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Bear Gulch Cave-Rim Trail, Pinnacles National Park, Paicines, California

Pinnacles National Park is one half of an ancient volcano that was cut into two by tectonic forces about 20 million years ago. Two thirds of the volcano eventually became Pinnacles National Park while the other side of it became the Neenach Formation almost 200 miles south. Our visit this time had us explore Bear Gulch talus caves. Talus caves are caves formed by boulders and rocks that fall into a narrow canyon. The canyons here are the result of faults and fractures in the central area of volcanic rock. Rock falls that helped form Bear Gulch Caves are believed to have occurred during the last Ice Age.

Tilden Regional Park, Orinda, California

Tilden Park is known for its Merry-Go-Round, steam trains, petting zoo and Lake Anza. We enjoyed the steam trains on a weekend before Christmas. It was a chilly day when we arrived around noon on a Sunday. We purchased our tickets at the booth and got in line. We were the second group in line for the train. After about 10 minutes of waiting, our train arrived. We chose our own car, two behind the train driver. We noted that our position was a good one, as the steam produced in the front of the train helped warm us on a cool afternoon. Our timing was perfect just before Christmas as our train ride went past many decorative holiday ornaments and even a Santa locomotive. Dress warmly, as it does get chilly in this open-air steam train.

Falls Trail Hike, Mount Diablo, California

We started our hike on a cold, wet January morning. It had been raining for the last few days, and we had a few hours break from the rain before the clouds rolled in again. Our hike started at Regency Gate,with a step-over creek crossing. We followed Donner Canyon Road, down to Cardinet Oaks Road, and took a right on Falls Trail. Downhill from where Falls Trail started, at the beginning of Cardinet Oaks Trail, was a large stream which threatened the continuation of our hike. But with some determination we made it across. Alternatively, we could have turned right at the junction of Meridian Ridge Road and gone left at Middle Trail to connect to Falls Trail, to avoid the large stream at the base of Cardinet Oaks Trail.

Badlands Loop, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California

We started our hike in Death Valley on a cold December morning. Death Valley is the lowest and driest place in the United States. In the summer months, it is also the hottest place in United States. Sitting below sea level, Death Valley is most popular in the winter months.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

Calico Tanks, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

If you're looking for a moderately challenging hike that takes you through multicolored layers of rock with some effort, this hike is for you. Rated a moderate hike despite its short distance (2.5 miles), Calico Tanks will require you to sometimes scramble, climb and boulder over a rock or five.