(Scroll down if you’re just here for the pictures!)
On a Friday afternoon, my husband asked if I wanted to take a spur of the moment trip to Southern California. Of course I said “yes duh!” Saturday evening we booked tickets. Wednesday morning we left. We hopped around southern California and stayed with a couple different friends. Here is the rundown of the what and where with a few Southern Cali tips!
La Jolle Beach – The park is located above the beach on the bluffs. There are miles of walking trails, all overlooking the ocean and the San Diego coastline. Awesome place to hike! For free parking, try and catch a spot at the base of the mountain below the cliffs along side the road. It’s a longer hike up, but hey walking never killed anyone! (Unless you maybe go in summer and it’s 110 degrees out!)
Los Angeles – While staying with some friends in Rancho Cucamonga, we took an afternoon to explore Los Angeles with them. First stop, was the LA open food market. It was totally not what I expected. It was better. It was super unique, and a large warehouse type building with no doors was filled with row after row of all kinds of specialty places to eat. Mexican food, thai food, vitenamese food, greek food, pizzas, smoothies… you name it, it was there. We ate at a pupuseria – a welcome pleasure to satisfy my authentic spanish food cravings. The pupusas were huge. I only needed one. We also tried PB&J LA, and oh my gosh. Who would have thought that a gourmet peanut butter jelly sandwhich shop could take off. We all shared a sandwhich that had the peanut butter jelly base with added chocolate, hazelnuts, pecan, maple toffee and marshmellow fluff. It was delicious.
While in LA we also made stops at the Disney Symphony Hall, and City Hall. Note – on a weekday you can go to the top of City Hall to the observation deck for free. It’s closed on the weekends. From the top you can look over all of LA and see the famed Hollywood sign and the Griffis Observatory. We walked around to see alot of other major buildings liket the LA times, the LAPD, and the courthouse offices etc.
Mt. Rubidoux – Saturday afternoon we hiked up this short paved hike that stands over Riverside California. It’s really a beautiful hike, easy for all ages (even wheelchair accessible), and there are 360 degree views. The afternoon we went it was incredibly windy.
Big Bear – We left Temecula to head to Palm Springs and took the long way around to experience the beauty of the California mountains. We drove up through the San Bernandino National Forest to an area known as Big Bear. It’s a rocky, pine forest type of environment. There are dozens of pull offs along the way to stop and take in the scenery. Big Bear was alright. Coming from someone who has gone to the Adirondack mountain towns of NY often, I’d say Big Bear is a similar comparison. There is a small ski and tubing resort at the top (weird seeing snow in southern california enough to ski in since the base of the mountain was at over 70 degrees!). Though it was warm at about 50 degrees at the top, there were still dozens of people trying to sled right off the sides of the main road. Broken sleds were littered around everywhere. Apparently everyone comes up there to sled, break the sled, ditch the sled, and go. Locals say in sprintime a garbage truck goes around cleaning up the sleds from off the sides of the road.
Coming down the other side of the mountain was just as awe inspiring as it had been going up the front. It was an entirely different type of scenery. Desert. The mountains dropped off into a basin of rock and sand that stretched as far as the eye could see. Worth noting – This would make for an awesome ATV and dirt bike trip. There are public use trails everywhere and it looks like it would be a blast.
Desert Valley Hot Springs – About 15 minutes from Palm Springs, is Desert Valley Hot Springs. It`s a smaller town than Palm Springs and less commercialized. We had made a reservation to stay here in a Yurt. I had always wanted to do this! It was an adorable place setup on someone’s property. Everything from the yurt to the bathrooms to the facility was incredibly clean and organized, and the hosts were super nice. We ended up having a campfire that night with them and another guest that was staying in on of the other rentals. It was fun getting to know new people. If you’re a people person, a backpacker, or a cheap travel kind of person, airbnb.com is an awesome resource.
Supposedly there are many local spas and hot springs in the town we stayed in, but we didn’t go to any. We just drove into Palm Springs and walked around downtown before grabbing some Mexican food.
Idyllwild – We made the 1.5 hour drive from our campsite to Pine Springs Ranch on day 6. My cousin works there and I wanted to visit as well as check out the area. He isn’t far from Idyllwild, so we ventured into town for lunch. It’s a cute little picturesque town filled with shops and restuarants, nestled in the middle of the mountains. The drive up there was again gorgeous. It’s a completely different set of landscape than I am used to. I was also in awe to see the devestation of the California wildfires first person. The news tends to hype stuff up so you never know when to take things seriously anymore, but seeing the vast expanse of burnt mountainsides spoke for itself. It was almost eerie. Black charred trees scattered the landscape of the sandy, rocky floor, while in some areas, the fire had burned so hot there was nothing left BUT sand and rock.
Southern Cali Coastline – Because I’m the lucky girl who is married to a pilot, I got to fly the Southern Cali coast in a helicopter. We stayed with some friends that own their own helicopter and Adam was partly there to give him some advanced flight training. I tagged along and got to expience California glamorously. We flew from French Valley, over orchards and vineyards, towards the coast, and then down to San Diego. We landed for lunch and then flew back. They say the Surfliner Train is a beautiful way to see the coastline, but I’d venture to say by helicopter is even better.
Overall Places I’d recommend seeing or doing in Southern Cali: (some I did on this trip, some on my previous trip)
1. La Jolle Beach Park
2. Scooter around a city (all the big cities have scooters you EVERYWHERE that you can scan on your phone and go. Drop it off wherever and then pick another one up later. Kinda cool!)
3. Drive up to Big Bear and down the other side
4. Take the aerial tram up to the ridge in Palm Springs
5. Visit downtown LA even if its just for the food market
6. Surf! ALmost every beach is a good surfing beach
7. Joshua Tree National Park
Video of: The Yurt in Desert Palm Springs