otters and picnic in a natural cathedral.

>> Up Next: Number 5

Image Credit: Flickr – goingslo

5. Point Reyes National Seashore —From its thunderous ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides and forested ridges, Point Reyes offers visitors over 1000 species of plants and animals to discover. Home to several cultures for thousands of years, the Seashore preserves a tapestry of stories and interactions of people.

>>Up Next: Number 4

Image Credit: Flickr – Richard Whitaker

4. Mojave National Preserve: Contrary to expectation, the deserts of the Mojave National Preserve are alive with otherworldly plants and animals like the Joshua tree and the desert tortoise, which has adapted to survive in this harsh environment. Spring showers bring carpets of wildflowers to this 1.6-million-acre park.

>>Up Next: Number 3

Image Credit: Flickr – Rennett Stowe

3. Golden Gate National Recreation Area: The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a major reason why visitors leave their hearts in San Francisco. It contains famous tourist attractions such as the famous green hills of the Marin Headlands — which can be viewed by people as they stroll across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge — as well as Muir Woods National Monument, Alcatraz Island and the Presidio of San Francisco.

>>Up Next: Number 2

Image Credit: Flickr – locationsite

2. Channel Island National Park: Just a few miles off the California Coast, the Channel Islands offer visitors a landscape so remote and rugged that it feels like it could be a world away. The five islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) are home to plants and animals found nowhere else on earth.

>>Up Next: Number 1

Image Credit: Flickr – mikebaird

1. Angeles National Forest: Offering recreation opportunities from skiing to swimming and from hiking to off-roading for the millions of Angelenos who call the Southland home, as well as the millions of visitors who travel to Southern California every year, the Angeles National Forest provides a much-needed getaway from the nation’s second-largest urban area.

>>Up Next: How You Can Help Preserve America’s Natural Spaces

Image Credit: Flickr – maveric2003

Take Action: You can help support America’s Great Outdoors initiative!

1. Send an email to encourage immediate action to protect your local lands, waters or coastlines.

2. Use these talking points in your email: I support the America’s Great Outdoors initiative and commend President Obama and his Administration for recognizing that we need to protect our natural world to ensure our health and that of future generations. I hope the Administration will immediately implement the recommendations outlined in its Great Outdoors report. This initiative is important to the people of (insert name of your state) because:

  • It can help ensure clean water supplies, support jobs in tourism and recreation, save working farms and ranches, and preserve the special places where our community goes hunting, fishing or just to enjoy nature.
  • It is driven by communities and encourages local people to recommend the best ways to save their lands, waters and coastlines.
  • It is aimed at preserving whole natural places, including entire forests, mountain ranges, migratory corridors and rivers.

I urge the Administration to take action now on this initiative. Key first steps would be full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a permanent extension of conservation easement tax incentives, and support for other government programs that protect our local lands and waters (insert any that you favor). [Optional:] I also invite the Obama Administration to visit (city, state) to learn more about (insert your example of local innovative conservation).

  • Be sure to put your name and city/town of residence at the bottom of the email, so it is clear where you are a constituent.
  • Do you have a favorite national park or open space? Have you visited any on this list? Share your top natural treasures in a comment!

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    jane richmond
    jane richmond4 years ago


    Judith B.
    Judith B.4 years ago

    my sister will be working in California for a few months and I'll be visiting her. Great ideas for my touristy travel plans - thanks

    Eternal Gardener
    Eternal Gardener4 years ago

    Thanks for this beaut!

    Elena Arutiunova
    Elena Arutiunova4 years ago

    I want to visit California. Now! :) Tnank you.

    May Howie
    may Howie4 years ago

    lovely pictures ty

    Danica R.
    Danica R.4 years ago

    beautiful pictures

    Loo Samantha
    Loo sam4 years ago

    thanks for the beautiful article.

    Danuta W.
    Danuta Watola4 years ago


    Jonabelle S.
    Jonabelle S.4 years ago

    Great Places to die for!!

    Jonabelle S.
    Jonabelle S.4 years ago

    Fantastic Places to die for!!