Favorite hikes in Upper California

Beaches, Hollywood, sunshine and fun, this is the image most people have in California. But far north of California, it offers hikes that rival everything else the state has to offer.

Favorite hikes in Upper California

Unlike the waterlogged coastline, California's upper reaches present a calmer, back-to-nature feel. Frankly, most people living in the southern part of the state do not know what they are missing. The beauty of old forests, rivers like Russian and miles of forests, is something to behold, and tourism is the best way to see it.

Usually I save the best for last, but the Caves at the National Lava Bed Monument are just too good. Ironically, caves are not caves. Instead, they are huge lava tubes created when lava flows over this area in northern California. This place is so incredible, words seem like a cheap substitute for actually going. The lava pipes are large and you will pass through them. The best and most striking jaw is the Catacombs Cave. The pipe is about 7,000 feet long and is simply inspirational. You should also go to the Chocolate Hopkins Caves and the Blue Grotto. Bring a sweater and get ready for an unforgettable experience.

Moving ashore, we reach Redwood National Park. Again a personal favorite. There are many excellent tourist areas, but we are here to see the big trees. Aptly named Tree Trees Grove is the place we want. In classic pedestrian conditions, the route is only 3 miles back and should take an hour and a half. Ha! It is the site of many of the tallest trees in the world, many over 300 feet tall. The trees are so big, the base can be up to fifteen feet apart. This is probably wider than the room you are currently sitting in. At such heights you will look very up and walk very slowly. Count on turning this hike into a three-hour event minimum.

The Lassen Volcanic National Park is located just east of Reading. As you might guess from the name, the park has a history of volcanic activity, eruptions and very geothermal activity. Each of the hiking trails in the park will pass the sum, but I'm a sucker for volcanoes. Before St. Martin Helens peak sheds light on the floodlights, Lasene Peak is the last volcano to erupt in the United States. Okay, it was 1914, but it still counts. More importantly, you can walk it! It is 5 miles back and takes two or three hours. Unfortunately you have to hit it between July and September because it is closed for the rest of the time. As an aside, you can also try the Bumpass Hell hike. I don't know anything about it, but it's worth the name, if not otherwise.

Tourism in the forgotten north of California offers you, me and everyone the opportunity to see a part of the state that most people don't realize exists. Whether you want to go for a shot with a lava, stare at giant trees or climb a volcano, you can do it all here.