Of America’s 73 national monuments, 11 are in California. On the other hand, in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are just three national monuments. But what may seem as a surprise, Alcatraz Island isn’t part of these select few. On the contrary, Alcatraz is a National Historic Landmark. What’s more it’s a segment of the Golden Gate National Recreation area. Be that as it may, you may want to include this as part of your visit. On the other hand, where are these fascinating national monuments? Here is a brief introduction to those national treasures, in addition to a few outside of the Bay Area.
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument
Highway 128 at Knoxville Road
Winters, CA 95694
Current Status: Open
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is among California’s newer national monuments. Proclaimed in 2015, the 330,780-acre protected area is situated within the California Inner Coast Ranges. What’s more, it features Snow Mountain Wilderness in Mendocino National Forest and Cache Creek Wilderness. The vast area is a popular destination for hiking, camping, boating and fishing. Due to its enormity, there are several ways to reach sections of Berryessa Snow Mountain from the Bay Area. For instance, Lake Mendocino, Clear Lake and Highway 162 near Willows. If you go, please be mindful of the leave no trace principal. Equally important is to be mindful of the ecologically diverse habitat. That’s not to mention the sanctuary for endangered species like the northern spotted owl.
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California Coastal National Monument
Highway 1 at Lighthouse Road
Point Arena, CA 9546
Current Status: Multiple locations are open. Please check the official website for additional information
California Coastal National Monument extends 1,100 miles along the entire California coast. In fact, it reaches both the Oregon and Mexico borders. In light of this, you may not be aware of the enormity of this national monument. Established in 2000, the monument covers 2,800 acres, including 20,000 natural rock formations. If that’s not all, there are a few small islands. A new addition to California Coastal National Monument is Point Arena-Stornetta in Mendocino County. Although not part of the national monument, Point Arena Lighthouse is a must-see. Indeed, it is the tallest lighthouse on the Pacific Coast. That in itself, makes this towering lighthouse worth seeing.
Where To See The Monument
Because the California Coastal National Monuments runs along the entire California coast, travelers can view this monument at multiple Bay Area locations. For example, San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. That’s couple with other spots like Santa Cruz, Monterey and Big Sur. Similarly, that are many other noteworthy spots to visit further south. For instance, you may like to see coastal cities like San Simeon, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and San Diego. That’s not to mention popular spots in Orange County, like Laguna Beach and Dana Point. At the same time, equally popular spots like Newport Beach and Huntington Beach are not part of the monument.
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Fort Ord National Monument
Highway 68 at Reservation Road
Marina, CA 93933
Current Status: Open dawn to dusk
Located on a former military base, Fort Ord National Monument is jointly operated by the BLM and U.S. Army. Established in 1917, Fort Ord was the home of the 7th Infantry Division. Moreover, it was one of the major basic training sites in the country. Shortly after the Army base closed in 1994, a section of Fort Ord was transformed into California State University, Monterey Bay. By 2012, 15,000 acres became Fort Ord National Monument. Prior to the pandemic, the national monument was attracting 100,000 visitors. Today, it remains a popular spot for hiking, biking and horseback riding. At the same time you visit, you’ll also want to see other spots that are not part of the monument. For instance, 17 Mile Drive, Monterey/Carmel and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
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Muir Woods National Monument
1 Muir Woods Road
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Current Status: Open but advance reservations are required
Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument preserves one of the Bay Area’s last old growth coast redwood groves. A 30-minute drive northwest of Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods was established as a national Bay Area monument in 1908. It gets its name from John Muir, who helped create Yosemite National Park. Muir Woods draws one million visitors annually and operates as a day-use area. Parking is limited and visitors arriving late may have to park on Muir Woods Road. However, for most, it’s a casual walk to the visitor center. Of course, there is also parking near the entrance for people with mobility issues.
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Tule Lake National Monument
800 Main St.
Tulelake, CA 96134
Tule Lake was the location of a former Japanese internment camp and one of 10 internment camps across the western U.S. during World War II. You can find this outside of the Bay Area in Modoc and Siskiyou counties. Uniquely important, Tule Lake is the only California site of the nine-unit World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. By the same token, this includes USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. During its peak, the Tule Lake War Relocation Center interned nearly 19,000 Japanese Americans. In fact, it was the largest of the 10 War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps. In addition, Lava Beds National Monument is also in Tulelake. Even though this monument is far from the Bay Area, it is well worth your time to visit.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS Local from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS Local websites, including CBS New York, CBS Los Angeles, CBS Chicago and CBS San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, he reportedly had a digital audience reach of 489 million and more than 5.5 million monthly visitors. His other stories have also appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University.