Benbow Lake State Recreation Area

During the summer, Benbow Lake is little more than a gentle curve in the Eel river. During the winter, this section of the river becomes a small lake.

link: Benbow Lake State Recreation Area official site

Hendy Woods State Park

As we wandered between the massive ancient redwood trees rising from a soft bed of clover and fern, we more than half expected to catch a glimpse of faerie folk darting between the trees, perhaps a gnome living in a gnarled old stump.

link: Hendy Woods State Park official site

Twin Lakes State Beach

Twin Lakes is a very popular state beach in Santa Cruz, CA. On my first visit to the beach, it was too crowded with beachgoers to do any photography, so I decided to come back at night for some long exposures. I also tried my first “light painting”

link: Twin Lakes State Beach official site

Gray Whale Cove State Beach

Gray Whale Cove is a small, intimate beach just south of Pacifica. Photography here is made a bit more complex by the fact that a section of the beach is clothing-optional…

link: Gray Whale Cove official site

Brannan Island State Recreation Area

Brannan Island State Recreation Area, in the California river delta area, is a popular destination for boating, swimming and camping. Sadly, closer inspection of this small park revealed a great deal of trash and litter in the water, underscoring the need for proper stewardship of the land.

link: Brannan Island State Recreation Area official site

Olompali State Historic Park

Olompali State Historic park was inhabited by the Miwok people from 6000 BC to 1850. Hidden among the hills and trees here, visitors can find fascinating historical sites and artifacts of their time here.

link: Olompali State Historic Park official site

Zmudowski State Beach

Hidden at the end of a winding farm road, Zmudowski State Beach is quiet and secluded. The marshes are home to an amazing array of life, and the beach itself is beautiful and uncrowded.

link: Zmudowski State Beach official site

Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park

The oldest building in Santa Cruz, the surviving building of the Santa Cruz Mission was home to the neophytes, Native Americans who had been converted by the Spanish missionaries. Much of the site focuses on the clash of cultures which ensued.

link: Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park official site

Annadel State Park

The highlight of Annadel is the secluded Lake Ilsanjo, accessible only by hike, bike or horseback. Annadel is a birder’s paradise. We missed the shot of the pair of pileated woodpeckers, but there was plenty of pretty where that came from.

link: Annadel State Park official site

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

There’s nothing quite like a waterfall in a cool mountain stream on a hot summer day. Sugarloaf Ridge is a quiet, peaceful place, with gorgeous views of Napa Valley and lush woodlands.

link: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park official site