We made a California summer bucket list. You told us what we left off

Trees in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
The sun peeks through the thick canopy of trees in California’s Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
(Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

You are attached to the desert, even when the temperature is close to 100 degrees.

And you like ghost towns.

But what you really, really like are tall trees. In fact, my Southern California friends, we are suffering from redwood envy.

That’s how it looks, based on reader responses to our California Summer Top 40 List, posted online Thursday and in print Saturday.

The list was focused on places I’m most eager to revisit, now that we can travel again, with an emphasis on the outdoors and summery destinations. We hoped it would serve as a guide for readers seeking ideas and details on reopenings. We also hoped for some spirited pushback, because California is so big, so varied and so easy to argue about.


Mission accomplished.

These trips will take you to priceless places, and our pro tips will help you dig deeper.

May 20, 2021

Sheri Schwarzbach of Porter Ranch spoke up for the eastern Sierra ghost town of Bodie, as did Linda Mele of Torrance and Cameron Schultz of Pasadena. So did Emily Lowe of Escondido, who added an endorsement of San Diego’s Cabrillo National Monument.

But redwoods and redwood country got more support than any other corner of California.

Reader Keith Breslin of Toluca Lake, for instance, was alarmed by the absence of Marin County’s Muir Woods from my list — “a glaring omission,” he wrote. “Maybe it’s No. 41 but it really should have made the top 40.”

Gilroy Hain of Paso Robles threw his support behind the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden because it’s the “only place in Southern California where you can take a walk in a little redwood forest.” (There are redwoods sprinkled around SoCal, but point taken.)

Linda Mele also embraced Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Heidi Joffrion of Lake Arrowhead declared her allegiance to Crescent City and its surrounding redwoods. Rodney Oien of Blue Lake pointed to the Rockefeller Forest in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Lynne Domash in San Clemente spoke up for Fern Canyon in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.

And bear in mind, all this affection is on top of the two redwood country items I included on the initial list: the drive-through Chandelier Tree in Leggett and Trees of Mystery in Klamath. (Apparently you prefer more forest and less kitsch.)

Why do we like them so much? Maybe because they remind us how small we are. Or because they make their own rain. Or because “This Land Is Your Land” wouldn’t be the same without them.

At any rate, once you get past the big trees, there are scattered moments of consensus in these reader nominations.

“No Sequoia National Forest?!” tweeted Nacho Eater @lestlequiks.

Nancy Born of Santa Monica and Harry Snyder of New Jersey, writing separately, rejected my inclusion of Venice, citing crime and blight.

Steve “Butler” White of Los Angeles pushed back on the inclusion of Mt. Whitney, recalling that he hiked it at age 25 while chain-smoking Camels — “but that steep, dusty climb, not worth it.” He prefers the cable-aided trail to the top of Yosemite’s Half Dome.

Therese Shellabarger of North Hollywood, skeptical about the whole enterprise, wrote: “Can we please stop with the endless travelogues?”



On the brighter side, Edward Tepporn, executive director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, was glad to see it mentioned in addition to Alcatraz, and noted that an immigration museum is to open on the island later this year.

Geo Chapman added these affirming words: “I’ve visited every one of the 40 Best (and more),” he wrote. “None of the locations will disappoint the summer traveler.”

But Chapman did want to point out that Santa Cruz Island probably didn’t break off from mainland Santa Barbara County, as I implied in my description. Instead, Chapman wrote, that island’s geology is “more aligned with the strata from San Diego geology (scraped to its current location by plate tectonics, over millennia).”

My fault.

“Love your list!” wrote reader Mark Stephens of Felton, who went on to suggest two dozen more destinations from the Anza-Borrego Desert to the Scott Creek kite-surfing spot in Santa Cruz County.

B.G. Berg in Lake Arrowhead confessed to “tears in my eyes, remembering past trips with great fondness, and a desire to go out and see many of them again!”


Meanwhile, what about “the enormous and vast deserts of the Golden State?” That was the lament of Thomas Hall, who lives in Palm Springs and Laguna Beach. “Death Valley, Joshua Tree, the Salton Sea? What about Palm Springs?”

The deserts’ time will come. We’re planning a fall list that will include plenty of desert destinations (which may be cooler than 100 degrees by then) and indoor spots. There will be a winter list after that, fueled, I hope, by more reader tips.

Conversations with readers keep us alert and often yield great ideas. Here’s to more travel and more give and take as we take to the road.

More reader ideas (alphabetically):

Death Valley National Park, especially Badwater and Zabriskie Point, from Shane Newell of Victorville.

Eastern Sierra trout fishing, from Pete Bradt of Redwood City.

The Funk Zone, Santa Barbara, from Katy Villegas of La Cañada Flintridge.


The Great Wall of Los Angeles, from Don Shirley of Sherman Oaks.

Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, from Karen Schetina of Los Angeles.

Huntington Beach Pier, from Jennifer Tong of Costa Mesa.

Lake Arrowhead, from Julie Scorziell of Lake Arrowhead.

Lava Beds National Monument, from Rodney Oien of Blue Lake

Mono Hot Springs, in the Sierra above Huntington Lake, from Phil Templer of Newbury Park.


Mt. Shasta, from Rosalind Sumner of Montague

Ojai Valley, from Mark Andrizzi of Port Hueneme.

Three Rivers, near Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, from Margaret Cherry of Long Beach.