China Camp State Park is full of wonderful surprises for picnickers.
In summertime the picnicking is easy. VIA readers reveal their favorite spots for sharing open-air meals while enjoying nature and more.
CEDAR MOUNTAIN San Rafael Swell, Utah. "From this picnic area, a trail leads to a view of Buckhorn Draw, where fascinating formations of the swell give a grand panorama," says Paula Wellnitz of Orangeville, Utah. (435) 636-3600, www.utah.com/playgrounds/san_rafael.htm.
CHINA CAMP STATE PARK San Rafael, Calif. "This lovely park is often serene and quiet," says Natalie R. Numark of San Rafael. "There are grassy areas, tables, barbecues, a snack shack, a small museum that tells the story of the Chinese immigrants who once made their living here, and the most gorgeous view of San Pablo Bay." (415) 456-0766, www.parks.ca.gov.
CLOTILDE MERLO PARK Stirling City, Calif. "Words are inadequate to describe this perfect spot," writes Dorothy S. Hardin of Magalia. "It envelops you in a peaceful blend of sky, trees, and reflecting ponds of pure water." (530) 873-1658.
DEVILS PUNCH BOWL STATE NATURAL AREA Newport, Ore. "This coastal site has tide pools, seals, and waves that crash into the name-sake punch bowl—a sea cave whose roof fell in," says Jane Bolton of Sacramento. (800) 551-6949, www.oregonstateparks.org/park_217.php.
DONNER MEMORIAL STATE PARK Truckee, Calif. "There's no better place—romantic and free—than above Donner Lake," writes Pat O'Brien of Sacramento. "Come before sundown to capture the transition to twilight. Behold the snowcapped Sierra peaks." (530) 582-7892, www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=503.
LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK near Mineral, Calif. "Our favorite spot," says Robin Farmanfarmaian of Daly City, Calif., "is atop Lassen Peak—up the strenuous Lassen Peak Trail, five miles round-trip. The view of Mount Shasta is spectacular." (530) 595-4444, www.nps.gov/lavo.
PALACE OF FINE ARTS San Francisco. "For our anniversary, my husband and I sat on a bench near this architectural wonder's peaceful pond," writes Irene Thirlwall of Fresno. "We ate crackers and cheese. We watched swans and ducks gliding, a man playing his flute, people walking dogs." (415) 292-2012, www.parks.sfgov.org/site/recpark_index.asp?id=25553.
SADDLE MOUNTAIN Necanicum Junction, Ore. "Go to the top in early summer," writes Laura Dickinson of Portland, "and you'll be surrounded by fields of incomparable wildflowers. Views of the Coast Range and the Columbia River are amazing." (503) 436-2844, www.oregonstateparks.org/park_197.php.
SILVER FALLS STATE PARK Sublimity, Ore. "Tucked in the foothills of the Cascades, this one-time Hollywood movie set has horseback riding, bike and hiking trails, waterfalls, evergreens, and a snack shack," notes Kay L. Chase of Tigard, Ore. (503) 873-4395, www.oregonstateparks.org/park_211.php.
SPRING MOUNTAIN RANCH Red Rock Canyon, Nev. "Spread a blanket on the grassy meadow, share plates of fried chicken, and enjoy musical theater at the foot of Wilson Mountain," says Shannon Cangey, who lives 15 miles east of the park in Las Vegas. (702) 875-4141, www.parks.nv.gov/smr.htm.
WAHKEENA FALLS Bridal Veil, Ore. "We love to grab a deli dinner," writes Colleen Grant of Portland, "and drive out here to cool off in summer. We always find a picnic table, and the falls are beautiful." (541) 308-1700, www.byways.org/explore/byways/2141/places/16172/.
Photography by Mitch Tobias
This article was first published in July 2005. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.