6 more one-tank vacations close to Stockton and San Joaquin County

The General Sherman sequoia in Sequoia National Park always draws a crowd!

For six more one-tank vacations close to Stockton and San Joaquin County, you can’t go wrong with these!

Following last week’s recommendations, here are six other alluring summer destinations, all within about three hours or less from San Joaquin County, ranging from south to north.

Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks: These majestic parks share a common border, just east of Fresno, with access climbing quickly from the San Joaquin Valley to 7,000 feet in the Sierra, through endless stands of immense Sequoia groves and incredible views of the high Sierra, particularly in Kings Canyon!

The General Sherman sequoia is the show-stopper in Sequoia National Park, measuring 40 feet in diameter, 275 feet in height (the largest tree in the world)! The General Grant sequoia, nearly as large, is an anchor attraction in nearby Kings Canyon. With Moro Rock, the Auto-tree (drive your car through a huge, downed sequoia) and Kings Canyon (several thousand feet deeper than the Grand Canyon, surrounded by Sierra peaks ranging to Mt. Whitney’s 14,505 feet), plenty of campgrounds and classic lodges, your visit will be memorable.

Bear Gulch Reservoir offers a cool oasis in Pinnacles National Park.

Pinnacles National Park: Pinnacles, just 2.5 hours from Stockton, rising up from the Gabilan Mountains south of Hollister, CA, features the spectacular remains of an ancient volcano – a volcano located 160 miles south near Los Angeles! Pinnacles lies on the San Andreas Fault and is moving a few inches north each year, distancing itself from its mother volcano!

A landscape of rugged spines, deep canyons, eerie talus caves, verdant foliage and rushing streams hosts robust wildlife, from deer, wild turkeys, bob cats and feral hogs, to the majestic California Condor with wingspans up to seven feet.  Plan for moderate hikes to Bear Creek Reservoir or more serious hiking to the High Peaks; stay overnight in Hollister, or camp in Pinnacles Campground, the park’s only campground, with store, visitor center and showers.

Rose Hill Cemetery is home to 230 miners and family members in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

East Bay Parks like Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve: From the 1850s to early 1900s, the largest coal mining area in California was the Black Diamond Mines District northeast of Mount Diablo. Almost 4 million tons of coal (“black diamonds”) were the product of over 900 miners, many of them immigrants from Wales. These black diamonds fueled power plant boilers, Delta steamships, railroad locomotives and warmed houses in winter.

It’s a beautiful regional park, only 45 miles and an hour from Stockton. Loads of historical perspective await; beside the preserve’s parking lot are the remnants of the Independent Mine shaft, once a 700 foot shaft where a boiler explosion in 1873 killed two men and scattered boiler parts more than a quarter mile. High in the hills is the lovely Rose Hill Cemetery, with burial plots of 230 miners and family members. Embrace the history, and make a longer outing by driving south to Mt. Diablo State Park and hike the summit on a clear day.

The historic Ferry Building on San Francisco's lively Embarcadero.

Oakland’s Jack London Square and San Francisco Embarcadero (by ferry): To beat the high cost and crowds of a Bay Area visit – start in the Jack London Square waterfront of Oakland and take the ferry across to the Ferry Building on the San Francisco Embarcadero.

Take your bikes or walking shoes and upon arrival you can bike (or walk) miles along the waterfront in either direction. Stop to explore the massive Ferry Building, recently renovated and full of restaurants, bakeries and shops, then hop the waterfront trollies to Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf and other San Francisco favorites. If you want to spend an overnight, lodging in both Berkeley and Oakland are far less expensive than San Francisco.

If you love the Napa Valley but don’t want to fight the crowds, vacation nearby in the Sonoma Valley. With more than 425 wineries, miles of rugged Pacific coastline, towering redwood forests and close proximity to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Sonoma County is a wonderful vacation spot. You’ll find farm-to-fork dining, unique resorts and camp grounds, dozens of parks and fine wines. Highway 1 tracks the Sonoma coast, with rugged surf, sea lions, otters and all manner of outdoor adventure.

The Northern California coast, from Bodega Bay north beyond Mendocino is both easy to reach (about three hours) and presents some of the most stunning coast in the United States. Our first destination is usually Bodega Bay (the town is different than nearby Bodega, home to the old school where the 1963 Hitchcock classic ‘The Birds’ was filmed).

The Point Arena Lighthouse is a photographer's dream on the N. California coast!

Further north of Bodega Bay is the charming town of Jenner (River’s End Restaurant a favorite), Ft. Ross (the old Russian outpost from the early 1800′s) and Sea Ranch (stop at the Sea Ranch Lodge for breakfast or lunch).  Further north are Gualala, Point Arena (check out the Point Arena lighthouse, for memorable coastal views), and Mendocino.  Great campgrounds line the coast, offering extended visits. So, explore your lovely state, particularly northern California!

For more info: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, nps.gov/seki; Pinnacles National Park, nps.gov/pinn; Black Diamond Mines, ebparks.org/parks; Jack London Square/Oakland, jacklondonsquare.com; Sonoma County, sonomacounty.com; North California coast, northcoastca.com; For camping in national parks and forest service campgrounds, recreation.gov.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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