California Adventures

California Adventures anaheimer

In my travels, I constantly seek out exhilarating experiences, ranging from serene to extreme. Activities like skiing, off-roading, surfing, air combat simulations, glider flights, and canyoneering top my list. This guide offers insights into these adventures and more, perfect for thrill-seekers.

Below is a curated list of my top adventure picks in California. Some destinations might require a bit of a drive, but the journey is as rewarding as the destination. Follow the links for in-depth stories and details (Note: Some links redirect to external sites).

    Exhilarating Adventures

    Zipline Thrills

    Zipline AdventureExperience the rush of ziplining over Catalina Island's lush landscapes. The island, easily accessible by boat, offers an Eco Zipline Tour that combines adrenaline with stunning vistas. Discover more here.

    Book the Catalina Zipline Tour here.

    Air Combat Experiences

    Feel the thrill of aerial dogfights in vintage fighter planes over California's sunny skies or the Nevada desert. Available in Fullerton, San Diego, and Las Vegas. Book this unique adventure here.

    ATV and Dirt Bike Excursions

    Embrace your inner daredevil with a day of ATV or Dirt Bike riding inOff-roading Adventure the vast California deserts. Options are available for all ages and skill levels. Explore my favorite spots for ATV fun:

    Scenic Airplane Tours

    Enjoy a bird's-eye view of California's iconic landmarks, cities, and coastlines with an expertly guided airplane tour. Experience Los Angeles from above here.

    Hot Air Balloon Rides

    For a serene yet thrilling experience, a hot air balloon ride is a must-try. The gentle ascent offers a unique perspective of the landscape below.

    Bike Tours

    Explore the beauty of coastal San Diego or the scenic 17-mile drive in Monterey on a guided bike tour. Options range from family-friendly to more adventurous routes. Learn about the La Jolla Plunge Bike Tour here and discover the Monterey e-bike adventure here.

    Bungee Jumping Off the Bridge to Nowhere

    Experience the ultimate adrenaline rush with a bungee jump from the Bridge to Nowhere, nestled in Southern California's rugged canyons.

    Canyoneering Adventures

    CanyoneeringEmbark on a canyoneering journey, traversing mountain trails, rappelling beside waterfalls, and navigating through streams and canyons.

    Read about my adventure on Mt. San Antonio here.

    Glider Flights

    After experiencing the simulated flight at California Adventure, take to the skies for real with a serene glider flight over San Diego County.

    Helicopter Tours

    iFly Indoor SkydivingSee Southern California from a new perspective with a helicopter tour over downtown LA, Hollywood, or the coastline. For the adventurous, some tours offer a chance to pilot the helicopter.

    Indoor Skydiving

    Simulate the thrill of skydiving in a safe, controlled environment with indoor skydiving. Perfect for families and first-timers. Find out more here.

    Jet Ski Adventures

    Experience the thrill of jet skiing on the open water, a perfect choice for those hot summer days. Read about the Catalina Jet Ski adventure here and discover Jet Skiing in the Emerald Coast here.


    Paragliding offers an unparalleled sense of freedom, soaring with the wind as your guide. Weather-dependent, this adventure is a must for those seeking the ultimate flight experience.


    Snorkeling in CatalinaImmerse yourself in the underwater world with a snorkeling adventure. Catalina Island offers some of the best spots for up-close encounters with marine life.

    Surfing Lessons

    Surfing LessonsLearn to surf with professional instructors at iconic locations like Huntington Beach, Dana Point, or San Clemente.

    Rock Climbing

    Whether you're a beginner or an experienced climber, Joshua Tree National Park offers some of the best rock climbing experiences in the world.

    Ocean Fishing

    Embark on an ocean fishing adventure with expert guides around Catalina Island, Newport Beach, and Dana Point, equipped with all the necessary gear for a successful catch.


    Channel Islands National Park

    Channel Islands National Park anaheimer

    Santa Cruz Island, CAFinding a secluded area in Southern California to step away from civilization and commune with nature is hard, but luckily for us, the Channel Islands are a short boat ride away with beautiful nature and great adventures.

    The eight islands making up the Channel Islands are only a few miles away from the coast of Southern California, but they might as well be worlds away. Those islands have never been connected to the mainland, so they have their own species of animals and plants. 

    The sea level was much lower during the ice age, so the channel between the Channel Islands and the mainland was much shallower. The Chumash natives used canoes to travel the short distance and live off the land and the sea.

    Now, the islands are mostly uninhabited, except for Santa Catalina Island. (Read more here). 

    Interesting facts: The Channel Islands are often called the North America’s Galapagos for its unique wildlife that can only be found on the island.

    Ventura, CAFive of those islands are now protected as part of the National Park. No private ownership is allowed, and no development of any kind. Visitation to this national park is limited, so you have a good chance to find the solitude you seek.

    This archipelago offers many opportunities for nature lovers to hike, snorkel, or canoe through some interesting caves. 

    Interesting facts: About 10% of the global blue whale population passes through the Channel Islands National Park each summer, making it home to the largest aggregation of blue whales in the world.

    If you don’t own your own boat, then there are only two ways to get to this national park. The most common way is to hitch a boat ride with the “Island Packers” concessionaire from Ventura Harbor or Oxnard. The boat ride is between 1.5 to 2 hours – sometimes more. The Island Packers captains like to stop for wildlife along the way. 

    If you are so inclined, you can fly to the islands. “Channel Islands Aviation” will take you on ½ day, full day, or overnight trips to Santa Rosa Island. This flight will cost you a minimum of $1200.

    If you have your own boat, you can explore independently. The Channel Islands National Park website has special instructions for boaters. Read carefully before you go.

    Santa Cruz Island

    Santa Cruz Island, CASanta Cruz is the largest island in the archipelago off the coast of California. It is about twenty-two miles long with a coastline that has steep cliffs, gigantic sea caves, coves, and sandy beaches. It is a haven for nature lovers with many hiking trails, camping, kayaking, and snorkeling. 

    This island is home to animal species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, like the Santa Cruz Island Horse, the Island Scrub-Jay, and the Santa Cruz Island Fox. The fox is very cute and prevalent everywhere you go on the island.  

    Interesting Facts: The weather at the islands is usually very mild with temperatures hovering in the 60 and 70, but they do get cold and hot spills, so check the weather ahead of your visit

    There are two ways to get to the island: by sea. Island Packers boats can moor at Scorpion Anchorage or at Prisoners Harbor. Each has a distinctive character and unique chances for adventure.

    Tip: After you disembark from the boat and after a short walk look for large metal lockers. It is important to leave all food and drinks in those lockers to prevent tampering by wildlife. Also, it is convenient to keep your heavy stuff so you won’t have to lug it around during your activities. 

    Santa Cruz Island, CA - FloraAt Scorpion Anchorage, you can see the remnants of the ranching era, stay at Scorpion Ranch Campground, check out the exhibits at the visitor center, go on hikes to Potato Harbor or Cavern Point Loop, or just relax at the beach.

    Interesting Facts: Santa Cruz Island has one of the largest known sea caves in the world: Painted Cave.

    At Prisoners Harbor, you can stay at Del Norte Camp – after a grueling 7-mile hike or hike to Pelican Bay.

    At each point, you can go on a ranger-guided hike for an introduction to the island and its flora and fauna. 

    During our visit in September, we disembarked at Scorpion Anchorage and went on a guided hike with a volunteer ranger. 

    Before the hike, we had to listen to some instructions about the island. We were reminded that it is a conservation effort, so we cannot take anything out. It is also important to remember to take our trash out with us.

    Tip: There are no concessionaires on the island. Don’t expect to buy food or water. Make sure to bring enough for your stay. The one source of water at Scorpion campground is not reliable. It is often infested with Yellow Jackets.

    Santa Cruz Island, CA - Cavern Point Loop hiking trailAfter the mandatory lecture, we took off on the Cavern Point Loop hiking trail. The trail goes through the visitor center and campground and up a steep incline to reach the cliffs overlooking some spectacular views. 

    This is considered a short and easy hike – around two miles – with a few steep inclines.

    On the day of our hike, the weather was too hot. We needed lots of water and a few stops before we reached the top. In the end, it was worth the effort. 

    From the top, you can see Ventura and Santa Barbara in the distance. Looking down, you can see some sea caves and kelp forests. 

    Interesting Facts: Although the island is closest to the city of Ventura (20 miles), it is actually part of Santa Barbara County.

    Santa Cruz Island, CA - KayakingHeading back, we decided to continue the loop on our own. Most people in the group doubled back for an easier exit. The trail we took hugged the cliffs, affording us much better views. The drawback was the steep steps we had to take down back to the visitor center.

    Since we were heading back the same day, we didn’t have time to do another hike. We just ate lunch at a picnic table in the shade and lazed around on the beach until departure.

    Tip: The beach next to Scorpion Anchorage is very rocky. If you plan to wade into the surf, you should wear water shoes or sandals. 

    During our next trip, we will camp out and venture deeper into the island. 

    Santa Cruz Island, CAThe concessioner, Island Packers, has a booth close to the campground where you can rent snorkels or kayaks or arrange a tour – but if you didn’t book in advance, you might be out of luck. For information and reservations, you can go to Island Packers.  

    Kayaking Santa Cruz Island

    Another way to explore Santa Cruz Island is to join a Kayak guided tour. We recently went on the “Discovery Sea Cave Kayak” tour with the Channel Islands Adventure Company and had a blast. This tour takes place around Santa Cruz Island and starts at Scorpion Anchorage. Read the full story here.

    Other Islands in the National Park

    There are four more islands to explore in this Galapagos of the North. Each has its own distinct character and opportunity for adventure. Soon, I will be visiting Santa Barbara, Anacapa, San Miguel, and Santa Rosa Islands and writing about them. If you have been to those places, please send me your experiences and photos.

    Kayaking the Channel Islands

    Kayaking the Channel Islands anaheimer

    Santa Cruz Island, CA The Channel Islands are only a 1-hour boat ride from the coast of Southern California but might as well be a world away.

    Once you cross the channel separating the archipelago from the mainland, you enter a unique environment with steep cliffs, verdant valleys, and indigenous flora and fauna. The climate is also much cooler than the mainland.

    The waters around the five protected islands teem with marine life and kelp forests, with numerous caves carved into the cliffs by relentless ocean surf.

    Read more about Channel Islands National Park here.

    Santa Cruz Island, CA The pristine nature, clear waters, cliffs, and caves make this park ideal for kayaking and snorkeling adventures.

    To go kayaking in the national park, you can either bring your own equipment or go with the only outfitter on the Island: Channel Islands Adventure Company.

    Tip: If you are bringing your own kayaks, make sure to reserve space for your equipment with Island Packers.

    Channel Islands Adventure Company offers several kayaking adventures and snorkel rentals. We recently went on their “Discovery Sea Cave Kayak” tour and had a blast. This tour takes place around Santa Cruz Island and starts at Scorpion Anchorage.

    Find your Los Angeles adventure here.

    Tip: Before you go on any of the kayaking tours, carefully read the instructions on the website and on your reservation confirmation.

    This was our first time kayaking, and I was very apprehensive about venturing into the ocean and fighting the waves, but I am glad I did.

    The guides were very professional and friendly. After getting outfitted with flotation jackets, helmets, and water shoes, we hiked to the launch location at the beach. The water wasn’t cold, so we did not need wetsuits, but they are available if you need them.

    Tip: Make sure to leave enough time between your island arrival time and your tour start time to change into your swim attire and get outfitted with your gear.

    The guides gave us detailed instructions on kayaking, but as a newbie, I had a lot of questions. We practiced on dry land using the paddle, responding to hand signals, and jumping back on the kayak in case we flipped over. In retrospect, I think we needed more hands-on practice in the water.

    Tip: The beach is very rocky, so make sure to wear water shoes. If you didn’t bring any, you can borrow some from the outfitter, but there is no guarantee you will find your size.

    We started paddling away from the beach towards our first cave. As soon as we left the harbor's protection, we started fighting the waves and the wind. The sea that day was a little rough.

    Santa Cruz Island - Kayaking As we skimmed the surface, we could see all kinds of fish swimming around the kelp. The kelp got very thick in some areas and hindered our paddles, but we managed to get to our first cave.

    This cave is actually more like a tunnel. It cuts through the cliffs and opens up on the other end of the island. This acted like a wind tunnel, making entering the cave mouth more difficult, but we pushed through and made it to the other side. What a great feeling of accomplishment.

    Tip: If you have never kayaked before, remember: 1. Sit up straight – make sure you have good back support. 2. To get the best out of your paddles, the strength of your pull is not everything. The length of time you pull the paddle through the water is key. 3. When you paddle, make sure the concave side is sweeping through the water. Get more tips at REI.

    A few kayaks in our group were trailing way behind, so the guides took turns towing them closer to the group.

    Once everyone made it through the first cave, it was decision time. The winds had kicked up, and the seas became rougher, so the guides gave the group a choice: head back or continue to the next cave. We all chose to continue.

    Tip: There are no services on the island, so you have to bring your own water and food and take your trash out with you. The outfitter station provides some water so you can refill your canteens or water bottles.

    The second cave wasn’t as dramatic. It was larger with a closed end. We had fun paddling into it and admiring the view from inside. Afterward, we turned around and headed back to our launch point. Paddling back, the wind was on our backs, speeding up our return to the shore.

    Kayaking to and through the caves is great fun, but just being on the water, paddling close to the cliffs, and battling the waves is a wonderful experience.

    Tip: You have to walk some distance from the beach to the outfitter station where you will hand in the gear and change clothes. So make sure you have enough time to make it back to the boat. After our tour, we barely made it in time to board.

    The tour took around two hours. By the time we got back to the beach, I was exhausted, and every muscle was hurting, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. As a matter of fact, I am planning to go with the Adventure Company on their full-day “Painted Cave Kayak Tour” – which includes breakfast, lunch, and snorkeling.




    Joshua Tree National Park

    Joshua Tree National Park anaheimer

    The first time I saw Joshua Tree NP, I thought I just crossed through the twilight zone and into another planet. The eerie landscape, rock formations, and the uncanny Joshua trees combine to transport me to a different state of mind.

    This 800,000-acre park straddles the Mojave and Sonoran deserts in California. It is home to the most stunning rock piles, mountain ranges, desert views, and an unexpected oasis here and there. 

    The park was named after the most prevalent tree in the area. Mormons passing through the area called it Joshua Tree because it resembled their prophet, Joshua, praying to God.

    nullWithin the NP boundaries, you can enjoy an abundance of hiking and biking trails, bouldering, and camping. The park is also a world-famous destination for rock climbers.

    Tip: You don’t have to be a professional rock climber to enjoy the rocks at Joshua Tree NP. A lot of formations are easy to climb. My family and I often scramble up the rock formation, find the path of least resistance and end up at the top with stunning views of desert and trees.

    It took Mother Nature millions of years and many cataclysmic events to finally present us with this natural wonder. It all started with cooling lava flows. Then underground streams started the lengthy process of sculpting the rocks. Mix in several tectonic shifts and several millions of years of wind and rain erosion. The result is unique formations like the Wonderland of Rocks, Arch Rock, and Skull Rock.

    For more details about the natural history of Joshua Tree NP, visit the official website here or at Wikipedia.

    nullThere are many ways to enjoy this colossal park. It all depends on your interests and how much time you have. The best way to enjoy it is to camp for a few nights at one of the campgrounds. The advantage of camping overnight is that you can explore the park at your own pace.

    Tip: Temperatures in this high desert can soar to 100's during the summer month. If you visit during the hot months, make sure you have plenty of water.

    During the day, explore the campground area or take trips to various hiking trails and rock formations. During the night, enjoy an unobstructed view of the stars – no city lights to spoil the view.

    If roughing it under the stars is not your thing, some camps offer RV sites. There are a total of nine campgrounds to choose from – only 2 have water and toilets (Black Rock Canyon and Cottonwood).

    nullNot planning to camp out? You can take a day trip and explore a few sites. Finally, you can always stay in a motel in one of the nearby towns, like Twenty-Nine Palms. Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley – or drive from Palm Springs.

    Book a Joshua Tree Adventure here.

    Whether you are camping or day-tripping, make sure you explore some of the following:

    Start at the North Entrance (29 Palms)

    From highway 62, take the Utah trail into the park. Stop at Oasis visitor center for passes, maps, guided tours, and souvenirs. Keep going on the Utah trail and show your passes or pay at the gate.

    Tip: If you arrive after hours, the attendants may be already gone. If that happens, be ready to pay on your way out. 

    Take Park Boulevard through the park. This main road passes several important stops and campgrounds like Live Oak; Skull Rock trail; Jumbo Rock campground; Geology Tour Road; Ryan Campground; Cap Rock trail and Hidden Valley trail.

    Live Oak Picnic Area

    null"Live Oak" is a dramatic rock formation with a few oak trees at the base. It was named after an old Oak tree that still thrives between the rocks. Most Oaks in the park are too small to be called trees, but this one stands tall and healthy. 

    This is a day-use area, so no camping is allowed. But you can still enjoy a quick hike or climb the rocks for a better view of the surrounding area. You can also enjoy lunch or a snack at the few picnic tables or on top of a rock. 

    Jumbo Rock Campground – Skull Rock

    nullA campground nestled around jumbo boulders. You don’t have to camp here to enjoy the views. Just before you reach this campground, you will say a sign on the road for “Skull Rock”. Park near the camp entrance or across the street, then take the 1.7 miles (2.74 km) hike around the area. Look for a rock that looks like a face or skull.

    You can park on the street next to the sign, or you can go a little further and park at the camp – close to the entrance.  Look for a rock that looks like a face or skull.

    nullThe best way to see Skull Rock is to hike a few feet on the right side of the road (away from Skull Rock) and climb to the top of the boulders. You can snap the best photos from this vantage point. 

    After you enjoy the view from across the street, head toward Skull Rock and scramble to the top of the boulders next to it. If you arrive at the right time, you can enjoy a dramatic view of the sun setting behind the rocks. 

    Tip: If you are planning to camp here, you must plan ahead. It is very popular and always crowded.

    Related Books

    Geology Motor Tour

    nullAn 18-mile motor tour leads through one of Joshua Tree National Park’s most fascinating landscapes.

    Tip: The road is very rough on this tour, so 4-wheel drive vehicles are strongly recommended.

    There are 16 stops along a dirt road, and it takes approximately two hours to make the round-trip. Get a self-guided tour brochure from the visitor center or at the start of the road.

    Some of the highlights of the tour are Boulder Outcrops; Malapi Hill; Pleasant Valley and Gold Coin Camp.

    If you are feeling adventurous, instead of turning back at the end of the Geology tour road, continue on to Berdoo Canyon drive. This is a more rugged road that takes you through a camp that was used by the California Aqueduct builders. This is a moderate to difficult drive for 4WD.

    Hidden Valley Trail

    nullFurther along Park Boulevard (heading northwest) you will find this hidden nature trail. It is easy and family friendly. The trail winds between multicolored rocks. Watch out for a rock that looks like a Trojan’s head. Picnic tables are available.

    Arch Rock Nature Trail

    This trail is on Pinto Basin Road, which connects to Park Boulevard. After you go through the north entrance, turn left instead of right and stop at the White Tank campground.

    The trail starts from the campground at site # 9. It winds through several rock formations, the most dramatic is a 25-foot rock that looks like an Arch. You can climb around and through the arch.

    Nearby, you can visit the White Tank. A tank is a reservoir built by early settlers to collect rainwater and runoff.

    Cottonwood Springs 

    nullIf you keep going south on Pinto Basin Road, you will reach the Cottonwood visitor center.

    From there you can easily get to a nature trail and a small oasis with California fan Palm trees. Another more difficult trail takes you to Lost Palms Oasis. This hike will take from 4 to 6 hours. The last part of the trail will climb to an overlook above the oasis.

    Book a Joshua Tree Adventure here.

    After enjoying the view from the top, climb down a steep descent to take refuge under the palm trees. Also, from Cottonwood Springs, you can visit Mastodon Peak with sweeping views of the San Jacinto Mountains, Salton Sea, and the Sonoran Desert.

    Joshua Tree, 49 Palms

    Fortynine Palms Oasis - Joshua Tree National Park - by CrishazzardThis secluded oasis is hard to get to but worth the effort. After hiking through rugged terrain with an elevation gain of 350 feet (0.11 km), we were rewarded with palm trees and a spring.  

    Along the way, we encountered weird rock formations, hardy desert plants, and panoramic desert views. Many of the slopes were dotted with Red Barrel cacti, which add some color to this stark landscape.

    Fortynine Palms Oasis - Joshua Tree National Park - Red Barrel CactusThe trail is well maintained with many steps in places to ease the climb – a little. After climbing steadily for about 45 minutes, we reached the summit then started climbing down. It was easy going from there, but we kept reminding ourselves that we had to climb another 350 feet (0.11 km) on the way back.

    On the way down, we started to see the tops of palm trees peeking through the hills. That gave us hope that the journey is almost over.

    Warning: This hike is considered moderately strenuous. If you have a heart condition or uncontrolled diabetes, you should avoid this hike.

    It is both refreshing and surreal to find this green valley in the middle of this desolate desert. Joshua Tree National ParkThe palms are nestled around a spring with giant boulders all around. To get down to the spring level, we had to scramble down those boulders.

    Our reward at the end of this grueling hike was a picnic lunch. We sat on the rocks and enjoyed our sandwiches and drinks. The place was crowded with hikers, but we managed to find a somewhat secluded spot for our lunch.

    Note: This trail is only for hiking. The terrain is too rugged for biking.

    The hike took us around 3 hours in total – One hour and change each way and a long rest at the oasis.

    This oasis is located at the north end of the Joshua Tree National Park – on the outskirts of Twentynine Palms city. Although it is officially within the boundaries of the park, there is no entrance fee.

    Plenty of parking is available at the trailhead and primitive restrooms. No facilities on the trail or at the oasis.


    nullLiving in cities, it is almost impossible to have a good view of the stars. You would have to go to a place like Joshua Tree NP for a wonderful view of the heavens. 

    In this high desert, it is easy to avoid the glare of human civilization. Just walk a few feet away from any road or camp, and you are in total darkness. Also, the skies are clear most nights of the year due to the low rainfall. 

    Read the full review stargazing article here.

    Joshua Tree North Entrance

    74485 National Park Drive
    Twentynine Palms, CA 92277
    (760) 367-5500

    Cottonwood Visitor Center

    Pinto Basin Rd.,
    Joshua Tree National Park, CA

    Stargazing at Joshua Tree National Park

    Stargazing at Joshua Tree National Park anaheimer

    Joshua Tree National Park - Night Sky - by Lian LawEscape the city lights and immerse yourself in the celestial wonders of Joshua Tree National Park. This high desert retreat is a stargazer's paradise, far from urban glare, offering crystal-clear views of the night sky.

    Joshua Tree's dry climate and remote location ensure clear skies for most of the year, making it an ideal spot for astronomy enthusiasts and casual observers alike.

    Tip: For the optimal stargazing experience, plan your visit around the new moon phase. Check the lunar calendar here to avoid the moon's brightness overshadowing the stars.

    Sky is the Limit ObservatoryMoon Phases

    Beginners to stargazing should visit the "Sky is the Limit Observatory," located near the park's north entrance in Twentynine Palms. Every Saturday, astronomy enthusiasts gather here to marvel at the night sky.

    With volunteers bringing powerful telescopes, visitors have the opportunity to gaze at planets, star clusters, and other celestial wonders.

    Tip: Use red-filtered flashlights in the dark to minimize light pollution and preserve the night sky's clarity for everyone.

    Book a Joshua Tree Adventure here.

    Even without a telescope, the naked eye or a pair of binoculars can reveal a myriad of stars, constellations, the Milky Way, and occasional shooting stars.

    Prime Stargazing SpotsJoshua Tree National Park - Sunset and Stars


    Camping in Joshua Tree offers a front-row seat to the cosmos. Just steps away from your campsite, the darkness of the desert night sky unveils a breathtaking celestial show.

    Tip: Desert nights can be chilly. Dress warmly in layers and bring extra blankets for a comfortable stargazing experience.

    Roadside Pullouts

    Scattered throughout the park, roadside pullouts near landmarks like Cap Rock, Jumbo Rocks, and Skull Rock provide perfect spots for stargazing. A short walk from your car leads you to a spectacular view of the night sky.

    Stargazing Tips

    Joshua Tree NP - Stars - from Wikimedia - by Christopher MichaelFor a comfortable stargazing session, come prepared. Lying down on a sleeping bag or thick blanket is the best way to gaze at the stars without straining your neck. Stay warm under the starlit sky with adequate clothing and coverings.

    Stargazing is a rewarding and awe-inspiring hobby that connects you with the cosmos. Here are some tips to enhance your stargazing experience:

    1. Choose the Right Location: Find a spot away from city lights to reduce light pollution. National parks, remote areas, or designated Dark Sky Places are ideal.
    2. Check the Weather and Lunar Calendar: Clear, cloudless skies are best for stargazing. Also, plan your observation during a new moon phase, as the moonlight can outshine many stars.
    3. Allow Your Eyes to Adjust: It takes about 20-30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to the dark fully. Avoid looking at bright lights during this time to maintain night vision.
    4. Use Red Light Flashlights: If you need a light, use a flashlight with a red filter. Red light is less disruptive to night vision than white or blue light.
    5. Bring the Right Gear: A pair of binoculars or a telescope can enhance your view, but many celestial wonders can be seen with the naked eye. Also, bring a star map or use a stargazing app to help identify constellations and planets.
    6. Dress Appropriately: Nights can get chilly, even in summer. Dress in layers and bring blankets or a sleeping bag for comfort.
    7. Learn the Sky: Familiarize yourself with the major constellations and their seasonal movements. Apps and star charts can be very helpful.
    8. Be Patient: Stargazing requires patience. Spend time scanning the sky slowly, and you'll gradually start to notice more stars and patterns.
    9. Capture the Moment: If you're into photography, try your hand at astrophotography. A camera with a long exposure setting can capture stunning night sky images.
    10. Join a Community: Consider joining a local astronomy club or attending a stargazing event. These communities can offer valuable knowledge and a more enriching experience.
    11. Respect the Environment: If you're stargazing in a natural area, follow Leave No Trace principles. Keep noise to a minimum, and take all your trash with you.
    12. Safety First: If you're in a remote area, let someone know where you're going, bring a friend, and have a plan in case of emergencies.

    Book a Joshua Tree Adventure here.

    Remember, stargazing is about exploration and relaxation. Take your time, enjoy the peace of the night sky, and marvel at the wonders of the universe.

    Oceano Dunes SVRA

    Oceano Dunes SVRA anaheimer

    nullSVRA stands for State Vehicular Recreation Area, which really means lots of fun and adventure for you and me.

    Oceano Dunes is around 3 hours drive north of Los Angeles, CA - right next to Pismo Beach. The beautiful scenery along the way will make those 3 hours pass quickly.

    Oceano Dunes is my favorite off-road adventure place. It has everything going for it. The weather is always perfect (or at least acceptable), it has lots of dunes, it is right on the beach, and it is right next to a gorgeous beach city: Pismo Beach – with restaurants, shops, beaches, and hotels.

    nullYou can use any type of vehicle on the dunes. People bring their 4-wheelers, ATVs, UTE, or dirt bikes to play on the sand and on the beach.

    You can also rent a vehicle at one of the rental shops right outside the park on Pier ave. See the list of shops below.

    Once you set up your rental, you can pick it up inside the SVRA area.

    You can camp right in the park, but for people who would like to avoid roughing it, you can rent an Airbnb, motel, or hotel room in several cities around Oceano Dunes. 

    You can also make it a day trip from Anaheim. Because the highway to Oceano Dunes passes through major population areas, you are never far away from a restaurant, rest stop or lodging.

    nullIf you plan to camp then make reservations ahead of time. The available spots disappear quickly. Call 1-800-444-7275 or visit the California parks reservations website

    Tip: Although weather is almost always great for off-road fun, you still need to plan ahead. Under some rain and wind conditions, crossing the Arroyo Grande Creek into the SVRA might become treacherous, especially for RVs.

    The dunes area available for off-road activity is around 1,500 acres. It used to be 3,500 but 2000 acres were set aside for preservation and restoration. The park is threatened with closure due to pressure from environmentalists. So please tread carefully around protected areas, read and obey the park rules.

    Tip: The dunes are always changing. When you first take your ATV on the sand, go slow and get familiar with the crests, dips and doughnuts. 

    The best way to enjoy the dunes is to start at the beginning of the sand highway between markers 4 and 5. The first time through, take the highway all the way to the border of the SVRA. This will give you an idea about the expanse of this park. On the way back, you can start making excursions into other dunes and valleys.

    nullThe park has many diverse formations. You can find an immense dune with a pointy ridge – jumping the ridge is somewhat dangerous, but trying to balance along the rim is thrilling enough for me. You can find little dunes – with little jumps. You can find a huge depression shaped like a bowl, in which you can ride your ATV around the rim. If you lose speed while you are trying to run the rim of this bowl, you will tumble all the way down – and laugh about it.

    Tip: There is a reason for every safety rule at the park. Please follow the rules. Most importantly, make sure that your flag pole is standing straight and high enough to be noticed by other vehicles coming from behind a dune. And please wear a helmet!

    A great interactive map of the park is available at - with photos of each landmark.

    Tip: Rental places tell you to park on the street on Pier Ave, but be aware that parking is extremely difficult so consider taking an Uber or Lyft.

    I recently rented two ATVs from Steve's for one hour and had a blast with my daughter. We were fortunate to find parking on the street, and we hitched a ride with their shuttle to their location near post # 2.

    We watched a short safety video, received our helmets and goggles, received some instructions on the ATV operation, and then took off. 

    We picked the automatic ATV, and it was straightforward to operate. All we had to worry about was the throttle and the brakes, although I never touched the brakes. My duaghter's ATV stalled at one point, and she had to push the start button. 

    We booked one hour only, and it was more than enough to explore the dunes. By the end of the hour, my palms were red and my thumbs were hurting, but it was worth it.

    This wasn't my first experience at Oceano Dunes and it wouldn't be the last.   

    North Park Entrance
    End of Grand Avenue
    Grover Beach CA
    South Park Entrance
    End of Pier Avenue
    Oceano CA

    Ranger Station:
    (805) 473-7220

    ATV Rentals at Oceano Dunes

    BJ's ATV Rentals
    197 Grand Avenue
    Grover Beach, CA 93433
    Tel: 805-481-5411

    Steve's ATV
    332 Pier Ave.
    Oceano, CA 93445  
    Tel: 805-481-2597

    Arnie's ATV Rentals  

    311 Pier Ave
    Oceano, CA 93445

    Tel: 805-474-6060

    Ocotillo Wells SVRA

    Ocotillo Wells SVRA anaheimer

    Ocotillo Wells SVRA - Blow Sand Ocotillo Wells is part of the much larger Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It was set aside for off-road vehicle recreation. It is a great place to experience the solitude of the beautiful desert, gaze at the stars, or go wild with your 4-wheel-drive SUV, ATV, or dirt bike.

    The park is a 2-3 hour drive from LA and Orange Counties but closer to San Diego and Palm Springs.

    Tip: The best time to visit Ocotillo Wells is during the cooler months, from October to April. Summers can be extremely hot.

    You probably want to camp for the night. Depending on the weather, you can make it as casual or as luxurious as you like. My son and I used to sleep in the back of my SUV – with the seats pulled down. It does get cold at night, so make sure you have good sleeping bags or thick blankets.

    Find your California adventure here.

    Three camping areas with shade, toilets, and fire rings are available. But you are not limited to these areas. You can camp anywhere you like—just be wary of possible riders around you. There are no fees for camping or using the SVRA (State Vehicular Recreation Area). Most campgrounds are accessible by RVs.

    Tip: Before you enter the SVRA (from Highway 78), keep going until you find the ranger station in the town of Ocotillo Wells. You can pick up maps, self-guided tour information, and tips from the rangers, and you can get some supplies from town.

    Ocotillo Wells SVRA - Shell Reef Once you get your maps and stake out a camping spot, you are ready for the fun.

    Explore the many rock formations and sand dunes. Stay away from protected areas. Some areas are protected to allow the various native plants and animals to recover and thrive, while other areas are protected because of archaeological finds.

    ATV Rentals

    If you don't own your own equipment, you can find several ATV rental shops close to the park.

    You can try the highly rated San Diego Motor Sport Rentals - 5965 US Hwy. 78 - Ocotillo Wells, Borrego 92004 - (760) 767-4020.

    Also nearby is Quad Shop - 6001 CA-78, Borrego Springs, CA 92004 - (760) 238-3839.

    It is highly recommended that you call ahead and reserve your ATVs.

    Some of the most popular trails and formations:

    Ocotillo Wells SVRA - Dirt Bikes BLOW SAND HILL:

    This is probably the biggest sand dune in the area. It is very popular with all kinds of vehicles. I was able to drive my Isuzu Rodeo SUV up and down the hill, and I have seen a lot of dirt bikes and ATVs.


    Experience the thrill of sliding down a 200-foot-high hill or trying to climb the 200’ using your dirt bike or ATV. Many try, but few succeed.

    Tip: Because of the sand dunes and valleys, your vehicle might become invisible to other riders around you. You must mount a flag or a whip to make sure you remain visible from a long distance.


    Looking at it now, it is hard to believe that this area used to be under sea level about 40 million years ago. Park under the reef and go exploring. You will find shells and pieces of the reef.

    The rangers ask that you do not ride your vehicles on and around this formation.

    San Felipe Wash (and others):

    You can also have the time of your life riding along the main washes. San Felipe Wash runs all the way from the west end of the park back to Highway 78. You can go under the highway and up to a store and restaurant. You can speed up a little bit along the wash because it is mainly open and flat, but watch out for the rocks and driftwood. Stay away from the wash on rainy days.

    Tip: There is no water available in the area. Bring plenty with you, especially on warm days.


    5172 Highway 78
    Borrego Springs CA

    Ranger Station:

    (760) 767-5391 (Don't hesitate to call for help)

    More information at:

    Even more at:

    Find your California adventure here.