1) California is home to numerous national parks and though oft overlooked, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks offer tremendous forays into the Sierra Nevada and the state’s western redwood forests. Home to the giant sequoias and the two largest trees in the world, along with the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, these parks were once the charge of turn-of-the-century Buffalo Soldiers.
2) Between the national parks, our 31st state offers ample opportunity to get your cowboy fix each spring. In Fresno, the PBR Built Ford Tough Series comes to town in early March. La Grange puts on a great rodeo at the end of the month, and April 27–30, head to Clovis for a rodeo that’s been going on since 1914.
3) Journey west into Yosemite National Park where the natural beauty of the land inspired many life works by western artist Albert Bierstadt and famed photographer, Ansel Adams. If simply driving through the park, be sure to stop at Tunnel View to get a modern day look from these artists’ points of inspiration. To experience the guts of the park, jaunt over to the east side and get on a horse at Red’s Meadow Resort and Pack Station, just west of Mammoth Lakes.
4) Cruise through the Owens Valley and be sure to stop at Bishop’s Laws Railroad Museumand Historic Site. Another must in the valley is The Beverly and Jim Rogers Lone Pine Film History Museum where visitors can view pieces of film history, including everything from John Wayne’s The Cowboys to The Lone Ranger. Visitors can also venture out from the museum to tour the countless filming locations of their favorite westerns nearby.
5)Generally one of the hottest and driest U.S. locales, Death Valley National Park can be an astounding gem of desert blooms in spring. They don’t last long, but if you find yourself in the park after a good rainstorm, the desert bursts to life in a display of vivid colors witnessed by few.
Note: The snowpack in the Sierra Nevada lasts well into spring—check the national park websites for road closures and access updates.
Post-print Correction: The highway marked 359 should read 395.