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Play at the Government’s Expense on Your Next California Vacation


So we all have dramatically varied notions on just what kind of control the federal government should have over our lives. But when it comes to federally protected lands like national recreation areas, it’s time to put differences aside. I mean really. It’s hard to take issue with Uncle Sam when thanks to the efforts of the powers that be you can frolic around some of the prettiest stretches of protected water and wilds around. Which is why, for your next California vacation, we recommend putting health care and tax laws in perspective with a romp through one of the Golden State’s three national recreation areas.

Should you choose to begin your adventure in southern California, the obvious first stop is Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA). It’s comprised of numerous open space preserves and parks, and though many of them fall within the boundaries of Los Angeles County you won’t find this 154, 095 acre NRA in any way overly urban. Rather, plan to ramble from beautiful state beaches up and inland via state parks like Topanga or open space parks like Palo Comado Canyon with cultural stops at some of the historic sites and nature centers dotting the spread of SMMNRA. Popular activities include hiking, camping, mountain biking and horseback riding, with wildlife watching thrown in for good measure.

Moving north, the next stop is Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This San Francisco Bay Area outdoor recreation hot spot is essentially an extremely large and very popular urban park, covering 74, 820 acres of prime real estate including 59 miles of shoreline. In addition to meandering park trails, this one also takes in significant historic sites such as Alcatraz Island and numerous forts but also runs to beaches, the Point Bonita Lighthouse and some stunning overlooks. There’s also a thriving arts center (Headlands Center for the Arts) and several camping areas, so come prepared to hike, bike, stay overnight and spot assorted flora and fauna as you explore this diverse recreation area.

Finally, there’s Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, set up north near the city of Redding. Though this national recreation area takes in over 200, 000 acres, a good portion of that is water thanks to the inclusion of large lakes like Shasta and Trinity. And while there are certainly places to hike and camp in the area, the main draw here is really the water, with an emphasis on boating, fishing, and swimming, so we recommend acquiring a water worthy vessel to really make the most of this popular summer destination.

So really what we’re trying to say is give government a chance: these national recreation areas just might remind you of what’s so extraordinary about federal lands and elevate your California vacation to the next level.

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