30 places to welcome spring
Insider tip: “My spring ritual always starts with an early hike up the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls,” says park ranger Scott Gediman. “You get totally drenched in cold mist, but it can be perfect on a warm day. I always grab a sandwich and eat at the top of Nevada Fall. You really can’t beat the view.”
Eat: Try the Caprese sandwich with organic greens from Degnan’s Deli, and take it to go for lunch with a view. $; Yosemite Village; 209/372-8454.
Stay: Best view for the buck is a tent cabin in Curry Village; you’ll wake up in the shadow of Glacier Point and Half Dome. From $60; yosemitepark.com/reservations
Do: Take a ranger walk for a primer on the park’s history and geology, plus a few (or 10) gnarly bear tales. nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit
Insider tip: “There are very few places along the Western coastline where you can see whales as close as you can here,” says marine biologist Carrie Newell, who also runs Whale Research EcoExcursions whale-watching trips (whaleresearchexcursions.com). The best vantage point? Pretty much any rocky outcropping, including those at Devil’s Punch Bowl, Cape Foulweather, and Boiler Bay scenic viewpoint. “Even on the sidewalk in downtown, you may see one in the water 30 feet away.”
Eat: Slurp garlicky cioppino at Tidal Raves, where a window seat lets you whale-watch. $$; 279 N.W. U.S. 101; 541/765-2995.
Stay: The Inn at Otter Crest, with studios to 3-bedroom suites, overlooks 35 acres of wild coastline. From $90; innatottercrest.com
Do: Blow a glass bowl and more at Jennifer Sears Glass Art in Lincoln City. jennifersearsglassart.com
Insider tip: After a Sonoma flight, people always ask Mike, owner of Up & Away Ballooning (up-away.com), which winery they should visit. “There are so many you can’t pick just one,” he says, “so I send them to Korbel Champagne Cellars. They have tours and you can see how Champagne is made, which is a whole different process than winemaking. And the gardens are gorgeous.”
Eat: Jimtown Store has the smoked brisket sandwich and box lunches for picnics. $; 6706 State 128, Healdsburg; 707/433-1212.
Stay: The eco-mod cottages of Guerneville’s Boon Hotel + Spa sit among redwoods and feel remote, but with easy access to wineries. From $155; boonhotels.com
Do: It’s not all wine here. Sonoma County Farm Trails has guides to more than 90 local creameries, orchards, and farms. farmtrails.org
Insider tip: “Reavis Falls is actually one of the tallest waterfalls in Arizona—nearly 196 feet,” says Jon Colby, a local hiking and mountain biking guide with Arizona Outback Adventures (aoa-adventures.com). “Some take long and tough hikes to reach. But right off State 88 at Fish Creek, there are small and pretty cascades. A few minutes and you’re there.”
Eat: Saddle up on a barstool (they’re real saddles) for a half-pound Bullrider Burger topped with cheese, bacon, and green chiles at Tortilla Flat. $; 20909 E. Apache Trail; 480/984-1776.
Stay: Rough it in the mountains, then indulge in the desert’s softer side at Scottsdale’s FireSky Resort and Spa. From $299; fireskyresort.com
Do: Hike the Peralta Trail past saguaros and dramatic boulder stacks to Fremont Saddle, 5 miles round-trip. Tonto National Forest; fs.usda.gov/tonto
Insider tip: Drive through the upper valley on State 150, a narrow farm road through the orchards. “What I love is the smell of the stone fruit blossoms—apricots, peaches, and plums,” says Kerry Clasby, a professional forager who scours California farms, forests, and markets to supply chefs in Los Angeles and beyond. “The Blenheim apricots at the K.B. Hall Ranch are the first to bloom. That’s when I know it’s spring.”
Eat: The lemon-ricotta tarts at Knead Baking Company seem too beautiful to eat, until you take a bite. 469 E. Ojai Ave.; 310/770-3282.
Stay: A renovated 1874 schoolhouse, Lavender Inn has a foodie bent; take a class at its Ojai Culinary School. From $140; 2-night minimum; lavenderinn.com
Do: With local olive oil, organic produce, and fish tacos from Ideal Seafood, the Ojai Farmers’ Market is a one-stop food adventure. 9–1 Sun; 300 E. Matilija St.; ojaicertifiedfarmersmarket.com
Make it a weekend: Sign up for a farm dinner and book one of the 10 poolside rooms and cottages. No tasting fee; farm dinners from $150; lodging from $225; campovida.com
Get a taste in Phoenix: Superstition Farm ricotta crostini with spring peas or buttermilk quinoa crêpes at Caffe Boa Bistro. $$; closed Mon; boabistro.com
Get a taste in Phoenix: A Schnepf peach salad with spinach and goat cheese will debut in May at Vincent’s on Camelback. $$$$; vincentsoncamelback.com
Get a taste in Phoenix: Grilled fish with Agritopia’s roasted cauliflower or the Far East Salad’s napa cabbage, romaine lettuce, mint, and cilantro at Liberty Market. $; libertymarket.com