Groveland, California
Credit: Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee / Getty Images

Take Yosemite's wonders (massive granite formations, crystal-clear rivers), subtract the crowds, add a 19th-century gold rush village, and you've got Groveland. On every edge of town, dirt roads, and logging trails pick up where the pavement ends, creating a network of serpentine routes for biking and hiking the pristine Sierra Nevada foothills of Stanislaus National Forest and providing paddlers with access to granite-bound lakes, rivers, and streams. 

What to Do for Fun: Daring boaters launch trips down the harrowing, Class V Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne, one of California's wildest stretches of whitewater. For a classic rafting experience go with Marty "Mac" McDonnell, the first person to run Cherry Creek by raft, in 1972. At night, the après scene is rowdy at the Iron Door, California’s oldest saloon, on the main drag of town.