Heritage Tours of California

California

State Park Historic Tours

An historic park established in 1937, Mount San Jacinto State Park began as a grassroots movement with local citizens developing the land. The effort to preserve the high grounds of this beautiful mountain wilderness had begun in 1933. Developing the park's infrastructure also had historic significance, being accomplished by members of the CCC.

In mutual agreement, the California State Parks and US Forest Service decided to keep the area as a primitive environment which would be accessible only on foot or horseback. A separate 13-acre area provides a campground including park headquarters. It is located next to the resort town of Idyllwild. Visitors to the park enter through two striking stone pillars that mark the gateway today, just as they did in 1936. A plaque commemorating the park's dedication was placed on one pillar on June 19, 1937. About that same time the CCC constructed the Idyllwild picnic area and other campgrounds. A stone shelter below San Jacinto Peak still keeps hikers safe when caught in inclement weather.

At the edge of the parking area lays a walkway past the log hauling wagon exhibit. This path provides a superb view of the Stone Bridge arch. Where the trail crosses a wooden bridge, upstream a man-made stone bridge blends into its surroundings so well it almost appears another natural structure. Picnic areas with tables and stoves are provided along the trails.

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Historic Mission Tours

Much of California's historic heritage is tied closely to the Spanish explorers and Mexican pioneers who opened up the area to missions and huge farming haciendas. It is simple to frame a tour around the 21 Spanish missions between San Diego and Sonoma, California. Some of the structures have been kept up well and can be viewed as they were when new, while others have fallen into disrepair and are now only ruins of what once marked a residence of Spanish culture and religion.

The Mission of San Diego de Alcala was the first establishment to mark Christianity's home on the western U.S. coast. The structure's placement may have been on the other side of the world from the Spanish homeland, but the architecture remained extremely similar to those the missionaries were used to in Spain. The mission was founded in 1769 and still serves as an active parish. It is also used as a cultural center welcoming all faiths to visit and experience over two centuries of California's history.

Only when Russian seal hunters began moving south along the western coast did Spain begin building permanent settlements in order to establish their claim on the lands. The Spanish King wanted religion to be the larger part of establishing habitation. However most of the missions also housed armed conquistadors to make sure any contests regarding ownership were won by Spain.

Historic American Explorers' Trails and Other Natural Landmarks

National Historic Trails follow closely the routes traveled by explorers of significance. These trails are specifically designated and protected to maintain the historic artifacts and remnants for the enjoyment of the public. There are 14 National Historic Trails that extend over 5,383 miles. Conservation of these areas is as important as the historical, cultural, natural and scenic use of the trails. Details regarding the trails are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. They provide maps notating the best historic and scenic trail choices.

Various computer sites on hiking can recommend the types of equipment and supplies necessary for each trail. The length and ascent of each trail puts different demands on the hiker that must be taken into consideration for a comfortable and safe climb. The information may also specify trail care: the kinds of water bottles and food containers permited, where fires may be built, the necessity of taking away everything you take in, etc.

Other Ideas for Heritage Touring

These are only three of the areas of California's heritage that can be used to tour the state. Hiking the mountain peaks, exploring the lakes and streams, and visiting historic mansions and houses in various areas are all historic themes around which tours can center.

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