The 14 Best National Parks in California

California’s geographical diversity is by far its greatest asset. It’s not often that in one state, you can go to the beach, climb mountains, walk through forests, and stroll through desert. However, in California there’s no limit to what you can do. It’s also the case that it’s not necessary to go far to travel from one place towards the next. It’s true that the Golden State has the most national parks of any state in the U.S. and that doesn’t contain the many other National Park Service designated monuments and sites.

 To help you decide on the most popular places for a visit, we have rounded the top national parks in California and the most enticing sites for taking a detour or a visit. (Note that some of these locations could suffer from the coronavirus epidemic. New policies could be in place, such as reservations restrictions, capacity limitations or masking requirements. Be sure to consult your local tourism board, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards prior to travelling.)

The 14 Best National Parks in California

Yosemite National Park

Best National Parks in California

Yosemite is an extremely frequented park nationals in the U.S. The park is situated about 140 miles to the southeast to the east of Sacramento in Northern California, Yosemite National Park is visited by millions of people each year due to its distinctive geology as well as a variety of thrilling activities. The park on the bucket list is particularly notable due to its impressive granite rock formations as well as its towering falls: Half Dome and Vernal Fall are two of Yosemite’s most iconic landmarks. For accommodation camping, there are plenty of campgrounds and range between $10 and $36 per night, based on the where you are and the size of your group. Hotels, as well as lodges like the nation’s historic famous Lodge the Ahwahnee is also readily available (nightly rates differ).

Joshua Tree National Park

Best National Parks in California

For the most authentic California Desert experience there’s no better spot to go other than Joshua Tree National Park. It is located just 50 miles to the from Palm Springs, Joshua Tree has 800,000 acres of a dreamy desert scenery, including climbable boulders and the rare Yucca brevifolia, also known as Joshua trees. Explore the main roads of the park, Pinto Basin and Park Boulevard and you’ll come on stunning rock formations such as Arch Rock and Skull Rock and Skull Rock, and other must-see sights like the picturesque Cholla Cactus Gardens and the stunning Keys View observation deck. Additionally being an IDA International Dark Sky Park, Joshua Tree National Park is a fantastic spot to view The Milky Way. It is important to note that the only accommodation options within Joshua Tree National Park are camping facilities that typically cost between $15-$25 per night.

Death Valley National Park

Best National Parks in California

Death Valley National Park is dry, the landscape is bare, and temperatures frequently rise to 120°F. Therefore, the park isn’t accessible to everyone. But the mysteries within, such as the movable rocks, vibrant wildflowers, and singing sand dunes are sure to entice tourists. It is located about 130 miles to the from west Las Vegas on the western border of Nevada, Death Valley boasts the distinction of being the hot and driest place within the U.S. When you visit, be sure to take in the desert landscapes of all kinds in the most popular tourist spots, like Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Badwater Basin. Spread across 3.4 million acres it is the state’s largest national park, and it’s not difficult to find accommodation on site; these include resorts, campgrounds and motels.

Sequoia National Park

Best National Parks in California

Sequoia Park is most likely to be to be the only national park within the U.S. where it would be advisable to perform some neck stretching prior to entering. This is due to the fact that Sequoia National Park houses some of the biggest trees in volume anywhere in the world. Its General Sherman Tree which is the park’s main tourist attraction is also the biggest in the world, standing 275 feet tall and 36 feet wide. It is possible to see this amazing tree, along with other giants, in the appropriately called Giant Forest, one of the many huge sequoia groves within the park. However, getting access to all this stunning natural beauty requires a lot of effort. To reach the area you’ll need travel for an hour and a half to the east of Fresno and nearly 4 hours away of driving from Los Angeles or San Jose because they are the nearest cities that have international airports. There are hotels on site, such as hotels like the Wuksachi Lodge (rates hover around $295 per night) as well as campgrounds, which vary from $22 to $70 per night dependent on the size of your group.

Kings Canyon National Park

Best National Parks in California

Kings Canyon National Park is perfect for people who love the scenery and adventure Yosemite provides and don’t want endure the huge crowds. Kings Canyon looks a lot similar to Yosemite and is awash with beautiful valleys and rocky peaks that are awash in granite rock and lush forest. Much like its neighbor Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon is where you can find sequoia groves however it’s the park’s stunning valley views that make the park stand out. You can visit Moro the Rock to see stunning panoramas across and across the Great Western Divide, drive through the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway or get sweaty on its numerous trails. There’s Kings Canyon National Park in central California approximately 250 miles to the to the north of Los Angeles. You can stay at any of three lodges in the park (rates differ by season and the room type) or camp sites with rates ranging from the price of $22 to $70 per night.

Cabrillo National Monument

Best National Parks in California

The monument’s small size is situated approximately 10 miles to the southwest from the city center of San Diego on the Point Loma Peninsula, but it’s worth it to take in the views. Cabrillo National Monument is dedicated to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European traveler to discover West Coast in the year 1542. The top of the monument has a statue in honor of Juan and provides amazing 360-degree views. From here, you’ll be able to catch an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean to the right and Downtown San Diego to the left and when it’s clear, Mexico to the south. If you’re able to get away from the breathtaking southern California landscapes, you can follow Cabrillo Road down to the coastline, where you’ll find an attractive waterfront path that leads to a tiny beach (not suitable to swim on) as well as tide pools. Between the months of December and February the best time to visit is between December and February. location to view Pacific gray whales, as they head to the south during winter.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Best National Parks in California

Point Reyes is the kind of place that will take your breath off. The location is in northern California approximately 40 miles to the northwest to San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore brims with breathtaking coastal scenery stunning cliffside beaches, expansive wilderness and abundant nature. Visitors looking to relax will love the breathtaking views of Point Reyes Lighthouse and the close-by Elephant Seal Overlook, while those seeking adventure will love the equally breathtaking 9.7-mile out-and-back Tomales Point Trail and the 5 mile Laguna-Coast Loop. It’s impossible to leave without navigating the breathtaking Cypress Tree Tunnel, a quarter-mile long driveway that is framed by Monterey Cypress trees. Accommodations are available as backcountry camping sites that start at just $30 per night. Or in the HI Point Reyes Hostel, the only accommodation that doesn’t require camping in the national seashore.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Best National Parks in California
Photo by Miguel Primero

Spread across more than 81,000 acres, Golden Gate National Recreation Area provides a wide array of historic and natural attractions that are all part of the larger Bay Area. There’s an abundance of things to do at San Francisco, and in the nearby Marin as well as San Mateo counties, that you’ll need a long time to experience it all. Alcatraz , which is a redwood forest Muir Woods National Monument are among the most well-known places, but it is also worth planning time to go to Kirby Cove, Baker Beach or China Beach for photo-worthy views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The area is also home to numerous trails, including the ones located at Lands End, the Marin Headlands and Rancho Corral de Tierra. In addition, lodging options (from hotels to vacation rentals Hotels) are abundant all over San Francisco.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Best National Parks in California
Photo by Locust Ka

It is the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area that runs through the Malibu coastline, is stunning The area encompasses nine state parks as well as some of the most sought-after beachfronts in Los Angeles. Zuma Beach and El Matador State Beach earned praise from visitors in recent times Beachgoers are advised to take a look at Point Dume State Preserve and Leo Carrillo State Park for breathtaking beaches. For hikers, it is recommended to head the hills of Malibu Creek State Park, where you can find California redwoods and Point Mugu State Park for beautiful trails through canyons. If you’re looking for a difficult climb (think steep inclines and rough terrain) take the Rising Sun Trail in Solstice Canyon or the Los Liones Trail in Topanga State Park. When you’re ready for an escape to escape sunburn from the California sun, you can learn about the background of the Chumash people in the Newbury Park’s Satwiwa Native American Indian Culture Center. If you’re ready to settle down, the recreation park has campgrounds available starting at $10 per person per night.

Redwood National Park and State Parks

Best National Parks in California

Among the many natural wonders California is famous for, the state’s towering redwood trees are among the most unique. Redwoods are the tallest tree species around the globe, and California is one of the only two states of the U.S. where they exist (you’ll also see them in the coast of Oregon). Redwood National Park is unique because it covers numerous parks throughout the northwestern part of California. The most important areas to visit are Big Basin Redwoods State Park the oldest state park in California as well as Humboldt Redwood State Park, in which you can find the largest old-growth forest that remains continuous composed of coast redwoods. You’ll find a variety of campsite options (starting at $35 for a night) Cabins are only offered at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park (for $80 or $100 per night, based on the time of year).

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Best National Parks in California

Lassen Volcanic National Park is one of the most unusual national parks. It is located in northern California around 50 miles to the east of Redding, Lassen Volcanic National Park is located at the intersection of two mountains (Cascade Range as well as the Basin and Range Province) and creates an extremely varied volcanic landscape for visitors to explore. It is among the very few places that the four different types of volcanic eruptions (cinder cone composite, shield, as well as the plug dome) exist. When you visit, be amazed by the hydrothermal zones of the park which include the well-known Bumpass Hell. You can also then explore its other nature features including its numerous picturesque lakes and peaceful meadows. In terms of accommodations on-site there are campsites (starting at $16 for a night) in addition to the cabins (starting at $76 for a night) as well as Drakesbad Guest Ranch. Drakesbad guest Ranch (prices differ).

Channel Islands National Park

Best National Parks in California

Channel Islands National Park is the most isolated national park. The park is often referred to as”the “Galapagos of North America,” these five islands located off from the shores in Ventura County are inhabited only by wildlife among them elephant seals and bald-eagles. In the area, you can enjoy the many adventure opportunities, such as walking along scenic cliffs, diving into sea caves or picnicking along the beach and watching whales. Don’t forget to pack your camera as The Park is home to more than 150 species of animals which are not found elsewhere anywhere else in the world. There are camping facilities located on islands (starting at just $15 per night). However you must bring your own water and food: There are no food options provided and only two campgrounds provide water that is potable.

Manzanar National Historic Site

Manzanar National Historic Site

People who love history, particularly those who have a love of World War II, should visit Manzanar National Historic Site. Following an executive order issued from The President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942, more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans were compelled to move out of their homes and move into isolatedmilitary camps throughout in the United States. Manzanar is situated within Kings Canyon National Park and Death Valley off U.S. Highway 395 is one of the 10 Japanese internment camps in use during the war . It was home to more than 10,000 individuals. Manzanar’s historical park is home to restored barracks along with a mess hall as well as excavations of gardens, as well as other attractions. Its visitor centre is your ideal location to begin, since it has a wide array of exhibits and provides information about tours. There aren’t any lodgings on site however, considering the limited options, Manzanar National Historic Site is ideal for a day trip.

Pinnacles National Park

Best National Parks in California
Photo by Chris Symons

Many thousands of years ago, shifting plates of tectonics resulted in significant eruptions of volcanic activity to the east of the California’s Salinas Valley, causing layers of magma to join to form unique rock structures referred to by the name of “pinnacles.” As the San Andreas Fault split the Neenach Volcano, these pinnacles were moved north along the West part of the fault to where they are now located just east of the Salinas Valley about 50 miles east of Monterey. Since 2013, Pinnacles National Park was given the status of a national park and is now the most recent National Park in California. The park is home to the threatened California condor as well as the more than 30-mile trail network, Pinnacles National Park is the perfect spot for bird watching, hiking, and climbing on rocks. Traditional campsites, RV parks and tent cabins made of canvas are offered for $39-$119 per night.

Are the California national parks open?

While all of California’s National parks are open to guests, certain facilities, services , and ranger-led programs could be temporarily not accessible because of the coronavirus epidemic. Visit the website of the park before you travel to keep up-to-date on COVID-19 policy and which closures are in place. Visitors to parks should be aware of the need to wear a face mask when visiting the state parks of California. It is the National Park Service demands that all visitors, regardless of vaccination status wear a mask in NPS structures or on public transportation. It is also required in areas with a lot of people.

How many national parks located in California?

The National Park Service manages 423 protected sites throughout in the U.S., an extensive list of which includes national monuments as well as recreation areas, seashores parks, preserves, parks and much more. Of these there are 63 designated as national parks. California is the home of nine which is higher than the other states in the U.S. – and boasts 28 national parks all in all. With such a wealth in natural splendor, tourists will be able to find parks that match their needs.

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JC. Princen

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