Spending time among the cinematic scenery is hugely popular, and many of the best national parks in California have seen visitor numbers rise in recent years. But as the parks span such a beamy area, there is room for everyone to enjoy a piece of California’s beautiful natural bounties. From hiking and swimming to caving, skiing, and even stargazing, there’s something for everyone to these beautiful California state national parks.
Top California National Parks List
1. Yosemite National Park
World-famous Yosemite National Park at the top of the California national parks list has become the iconic hangout for keen wilderness hikers, who enjoy spending weekends attempting the many trails that crisscross the parks. Well-known by wanderlust seekers, Yosemite is high on many bucket lists, with people drawn to its scenery and beautiful wildlife, powerful waterfalls, impressive sequoias, and some jaw-dropping cliffs. This is the place for adventure and serenity in equal helpings. The park is popular with groups and families who visit all year round to enjoy skiing opportunities. Many visitors stay in lodges in nearby towns out in the summer months and spend time among the striped, sheer cliffs. The views from high at Glacier Point are immensely impressive, are the strange rock structures of Half Dome and Sentinel Rock.
2. Death Valley National Park
Its name might sound a little dreadful, but the stunning snow-capped mountaintops and desolate deserts make Death Valley an imposing yet magnificent site. Possibly it is one of the most extreme landscapes on the planet, the park’s low-angled winter light, huge rainstorms, and blossoming spring flowers makes this park really unbelievable. This 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. Strange sand formations and layers of rocks make it a fantastic playground for photographers. Hiking trails and viewing points allow visitors a glance into the otherworldly terrain, where days are drenched in sunshine and night-time brings fantastic stargazing opportunities.
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3. Redwood National Park
Impressive and imperial, the commanding redwood trees tower above everything else as the tallest living thing on earth and is one of the famous national parks in California. Redwood National Park, situated up in the northern coastal region of California, is home to 35 percent of the coastal redwoods left standing on the planet. The park is a haven for wildlife and is home to many bewitching animals, including owls, salmon and sea lions. Trails weave their way through the ferns which carpet the forest floor below the bows of the trees and open out into the spacious meadows. If you aren’t convinced yet that this place is otherworldly, it was made famous in film Star Wars as the location for the Forest Moon of Endor.
Also Read: Places to See Redwood Trees in California
4. Joshua Tree National Park
Rugged mountains, big boulders, and arid flats create strange surroundings of the Joshua Tree National Park, which has been bewitching nature-worshippers, and sunset-seekers for years. Situated at the point where the Mojave Desert connects with the Colorado Desert, the park’s diverse desert flora includes the bizarre-looking tree from which the park takes its name. The Joshua trees that bloom in this area create strange and majestic shapes which appear to change as the sun sets. Those who are looking for a bit of peace and quiet will love this park.
The park has also become synonymous with music, with many musicians spending time among the Joshua trees in order to find inspiration, which makes it be in the category of most beautiful national parks in California, local roadhouses put on live music performances and welcome people to join in with the musical traditions of the park.
5. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
The newest national park in California, which consists of craggy rock formations and steep cliffs. The contrasting landscape was created due to the volcanic activity over 23 million years ago when a collection of volcanoes ruptured and their lava flowed into the rock formation. The scenery lends itself to diversity and, swathes of colorful wildflowers bloom under the clear blue skies as the temperatures soar in the heat of summer. At night, temperatures feel down making ideal camping conditions for visitors who enjoy a spot of stargazing. The Pinnacles itself is actually made up of two halves and, due to which visitors are unable to drive through the park, it is possible to hike from one side to the other.
6. Lassen Volcanic National Park
This steaming, sulfur-infused national park entices visitors all year round with its sulfur vents, misty hot springs and bubbling pools of mud. The volcanic landscape of the park means the verdurous forests and crystal-clear lakes for visitors to enjoy. Take a wander along the many hiking trails and those who are brave enough can attempt the climb up the volcano itself. Lake Helen, at the base of the volcano, is a magnificent spot for viewing the scenery. The lake’s high altitude means that in winter it is covered by ice, but as summer comes and the ice melts, beautifully translucent turquoise waters appear and it makes an enchanting spot for a picnic.
7. Channel Islands National Park
It is nicknamed “America’s Galapagos,” which is made up of five islands that are scattered along the coast of Santa Barbara. It’s home to about 2,000 species of plants and animals, 150 of which are found only on these islands, making this park the perfect place to spot some wildlife. Whales and dolphins pass by the islands in this marine park, and many different types of birds call this place home. Every season offers slightly different glimpses into the life of the park as the summer brings warm waters and humpback whales, as well as blue whales, while autumn is ideal for kayaking and diving. The park is also known for its mind-blowing sunsets when the dropping sun illuminates the landscape and reveals the beauty of the oceanic vista.
8. Point Reyes National Seashore
Discover the scenic seashore of Point Reyes, where a depth of wildlife and plant species make this place a haven for nature-lovers. Along the coast, remote bays and wild grassland are home to wild elk and rare plant life and is the ideal spot for children to discover and learn more about nature. Whale-watching is popular here, and usually takes place in the winter months, whilst the wild blooms come out in the spring. Point Reyes is perfect for romantic beach walks, where visitors are able to spot some of the beautiful birdlife along the lengthy shoreline.
9. Devils Postpile National Monument
In the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range lies the Devils Postpile National Park. The park’s main draw is the impressive columns of basalt rock which spires skywards and has fascinated people for generations. The strange structures were formed by the aftermath of an ancient volcanic eruption when lava streamed down the mountainous slopes and left crazy columns. Icebergs helped to mold the hexagonal shape which attracts so many people to come and gaze in awe at the force of nature.
Nowadays, the columns make an ideal place to have adventure hikers enjoy coming here to try out the selection of trails that crisscross the landscape. Hikes that wind past the 100-foot Rainbow Falls or Mammoth Lakes is very popular during summers.
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