Top 15 California destinations
Image 10 of 16
Montanta De Oro State Park, San Luis Obispo County( Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times )
California's craggy jawline is on full display in the cliffs, bays and dusty divots of Montaña de Oro State Park, six miles south of Morro Bay. The sea winds here hit you straight in the kisser. The entire effect -- land, water and shadows -- is painterly, the exact spot God placed his easel. At one of the 50 drive-in campsites, I once found a raccoon sitting in my car trunk, eating Pringles. Down by the water, the usual California menagerie -- sea otters, dolphins and families from Torrance -- roughhouses along a rocky surf line. North of the park, a long spit of sand draws hikers and fitness buffs. But it is the 1,000-foot cliffs that are the most mystic and stirring. In the evening, just after sunset, the sky and the water turn a deep plum. Waves crash; the wind purrs. A jazzy Brubeck waltz plays in your head. Forget the snowboarders and the starlets. Here, at this moment, California was never so cool.
Info: Montanta De Oro State Park, (805) 528-0513; campground reservations, (800) 444-7275.
-- Chris Erskine