It’s a shame that Southern California is known almost exclusively for beaches and movie stars. That region of the state has so much diverse ecology and landscape, it’s no wonder they decided to put the film industry there. You need Italy? Drive up to Santa Barbara. You need the Sahara Desert? Check out Mojave. You want a shot in the Swiss Alps? Just go to San Jacinto Peak.
Granted, this doesn’t look very Swiss from the base, but if you climb into the mountain, you might find yourself surprised.
In fact, what you are looking at above is a full array of most of the ecosystems California has to offer, from the desert floor in the foreground, through a temperate and evergreen zone and barely reaching an alpine tundra at the peak. It’s also one of the steepest escarpments in the United States, and the second tallest peak in Southern California.
The views are incredible. Here, at around 8,000 feet, you can see the entire Coachella Valley area and Palm Springs down at and below sea level.
Just north of the Coachella Valley is Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree NP is known for its rugged boulders and wacky trees (not actually a tree, but a yucca). It was as if born from a Dr. Seuss nightmare.
It’s a very popular destination for rock climbing. Notice the climbers on top of the mound on the left.
Moving back westward, we find ourselves once again in Los Angeles County (we were in Riverside County). As my previous post discussed, Los Angeles is much more than a beach. It has beautiful and rugged inland desert valleys, including the Antelope Valley seen here:
And let us not forget those lovely mountainous hills on I-5 driving north of Los Angeles, right outside Santa Clarita.