5 Best Places to Explore Nature in Modesto, CA

This article is written and contributed by Chase Maser.

California is filled with endless beauty up and down the coast, but further inland, around 90 miles east of San Francisco, lies a destination unlike the commonplace scenery of sand and surf. Modesto is a historic town with vibrant farmlands nestled within the heart of the Central Valley. Although it may not have the lackluster appeal of Hollywood and the Golden Gate Bridge, nature-lovers around the world can take advantage of some truly breathtaking experiences.

Dry Creek Trail

To get a sense of the local habitat, the Dry Creek Trail beginning near downtown Modesto weaves through several neighborhood parks alongside the charming Dry Creek. The trail itself is fully-paved, and visitors can traverse the landscape using bicycles, rollerblades, or they can take a relaxing stroll on foot. Even dog owners can enjoy a safe environment for their pet, giving them an opportunity to explore different kinds of wildlife, such as eucalyptus trees, native oaks, and tons of valley birds that migrate during the winter months near the creek. In the middle of the trail lies East La Loma Park, a recreational area outfitted with tennis courts, play areas for kids, and a frisbee golf course with free access.

Great Valley Museum

Although you may be indoors, you can still learn a thing or two about the natural history and surroundings of California’s Central Valley. As a branch of Modest Junior College, the Great Valley Museum serves as an educational resource for students, families, and travelers looking to expand their knowledge of the area. Through guided tours and live animal shows, visitors will gain an in-depth perspective on all kinds of wildlife, such as tarantulas, snakes, bobcats, mule deer, foxes, and skinks. Above the ground, the museum also boasts an incredible planetarium with cutting-edge equipment that projects a full night sky, which outlines all the constellations in the galaxy, along with others throughout the universe.

Stanislaus River Rafting

Located in the town of Knights Ferry, only 30 minutes east of Modesto, the Stanislaus River has become one of the most popular river rafting spots throughout the state. The river itself, which is a tributary of the San Joaquin river, runs further east toward the Nevada state line, and thrill-seekers from all over the world come to enjoy class I and class II rapids set against miles of riparian beauty and giant sequoias. The most popular route for visitors to tackle is the Knights Ferry to Orange Blossom run that spans over 8.5 miles of serene landscape with minimal hazards. For a more exhilarating course, the North Fork run is the best choice since it is comprised of two natural rapids, Rattlesnake and Big Tree Falls. It’s highly recommended for guests to have some previous experience on the water for more challenging paths, but Stanislaus River Rafting will provide everything needed to ensure a memorable time on the water.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is the epicenter of California wanderlust. Families, hikers, climbers, and travelers from all over the world flock to the area for some much needed enlightenment from many awe-inspiring sights. Among the most majestic of entities are two rock faces that have been immortalized by climbers since the mid 1950s, Half Dome and El Capitan. These two mountains will leave spectators breathless until they can revitalize themselves under towering sequoias surrounded by vibrant foliage. Another treasure of Yosemite for visitors to experience is the radiant beauty of Horsetail Falls, a natural waterfall that cascades from over 500ft. Depending on what time of the year it is, Yosemite can explode with tourists by the millions, but with the right planning, it can certainly be a trip worth the wait.

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Rachel Vogel