Are you looking to explore some of the best national parks in California?
California finds pride in being home to beautiful natural landscapes found within its national parks.
These national parks encapsulate different forms of eye-catching ecosystems such as rambling streams, towering mountains, scorching desert landscapes, waterfalls, sandy beaches, and a wide range of wild animals.
If you are looking for a tranquil environment away from the busy city life, then a visit to any of the national parks in California will give you the perfect backdrop to help you connect with nature.
Related: Glamping in California
Redwood National and State Parks
These incredible National parks are situated north of San Fransisco.
They are a perfect destination if you need a combined feeling of the city and wild nature. They are also home to multiple national and state parks that are spread along the coastal streak.
Some of these popular parks include Jedediah Smith, Del Norte, and Prairie Creek, among other state parks.
Redwood National and State Parks also boast of their towering redwood trees, which are among the tallest living trees on the planet. Standing below these tall trees gives you a uniquely humbling experience.
Redwood National and State Parks are home to many wildlife species, such as owls, sea lions, pelicans, grey whales, and salmons.
Their floors have a natural fern carpet made of the extensively growing fern at the base of the tall trees. Trails uniquely stretch below the ferns and extend into the spacious meadows along the beach. Walking along the fern-covered trails gives you an intimate interaction with the green nature which tends to have a calming effect on you.
If you were to explore the whole of Redwood National and State Parks, it would take you weeks, but to help you explore more within a short time, there are a few spots that you won’t want to miss out on. Try to include the fern canyon, Trinidad state beach, and the Damnation Creek trail.
Additionally, some of the famous hiking trails here include Tall Trees Groove Trail in the southern part of the parks and the Ladybird Johnson Grove Trail.
Activities on offer here include hiking, tree ogling, and camping.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is found approximately 125 miles towards the east of Los Angeles.
This unique desert landscape lies at the crossroads where two deserts meet; the low Colorado desert and the high Mojave Desert.
Old gold mining ruins, rugged mountains, buttresses, oddball Yucca trees, and boulders are some of the dominant features in this park.
These rocky features offer a wonderful backdrop for rock climbers who visit from different parts of the world. It has a total of 8,000 climbing routes ranging between the smooth beginner tracks, to complex rocky trails for professionals.
You do not have to be a professional rock climber to enjoy this fascinating rock beauty.
You can start by practising in the beginner tracks and then graduate to the more complex trails as your skills improve.
For memorable hiking or rock-climbing experiences within the park, ensure that you visit the Hidden Valley and Arch Rock nature trails.
This desert landscape is devoid of light pollution and thus has clear skies, which create a perfect stargazing spot. If you want to get a better view of the meteors, you can schedule your trip in October for Orionids, November for Leonids, and December for Geminids.
The views are breath-taking.
It is a perfect destination for rock climbing, camping, rock viewing, and stargazing.
Death Valley National Park
The ominous name should not scare you away. Despite being the hottest national park in North America, it is worth paying a visit.
This park is covered by mysterious moving rocks, sand dunes, and salt flats. Its summer temperatures rise to about 12 degrees Fahrenheit.
When exploring this park, you need to keep in mind that popular tourist spots are spread all over the park, with social amenities found only along the famous Highway 190. It is advisable to carry plenty of water and enough sunscreen protection to shield yourself from the effects of the scorching sun.
The furnace creek is a breath-taking location, which is centrally located in the Death Valley National Park, offering a strategic point to begin your exploration.
Some of the beautiful scenes that you do not want to miss out upon visiting this national park are the Devils Golf Course salt formations and the Natural Bridge Canyon – an arch formed from erosion.
Other fascinating sites are the Ubehebe Crater, Badwater Basin, and the Scotty’s Castle.
For a better view of the desert landscape and the stars, it is advisable to visit at night when it is not too hot and away from the lights of the urbanity. Death Valley National park is an ideal hiking and camping destination.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is another incredible park in California. It is the epitome of the natural beauty and charm of the Nevada mountains found in central California.
It is located about 200 miles to the east of San Francisco and has become a great tourist destination for people from all parts of the world.
Many tourists are lured by the beauty of the Yosemite Valley.
However, even if you are not into valleys, you will still have something else to enjoy in this vast 1,100 square miles park. Jaw-dropping cliffs, powerful waterfalls, wildlife, domes, and granite walls are some of the other breath-taking sites that you can find here.
Some other incredible sites that you do not want to miss on your visit here are the Half Dome hike, Yosemite Falls, and the Cathedral Lakes hikes.
You can visit this park any time all year round, but it tends to be more crowded in summer.
Yosemite National Park is a great hiking, camping, fishing, rafting, and wildlife watching destination. In fact, it is an ideal touring site for the whole family.
If you want to explore the park over several days, there are some fantastic accommodation options.
Channel Island National Park
The Channel Islands park is the only island park in California. It offers a fascinating experience in a secluded environment away from the hustle of the mainland.
This park comes as a pack of 5 islands; Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Anacapa and Santa Monica. The most popular of these islands are the Santa Cruz islands.
Despite being remotely located, these islands have a lot of fascinating sites to offer, which include rugged cliffs, campsites, prairie-like grasslands, canyons, wildflowers, hiking, and kayaking trails.
The islands park is only accessible through sea boats, seaplanes, or ferries.
This park also serves as a home to hundreds of marine wildlife, and it is, therefore, important to note that some areas cannot be accessed.
When planning your visit here, you should remember that the islands have no amenities to offer, and you, therefore, need to carry enough of everything you need during the visit.
Your visit to these islands would not be compete without visiting the Scorpion Ranch Campground for fascinating camping, hiking, and kayaking experiences.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
These are two different parks under one management. They share a border, and therefore you can easily cross them as one major park.
They are found close to Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains. If you are a lover of nature, then these parks are an ideal destination for you.
Sequoia is known for the voluminous trees it houses. Compared to the towering Redwoods in the Redwood National park, the Sequoia takes the lead in terms of girth.
These gigantic Sequoia trees are among the largest trees in the world in terms of volume. For example, General Sherman’s trunk found here is believed to have an estimated volume of 1.487 M3 and a weight of over 2,000 tonnes; this sounds too big for a single tree. But visiting this area would probably help you clear any doubts!
These parks also boast a 210 miles hiking trail; the John Muir Trail that stretches between them headed towards Yosemite.
The Kings Canyon, on the other hand, protects the headwaters from Kings River and San Joaquin river. This famous canyon is the deepest in California, with a depth of about 8,200 feet.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are an ideal hiking and camping destination.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Volcanic mountains have, for a long time, been known to attract tourists who are lured by the fumaroles, geysers, and mud springs.
Lassen Volcanic National Park prides itself as the largest volcanic dome in the world, having a peak capped at 10,462 feet.
The Lassen volcanic park was formed as a result of a massive volcanic eruption that occurred in the 20th century leaving behind vast pieces of land covered with the lava.
Today, the area serves as an ideal destination for tourists who visit to witness the rocky features that formed after the solidification of lava from the eruptions.
Flora and fauna continue to thrive in between the lava rocks. It is such an incredible site to visit. This site also offers an excellent study and research base on matters related to volcanic eruptions.
During the summer months, tourists here get to enjoy about 150 miles of hiking trails offered by this volcano. Some additional volcanic features that you can enjoy here are the Bumpass Hell and Sulphur Works.
This park is a great hiking and camping destination.
Pinnacles National Park
This park boasts cliffs and jagged rock formations, resulting from volcanic eruptions that happened millions of years ago, leaving lava flowing over pieces of land and solidifying to create rocky formations.
This scenery changes with changing seasons; as temperatures rise during the summer seasons, beautiful wildflowers are seen blossoming under the clear blue skies.
On the other hand, at night, when temperatures fall, it turns into a great camping ground for the tourists, and provides an ideal stargazing spot.
Pinnacles National Park also has numerous limestone caves that are fun to visit and explore. Hiking and rock climbing are some of the activities that visitors enjoy.
The pathways through the Talus limestone caves are dark, and you may consider using flashlights for enhanced visibility and safety.
Pinnacles National Park is an ideal destination for the entire family all year round.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes National Seashore is another magical tourist destination in California located about 37 miles north of San Francisco.
This park extends to 180 square miles with promising sea cliffs and headlands. The beaches offer an excellent tourist destination, especially during the summer.
This national seashore provides a suitable habitat for sea creatures such as raptors and sea birds. You can visit this site all year round, but it gets more crowded between December and March when many people visit to witness the migration of approximately 20,000 grey whales; it is among the most massive mammal migrations in the world.
Other than the sea creatures and the cooling effect of the beach, you can also enjoy hiking on short hiking trails such as the earthquake trails and the Kule Loklo trail.
The San Andreas fault is also an incredible site not to be missed.
The American Discovery Trail, which extends to about 6,800 miles long, is the longest US hiking trail. It stretches from this seashore, Point Reyes National Seashore, to the east of the Atlantic Ocean. If you have the energy and time to undertake this long hike, then you can begin it as this shore.
By visiting this incredible park, you can enjoy hiking, sealife, and camping.