California has a very unique geographical situation. It’s rare that in one state you can hit the beach, hike mountains, explore forests and wander through the desert. But in California, that’s all possible. And often, you don’t have to travel far to get from one landscape to the next. California has the most national parks of any state in the U.S. National parks in California are home to some of the most beautiful landscapes and admirable views on the planet.
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Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park is nicknamed “America’s Galapagos,” for its unique beauty and rich wildlife. It is probably the most remote of the National parks in California. The national park located off the coast of Ventura County, and it is made up of five islands that are scattered along the coast. It is home to over 2,000 species of plants and animals, 150 of which are found only on these islands, making this park truly the perfect place to spot some wildlife. Whales and dolphins pass by the islands in this richly diverse marine park. Many different types of birds call this place home. You can enjoy hiking alongside scenic cliffs, snorkeling through sea caves, picnicking on the beach or whale watching. There are campgrounds on the island. However, you have to bring your own food and water. No food services are available and only two campgrounds have potable water. There is no admission fee and the park is open year-round with no set hours.
Joshua Tree National Park
For the California desert experience, there is no better place to explore than Joshua Tree National Park. Situated just 50 miles east of Palm Springs, Joshua Tree offers 800,000 acres of the desert complete with climbable boulders and rare Yucca brevifolia, or Joshua Trees. Joshua Trees create strange shapes that appear to change as the sun sets, which is why they gained so much popularity. Many musicians and other artists spend time among the Joshua trees in order to find inspiration. You can walk the trails, go rock climbing or just relax!
Death Valley National Park
Another California national park perfect for desert lovers! The valley is known to be the hottest and driest place in North America, but the heat attracts steady streams of visitors to its surreal wilderness. We do advise you to visit during the winter or early spring because the temperatures can get insanely high. For thousands of years, the people of the Timbisha tribe lived here, migrating seasonally between the valley and the mountains. The name Death Valley was bestowed in 1849 by a band of lost California-bound gold rushers, one of whom did actually die while trying to cross it. The legend doesn’t seem to deter runners of the Badwater Ultramarathon, a race across the vast valley held in July. Some of the top attractions to visit here are Zabriskie Point, Dante’s View, Mesquite Flat Dunes and Badwater Basin.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
There are a lot of national parks in California but you can cross two off your list at once by visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon, both parks share a border and an entrance fee. You can lodge in the parks, but most of the area is not accessible via a car, so prepare yourself for a walk! If you have the time we advise you to visit both of them!
Sequoia National Park houses some of the largest trees by volume in the world. The General Sherman Tree, the park’s biggest attraction, is the largest, measuring 275 feet tall and 36 feet in diameter. You can find this incredible tree and more giants in the aptly named Giant Forest.
The Kings canyon has some of the most breathtaking views to offer, valley vistas of the park steal the show! You can visit Moro Rock for panoramic views of the Great Western Divide, drive along Kings Canyon or hike the scenic trails.
Yosemite National Park
Probably the most worldwide famous park on this list. Known for many hikers that enjoy spending weekends attempting the many trails that the park has the offer. A good hike is not the only thing to expect from this park. It is full of rich wildlife, beautiful scenery and powerful waterfalls. In the winter you can even use the opportunity to ski in the Yosemite national park!
Which of these national parks in California would you add to your bucket list?