Get out that bucket list and add these natural wonders to it right away.
Los Angeles is filled with manmade marvels, from the soaring, reflective skyscrapers Downtown and the slick organic lines of the Peterson Automotive Museum in Mid-Wilshire, to the Mosaic Tile House in Venice. But no matter what imaginative creations we manage to conjure up and manufacture, nature seems to offer something that tops it all. Here are all the stunning and unusual natural wonders less than 4 hours away from L.A. that you need to see at least once.
1. Moreton Bay Fig Tree, Santa Barbara
This 80-foot beauty in Santa Barbara is the largest Ficus Macrophylla (fig tree) of its kind in America. It spans over 170 feet, has a trunk that measures over 41.5 feet in circumference and can create shade for some 16,000 people. Standing at the foot, the mere roots of this giant will dwarf any adult. Find out more about the history here.
Location: 01 W Montecito St, Santa Barbara, California, 93101
2. Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, Lancaster
When the Antelope valley is covered in a vivid blanket of poppies, it’s virtually impossible to miss while scrolling through Instagram. If the conditions are right, you’d even be able to spot this breathtaking display of nature from space. While the blooms only tend to last from mid-February through May, this high desert landscape is home to 251 plant species and remains a stunning place to explore all year. Find out more here.
Location: 5101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, CA 93536
3. Eagle Rock, Los Angeles
This Glendale gem is pretty impressive as a standalone boulder jutting out of the verdant hills, but it’s the shadow hiding in the rock face that’s truly enchanting. When the sun sits in the right position, an incredible shadow shaped like a soaring eagle reveals itself. You can drive along the curved road at its foot or do the 1-mile loop of the Eagle Rock Canyon Trail to catch a glimpse of it.
Location: 5499 Eagle Rock View Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90041
4. Mobius Arch, Lone Pine
This majestic curved rock has a supernatural Burtonesque quality that contrasts beautifully with the jagged Mount Whitney it frames in the distance. You can reach it with a gentle hike through the Alabama Hills and take a coveted snap beneath the seven-foot formation.
Location: Movie Flat Rd, Lone Pine, CA 93545
5. Death Valley, Nevada
It may be the hottest place on earth during the summer season, but the oxidation of different metals in the soil creates these stunning, pastel-colored hills that make it worth it a visit. Beyond that, there are salt flats, dunes, badlands, valleys, canyons and mountains to explore. You can also check out The Racetrack which is a scenic dry lake with “sailing stones” for another mind-blowing natural phenomenon.
Location: Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, Nevada, CA 92328
6. Point Dume, Malibu
The striking white cliffs, jutting out into the Pacific Ocean make this one of the most stunning beaches in SoCal. You can traverse the extensive bluff-top and take a stairway down to a more isolated beach with tons of tide pools to explore. It also marks the western end of Santa Monica and has been used as a landmark for navigation since 1793.
Location: Cliffside Dr &, Birdview Ave, Malibu, CA 90265
7. La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles
This, located in L.A.’s urban center, is a portal to the past. It’s the world’s only active urban Ice Age excavation site and the thick crude oil that oozes to the surface has yielded fossils of giant beasts like mammoths, saber-toothed cats, sloths and dire wolves. The site is now part of the L.A. Natural History Museum where you can see more than one million prehistoric specimens found in the sticky pools of asphalt (crude oil).
Location: 5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036