5 Places To Cool Off This Weekend

111? 109? 10&%**?

The forecast for Labor Day Weekend should NEVER be hotter than the grill you’re cooking burgers on. Nonetheless we’re in for a scorcher, and if you haven’t already booked a place on the coast or in the Sierra, even the Trivago guy probably can’t help you now.

But, there are a some (literally) cool places that are easy day-trips from here. I recommend leaving at dawn, and coming back well after dusk.

5) Island Lake

islandlake 5 Places To Cool Off This Weekend

photo by: Tom Mailey

If you don’t mind a bit of a hike, this gorgeous little Sierra lake is SO worth your time. To get there, take 80 to the Hwy 20 cut-off, follow that to Bowman road, hang a right, then drive about 8 miles til you see the sign for Penner and Carr lakes. 4 more miles up a dirt road, and you’re there. Island Lake is maybe two miles in but the hike is easy-to-moderate and if even that’s too much for you, there’s Carr lake less than 100 yards from the trailhead and just a bit beyond that, Feely lake. Both are beautiful in their own right. But Island lake is worth the extra effort–with a little more granite, a little more view, and water almost as cool as an ice cube. And if you’re a really strong hiker…consider going up the trail about another two miles to Penner Lake, where you’ll have less company and some awesome places to take a dip.

4) Placer Grove, Sequoia Big Trees

sequoia 5 Places To Cool Off This Weekend

Photo by DEA / M.SANTINI/De Agostini/Getty Images

Did you know there IS a grove of sequoias in Placer county? Yep. There are only six of them though. Eight, if you count the two fallen ones–both of which toppled well over 150 years ago! It’s the northern-most stand of sequoias in the world, and despite their small number, they’re every bit as huge and majestic as the ones you’d find further south. To get there, drive to Foresthill, take Mosquito Ridge road and follow it until you think I’m out of my mind. Another few miles after that, you’ll see the sign. The hike in is short, easy and most importantly, beneath the cool shade of a mixed forest canopy.

3) Fort Ord Dunes State Park

beach 5 Places To Cool Off This Weekend

Photo: Tom Mailey

Yes, it’s Monterey. Yes, there will be a million people in Monterey. BUT, this stretch of beach is part of a relatively new state park near the old Fort Ord and, according to my son, who lived in Monterey the past two years, is still relatively undiscovered. Then again, my son had a beer can pyramid in his apartment that took up an entire wall. HOWEVER, when he took us there over Memorial Day weekend, other than a few hardcore surfers the beach was indeed about as empty as those beer cans (Thank you Jon Pardi for the comparison idea). It’s about a quarter mile hike to get to, and there are no amenities nearby so stock up before you go.¬†Getting there is a little tricky so map it out ahead of time but basically, you’ll need to find Divarty Street near Cal State Monterey Bay, then head west and follow signs that say Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

2) Carson Pass

carson 5 Places To Cool Off This Weekend

Photo: Tom Mailey

I just rolled over this a few weeks back for the first time while heading for vacation in Mammoth Lakes. Wow! An absolutely beautiful area that most famously features Kirkwood Ski Area (where, once upon a time, Tim McGraw told us was his favorite place to snowboard), it was closer than I expected. From the highway 50 cut-off near Pollock Pines, we reached the summit in about an hour and I was amazed at a) how few people there were and b) how many recreational possibilities could be seen from the driver’s seat of my truck. Silver Lake (above), Caples Lake, Kirkwood, Two Sentinels Peaks, Thunder Mountain, trails, lodges, fishing…..good lord. I think I’M gonna go up there this weekend.

1) Mt Lassen National Park

lassen 5 Places To Cool Off This Weekend

Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Ok, this is more than a day trip, but you can probably still book a room in Redding or Red Bluff at this late notice and then take an easy 2nd-day trip up to one of America’s least-visited national parks. If you’ve never been, it’s sort of a mini-Yellowstone, with lots of interesting volcanic features like steam vents and mud pots (the mountain erupted in 1914 and it’s tummy still hasn’t settled). What’s more, the park is small enough that you can easily get a feel for it in just a day. If you have time, and are in good enough shape, the trail to the peak’s 10,000 summit is well-maintained and the views ain’t too shabby.

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