We’re lucky in California to have 280 state parks, the nation’s largest state park system. Together, these protected lands encompass more than a million acres.
Today, I have some recommendations for the best parks to visit this fall, as the weather gets cooler and cozier. The park system recently started a digital passport program to encourage people to try to visit every single one. (You can use a mobile app to track your visits and earn badges.) You can also check out vehicle passes for most California state parks from your local public library.
Jorge Moreno, a spokesman for the state parks department, advised travelers to check the weather and check the status of a park before leaving home. And please don’t disturb wildlife or take plants.
Stay safe, and happy traveling.
Take in the fall colors in the Sierra Nevada
Hiking trails through Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park — in the Sierra Nevada foothills, roughly a two-hour drive northeast of Sacramento — offer spectacular views of orange and yellow autumn leaves. During the gold rush, the park was the site of California’s largest hydraulic gold mine, which created a man-made canyon where visitors can now see stunning exposed rock strata tinged with rose, ocher and sandy white. There’s also a ghost town in the park with a museum, and several buildings have been restored as a historical exhibit.
A nature escape within crowded Los Angeles
Spend a day hiking, biking or riding horses through a 670-acre open space in western Los Angeles County at Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park. The park’s strange and intimidating sandstone crags are not to be missed.
Kayak, swim and fish in lagoons
Along California’s windswept northwestern shore, Humboldt Lagoons State Park is part of the largest lagoon system in the United States. The park is home to more than 200 bird species, as well as black bears, Roosevelt elk and bobcats. Visitors can also often spot whales, dolphins and sea lions offshore. There are plenty of water activities and a campground you can reach only by hiking or paddle boarding.
Hike in Napa Valley
Enjoy fall colors on grapevines at Napa Valley wineries on your way to Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. (Stevenson, the author of “Treasure Island,” honeymooned there in 1880.) At the park, you can take a five-mile hike to the top of Mount Saint Helena to see stunning views of the Bay Area. On especially clear days, you can make out the top of Mount Shasta, some 200 miles away.
Canoe in the Colorado River
Along the Colorado River at California’s southeastern border, Picacho State Recreation Area is a remote park that offers a year-round desert escape. You can enjoy a peaceful afternoon fishing or canoeing in this scenic stretch of the river. The park can reach up to 120 degrees in the summer, so fall is a great time to plan a more comfortable visit.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Bill Hildebrand, who recommends a visit to Tomales Bay in Marin County:
“We had a wonderful day last weekend on the shore of Tomales Bay. We bought fresh oysters and chipotle butter from Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall, drove to a nearby park right on the water and barbecued the oysters on a small propane grill. Ground fires are not allowed in many California parks because of the risk of wildfires. Looking out over the sun sparkling on the water and forest surrounding the bay, I was reminded that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
What are the best things that have happened to you so far this year? What have been your wins? Or your unexpected joys, big or small?
Tell me at CAToday@nytimes.com. Please include your full name and the city where you live.
And before you go, some good news
More young South Asian Americans are planning weddings that celebrate their dual identities, blending old traditions with new ones to create a vibrant culture — and a blossoming industry along with it.
In Los Angeles, Aisha Rawji, an Indian American fashion designer and native Angeleno, began selling bridal attire at her South Asian boutique, called Kynah, in 2020. Drawn to the interplay between her Indian roots and American childhood, Rawji stocked her store with pieces from South Asian designers that showcased unconventional cuts and colors, and staged shoots at landmarks like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her business struck a chord with South Asian Americans who felt the same tug between identities, and within a year her business took off.
The trend has held true for many in the wedding business, including henna artists and party planners. As my colleague Priya Krishna recently wrote in The Times, more South Asian American couples are customizing and modernizing their special days, whether writing personalized vows — which are not traditional to Muslim weddings — or mixing playlists that feature Bad Bunny and Bollywood.
It’s “almost a way for the American-born Indian kid to still be in touch with their roots,” Elizabeth Priya Kumar, a wedding planner in New York City, said. She added, “For some of us, there might not be a reason to go back to India because there is nobody left in India for us.”