The Top 5 Geological Features & Ancient Landmarks In The Sunshine State!
The complex tectonic formation of the U.S. West Coast, plus millions of years of erosion, has created some impossibly beautiful landscapes throughout California. The towering mountain ranges and intriguing rock formations that you find in areas like Death Valley or Yosemite are already impressive. But there are a few unique landmarks that will take your appreciation of nature’s power to the next level. Discover the most astonishing geological features that California has to offer on your next campervan road trip.
1. Old Faithful Geyser of California
The Old Faithful Geyser of California is a dramatic spray of boiling steam that erupts from the earth every 15 to 30 minutes. Part of an extensive network of geothermal springs, heated by local volcanic activity, the Old Faithful is the only geyser in California that regularly lets off steam. The amazing eruption can last for over 5 minutes, with water and steam lifting up to 80 ft in the air. Don’t get too close when you visit and stick to the assigned viewing zones, as the burning mist reaches temperatures over 200°F.
While you’re in the area, you should also check out the Petrified Forest. Over 3 million years ago, a volcanic eruption from Mount St. Helena buried a forest of Giant Redwood trees in scorching ash. As time passed, the trees slowly fossilized, turning to stone. Their vast, rocky remains can now be seen from the shaded trails that pass through the Petrified Forest National Park.
Nearby Campground: Ritchey Creek Campground, 94515
The Ritchey Creek Campground is based in and operated by, the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. The woodland park provides a stunning backdrop for the campground guests and it is well suited for travelers in truck campers. There are no hook-ups available, but toilets and drinking water can be found on site.
2. Moaning Cavern
Moaning Cavern, in the heart of California’s Gold Country, was first discovered by modern settlers during the height of the 19th-century gold rush. Its name comes from the eerie moaning sounds that used to filter out of the old, narrow entrance. Although it has been developed into a tourist attraction, archeologists have determined that the cavern was used as a burial ground about 12,000 years ago.
Moaning Cavern features California’s biggest single cave chamber. To reach it, you must first descend down a spiral staircase into the cool, damp darkness. When you reach the bottom, you are greeted with a forest of stalactites, stalagmites, and other glittering rock formations. The color and sparkle of the caverns are due to millions of years of mineral build-up from slowly dripping groundwater. While most people are satisfied with the immense cavern, anyone with a bit of experience can book a spelunking tour, which involves walking (and sometimes crawling) through the pitch-black caverns.
Nearby Campgrounds: Angels Camp RV & Camping Resort, 95222
Angels Camp is a picturesque RV Resort located only a short drive away from Moaning Cavern. This dog and family-friendly campground offer full hook-up campervan pitches from $67 per night. Angels Camp also has a beach volleyball court, a swimming pool, and guest kitchens.
3. Ubehebe Crater
Ubehebe Crater is a spectacular rocky caldera located in the infamous Death Valley National Park. Measuring a ½ mile across and over 700 ft at its deepest, Ubehebe is the biggest volcanic crater in California. Formed by the powerful gaseous explosions of hot magma reaching watery aquifers, the massive crater is a sight to behold.
You can find great panoramas by hiking the Ubehebe Rim Trail, a 1½-mile loop around the edge of the crater. Smaller volcanic craters surround the Ubehebe and many can be seen from the rim. It’s also possible to walk down into the stone bowl to the center of Ubehebe. However, the climb back up takes a lot of effort and can be challenging under the hot desert sun.
Nearby Campground: Grandstand RV Park, 35096
The Grandstand RV Park belongs to the Talladega Motor Speedway. During racing season, the park is usually packed, but that won’t happen until fall. Located 25 miles from Ubehebe, the Grandstand offers water and electric hook-up pitches from $32.50 per night.
4. Devil’s Golf Course
Another fascinating place to see in Death Valley is the unique Devil’s Golf Course. This otherworldly landscape of constantly shifting fractals stretches for miles under the Amargosa Mountains. Formed by the slow evaporation of water from the ancient Badwater Basin, the jagged terrain is made of rock salt and prehistoric matter. Experts estimate that, under the hardened surface, the primordial sludge is thousands of feet deep.
Hiking around Devil’s Golf Course is possible, but avoid walking over the rock salt as it will damage the environment and the sharp edges can easily injure you. If you stand very still, you can hear the constant cracking of the strange rocks as they expand and contract under the hot sun.
Nearby Campground: Furnace Creek Campground, 92328
Perfectly located in the heart of Death Valley, and only 14 miles from the Devil’s Golf Course, is the friendly Furnace Creek Campsite. Run by the National Park Service, this campground offers standard RV sites for $22 a night or full hook-up pitches for $36.
5. Blyeth Intaglios
In the Colorado Desert, on the border of California and Arizona, sit the immense geoglyphs known as intaglios. Similar to Peru’s Nazca Lines, the Blythe Intaglios comprise six figures that are carved into the desert floor. Although the human and animal shapes are manmade, some of the incredible geoglyphs have remained visible for over 2,000 years old.
Ancient natives created these shapes by scratching away the darker topsoil to reveal lighter-colored earth underneath. Once the intaglio had been defined, the earth was hammered down to harden it and prevent anything from growing over the lines. Although best viewed from the air, the glyphs can be viewed from the ground. There are also dozens of smaller geoglyphs scattered around the desert.
Tucked against the Colorado River in the town of Blythe, this waterfront RV Resort is the best place to stay when visiting the Blythe Intaglios. The site features a riverside picnic area and a small beach. All the pitches have full hook-ups and are available from $60 per night to $325 per week.
Ready To Rock?
Whether you are interested in rocks or not, no one can deny that these geological features are a truly captivating sight. So why not visit all the best natural landmarks in California this summer on a campervan road trip?
Come back on Friday for a guide on how to get a good night’s sleep in a campervan!