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The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in California, but many don't realize that it's not the only bridge in the area. Point Bonita lighthouse in Golden Gate National Recreation Area stands only a few miles away. The great news is that Point Bonita lighthouse has a new suspension bridge allowing the lighthouse to welcome the public for the first time in two years.
If you head to Yosemite National Park this time of year and stop by Horsetail Fall at just the right time, you might see something spectacular: As the sun sinks low in the sky, the waterfall glows with streaks of gold and yellow — and it looks just like molten lava. Photographers like Michael Frye flock to the park every February to try to capture the phenomenon.
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What you'll see: A must-see is Los Vaqueros Reservoir, both now and again over the next two years. The start of work to raise the dam begins this spring, and the lake will be expanded to 1,900 surface acres. That's nearly twice the size of any recreation lake in the Bay Area.
What you'll see: The past week's rains have refreshed the coastal foothills, recharged creeks and rejuvenated Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. The drive in provides access to the foothill grasslands south of Half Moon Bay, now aglow in greens and the first wildflower blooms of the season. The road to the park then narrows and enters a pretty ravine. The preserve: Purisima Creek Redwoods covers 3,360 acres and extends from the coastal foothills south of Half Moon Bay upslope to Skyline Ridge. Redwood canyons in the lower reaches provide watersheds for pretty creeks with cathedral redwoods.
What you'll see: Lagunitas and Bon Tempe lakes are tucked in a pocket on the north flank of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. Both are little jewels that sparkle on clear spring mornings. They are full of water, courtesy of 33 inches of rain and counting this winter, and spilling downstream. Wildlife, birds and fish are plentiful.
What you'll see: Big Break Regional Shoreline is located near Oakley and Antioch, the threshold to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. It's named for a break in a levee in 1928 that flooded farmland and created a "lake" where freshwater from the San Joaquin River merges with saltwater backing up from Suisun Bay. This mixing zone creates a flourishing, dynamic habitat for fish and wildlife.
What you'll see: On one side of the road is Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve. On the other is Pescadero State Beach. You get both in the same adventure, and getting there is part of the fun, also with two choices: Either explore the forests and foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains on a series of twisty two-laners and emerge on the coast, or take the Highway 1 cruise with views of the ocean and coastal foothills.
What you'll see: Over the next four months, great egrets and blue herons at Martin Griffin Preserve on the Marin County coast will pick their mates, build nests, lay eggs, feed their hatchlings from nearby Bolinas Lagoon and then teach their young about first flight. At Henderson Overlook, a half-mile walk with a 200-foot climb, you get a perfect view to watch the events unfold in the forest roosts. The preserve opened last week for the annual four-month rite of passage.
The trip: Sweeney Ridge can be an eye-popping getaway to take in the coronation of spring. The hits just keep on coming along the way, topped by gorgeous long-distance views. Easily accessible on the north Peninsula, the ridge splits San Bruno to the east, Pacifica to the west. There are four trailheads, but the launch point with the best parking is at Skyline College at Parking Lot C.