While Cali is often known for the Hollywood strip, Venice Beach, San Francisco and the original Disneyland, The Golden State is also famous for being home to some of the country’s best national parks. With iconic landscapes, epic wildlife and challenging trails to allow you to explore the nature’s beauty, these national parks are all well worth a visit. Whether you discover just one park per trip or make it a multi-park extravaganza, you’re sure to have an incredible vacation.
Perhaps one of the most famous parks in the country, Yosemite is a true gem, with glacier-sculpted landscapes, towering waterfalls and abundant wildlife. Whether you're a rock climber seeking your next challenge or simply want to enjoy some hikes in nature, Yosemite's breath-taking beauty will leave you with memories of a lifetime! Spend a few days camping in the park, using long summer days to make the most of the walking trails and picnic spots.
With scorching desert temperatures and rugged landscapes, it's not surprising the park is called Death Valley but don't let this sinister name put you off! When you venture into this unknown territory, you are often graced with beauty beyond words. Double rainbows, polychromatic wildflowers, salt valleys and sand dunes and just some of the stunning sights you will enjoy during a trip to Death Valley National Park, not to mention the epic stars on display every night thanks to the non-existent light pollution of this remote region.
While most people think of a certain U2 album when they hear the words Joshua Tree, others will conjure up thoughts of an all-American national park in the south east of California that is famed for these peculiar trees. With two expansive deserts meeting in the middle (the Mojave and the Colorado), this park has a very distinct landscape that ensures diversity of flora and fauna and a variety of hiking trails to keep everyone entertained. Aside from the eponymous Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), the park is also famous for its boulder piles and bare hills that are popular among rock climbers.
With Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks being located side by side (with one entrance fee) you can hit two extraordinary parks in one. Sequoia NP, as the name suggests, is famous for the ginormous sequoia trees, including the largest tree in the world (by volume), General Sherman. A walk through these mammoth trees will really put things in perspective and show you the sheer power and beauty of nature. Kings Canyon, allows you to appreciate this beauty in another form with the Kings and San Joaquin rivers plunging through the park's deep, granite canyons.
A recent addition to the national park system, Pinnacles National Park features soaring spires and precipitous canyons. Not only is the park known for its dramatic landscapes (that make it perfect for climbers), but it is also home to the rare California condor, the largest species of bird in North America that was once extinct in the wild! As such, Pinnacles is a top spot for birders and wildlife lovers who come to seek out this rare species as well as Towson's big-eared bats and falcons that reside in the park.
Similar to Sequoia NP, Redwood National and State Parks are home to giant redwoods, the tallest species of tree in the world. While Sequoia claims the prize for the largest tree, Redwood NP boasts the tallest living tree, Hyperion, standing at a whopping 115.7m! The vast majority of redwoods were wiped out in California during the late 19th Century for logging so when you stand among these towering (and otherwise immortal) trees, you will be astounded by their presence and potential.
Lassen Volcanic National Park's unique geology makes it quite different from other parks in the state, with the towering Lassen Peak, stunning lakes and thundering waterfalls making it fascinating to explore. The volcano's active presence can still be felt around the park with plenty of sulphuric mud pots bubbling away on the surface. Epic trails like Bumpass Hell, Devil’s Kitchen and Painted Dunes (as well as hiking Lassen Peak itself) allow you to see the park from every angle, taking in the varying landscapes, all of which are picture-perfect.
Channel Islands National Park is a beautiful coastal retreat comprising of five islands: Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Miguel and Santa Rosa. The park protects the nature and landscapes on the islands while the designated marine sanctuary conserves the waters that surround the islands which are home to myriad marine species. Whether you visit to witness the plethora of pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) that descend on San Miguel Island, kayak around the coves of Channel Islands National Park or surf at Santa Rosa, you're sure to have an unforgettable trip.