As Spring approaches – March 20 is the first day of spring in the UK – we have rounded up 12 of the best outdoor activities to discover everything nature has to offer at this time of the year.
Zapata Ranch is one of the largest conservation projects in North America working to protect the environment and bison living on the land. The bison herd is a conversation species allowed to roam freely across 50,000 acres at Zapata Ranch. Zapata offers a range of programmes in which visitors can get involved in experiencing life on a cattle ranch, working alongside the ranch staff and wranglers. Try your hand at horseback riding, moving and working the cattle, riding through the bison herd and exploring the beautiful San Luis Valley of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Prices for all-inclusive horse riding experiences at Zapata Ranch start at $1,224 for three nights per person.
If you go out in the woods today… you might just see a black bear. From mid-March until November the odds are in your favour to spot a black bear wandering through trails and parks, as out of their winter slumber the bears are active and hungry for food. The best, safest and most respectful way to see a black bear in Whistler is with a professional bear viewing guide or as part of a tour group to learn about these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Whistler offers Bear Viewing Tours between April and May with tours from Whistler Olympic Park from $198 per person.
The Bolsa Chica Wetlands Conservation in Huntington Beach is an important migratory stop for birds with nearly half of the species found in the US being spotted here. Visitors to the wetlands will be able to see a variety of birds on any given visit and spring time is the best to see Terns, Avocets and Western Snowy Plovers that migrate to Bolsa Chica from southern regions. Try to visit in the morning as a lot of birds become very active during this part of the day as they are in search of food.
Whale watching is a popular activity in Santa Barbara and Condor Express offers visitors the chance to see these imposing creatures every single day departing from the Sea Landing dock in the harbour. Santa Barbara is considered to have some of the richest waters in the world for marine mammals being home to over 27 species of whales and dolphins. The California grey whale herd – once nearly extinct – passes through the area on their northern migration from November to mid-May in their thousands. Visitors can also choose to take a sunset cruise to experience the magic of the sea and catch a glimpse of California sea lions. Prices start from $30 per person.
For most, Santa Cruz will conjure up images of summer – sandy beaches, swaying palm trees, action-packed surfing – and whilst these are all accurate depictions of this beautiful county located just 90 minutes south of San Francisco by car, winter and spring is a best-kept secret in terms of wildlife. Spring time is the peak for wildlife watching season on the California coast. With fewer crowds, great hotel deals and some of the most spectacular natural activity in Santa Cruz County, the winter and spring months bring with them opportunities to see wildlife come alive. From the majestic migration of whales, to wintering monarch butterflies, guided tours of an elephant seal breeding ground and seasonal activities of a variety of birds, there is plenty to see for enthusiastic nature lovers.
There are 225 miles of trails in and around Redding along the Sacramento River. Long and short routes offer visitors river views, rolling foothills, sweeping valleys, mountains and an abundance of wildlife. Castle Crags State Park offers unmatched views of Mt. Shasta and Lassen Volcanic National Park has numerous scenic trails that take visitors to bubbling mud pots, boiling lakes and amazing landscapes. Jagged peaks tell the story of its eruptive past as visitors can discover the wonder and mysteries of volcanoes.
Sonoma isn’t just for the wine lovers, there is also opportunity to put on your walking boots and venture out to view the magnificent seascapes and wildflowers. Be led by a guide to the lesser known spots for the best coastal views and sensational and dramatic photo opportunities, and learn about the history, geology, marine ecology of this special place. Wildflower season is a bucket list item for a nature show of the most prolific and diverse species of wildflowers in the country. Have your cameras ready and make sure you bring in the spring with the perfect snap. Prices from $50/ £36 per person.
For more ideas about activities to do in Tuolumne County, read: Tuolumne County California: Not Just Yosemite.
Tuolumne County in California is the gateway to discovering more than just Yosemite. Take a ride on horseback through Kennedy Meadows, 60 miles East of Sonora and nestled high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Kennedy Meadows is the perfect destination to camp, hike, fish, horseback ride and swim in peaceful and almost untouched surroundings. Guided horse rides are available catering for varied times and budgets ranging from one hour to a full days ride exploring Kennedy Lake and Creek. Rides start from $55.
Experience the Ultimate Glowing paddle adventure with Newport Beach’s SUP Glow Night Tours which take visitors on a guided tour through the calm waters of the bay, with each board equipped with waterproof LED lighting that makes for an amazing glowing spectacle. Enjoy paddling in a whole new way on this one hour, 15 minute tour and get the chance to see marine life under the boards. Home to a variety of sea creatures, paddlers should look out for sea lions, jellyfish and even bat rays. Prices start at $45 per session.
Yosemite National Park is a magical place in the spring, the perfect time for visitors to experience the park’s waterfalls as they are at their most powerful due to the melting snow from the passing winter. Three of the world’s tallest waterfalls are in Yosemite National Park, with Yosemite Falls being the tallest in North America at just over 2,400 feet. Springtime also brings the bloom of wildflowers through the Mariposa County Foothills. Wild Hyacinth grows in the fields and Lupines cover the steep cuts and hills, creating breath-taking views.
Greater Palm Springs is full of hikes waiting to be explored. From easy to more strenuous trails, there are routes suitable for all ages and abilities. Offering a luscious landscape and natural beauty, Indian Canyons, Greater Palm Springs, is the ideal destination for a spring hike, in which travellers can explore a desert oasis which is blessed with a high concentration of natural springs and the distinctively Californian fan palms. Located on the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, travellers can choose from a simple two-mile walk or the Maynard Mine Trail for a vigorous 7-mile hike with both options offering equally impressive scenery.
Experience the magical glow of fireflies in Setouchi as firefly season takes hold from early May. Once used as a metaphor for passionate love in 8th Century poetry, fireflies continue to mesmerise people. There are many prime spots to watch these tiny insects light up the area and between June and July, the hime-botaru fireflies buzz around the Torii gate of Uchio Shrine, Hyogo Prefecture. Travellers can choose to learn more about their mystical activities during the “Hikami Dream Tour”, a 40-minute tour where visitors can learn about the native fireflies and are taken to the best spots to watch these illuminated creatures.
Mark Bibby Jackson
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