Top 9 National Parks in California (2023)
Out of all the beauty that lies in California, the National Parks here holds the most of its charm. Thanks to the parts of East Coast and the Pacific Northwest, which fills the State of California with rich ecological diversity that one must defiantly explore once in their lifetime. From towering temperate rainforests, below-sea-level salt flats of Death Valley, high peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, iconic glacier-cut granite valleys, active volcanoes, or the largest and oldest organisms on the planet, the magnificent national parks in California have it all.
The best part about National parks in California is that it not only grabs the regular fields and jungles but almost all varieties of lands you would not easily find in the form of National Parks. California is laced with its National Parks’ beauty, and there literally is no end to it. The State has 28 National Parks in total, out of which all of them are worth exploring. However, to lessen the confusion and present only the greatest amongst the best, we have researched and compiled the “Top 9 National Parks in California” list.
Top 9 National Parks in California
Have a look and decide on your next trip:
1. Redwood National and State Parks
A complex of several state and national parks, the Redwood parks encompass more than 139,000 acres of land and is one of the biggest in competition. The Redwood National and State Parks are among the highest ecologically diverse areas in North America and are also home to the tallest trees on earth. It is the most significant protected areas of California coastal forests, ecoregion, and a heaven for flora and fauna. The entire region of Redwood comprises tranquil beaches, endless hiking trails, fern-covered canyons, rivers, an abundance of wildlife and a lot of hidden and unexplored beauty. Some of the “Not to miss” sights here include the Klamath River Overlook from over the cliff where the Klamath River beautifully meets the ocean, the Trillium Falls trail, which leads towards the only waterfall of the area and the tree groves that creates scenarios which seems surreal and directly out of a painting.
How to Reach: Entry to the park is accessible from Highway US 101 south of Crescent City. It is advisable to take a manual map and not rely on Google maps to have the best experience.
2. Yosemite National Park
One of the most popular and beautiful National Parks in California is the Yosemite National Park. It is spread over 748,436 acres and is an iconic and famous spot for wilderness enthusiasts and hikers in California. The beautiful wildlife, abundance of dramatic scenery, old grown forests, enchanting waterfall, meadows, glaciers, groves, clear streams, magnificent cliffs, and eternal wanderlust makes it one of the buckets lists sights to explore once in the lifetime. Every ten steps in Yosemite takes the visitors near different wildlife and ecological treasure that would leave them spellbound. The National park is highly famous for adventure and amongst serenity seekers and is recognized worldwide for all the incredible belonging it holds. Yosemite is operational year-round and brings you closer to several adventure opportunities, including rock climbing, hiking, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, overnight ski trips and endless other activities. Photography and art classes, stargazing programs are often organized at the Yosemite Valley, where visitors are jam-packed throughout the year.
How to Reach: Reaching Yosemite is accessible from South Lake Tahoe towards Highway 89 South to Highway 50 West. Further, move towards west on Highway 50 until you reach Highway 99 and further towards the South. Lastly, Highway 120 leads you towards the National park.
3. Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park is one of the newest national parks in California, and this is one of the least visited as well. The west division of park is only connected via foot trails and has high natural walls, whereas the east division is divided by rock formations and has more water and shade. The contrasting landscape here is known to be in existence for over 23 million years. The rock formation on east transforms it into the spectacular pinnacles, thus attracting the rock climbers from all across the United States. The highest peak here is about 2730 feet tall, ideal for seasoned climbers and not for beginners and faint hearts. However, the view from the top of the rock peak has undoubtedly out of the world charm. The best time to explore Pinnacles is during the spring and fall season as the weather is so soothing, and most of the wildlife is spotted chilling around. One of the must-visit sites in Pinnacles is the impressive talus caves which are home to several varieties of bats and is also extended deep towards under the ground. The Bear Gulch Cave and Balconies Cave on east and west are opened seasonally for the visitors and are accessible via beautiful natural trails. The Pinnacles Campground on the east of the National Park is open for camping facilities.
How to Reach: The National Park is reachable from Soledad city in Monterey County and is just 8 kilometres away from the east of the town. A 130 kilometres ride from the southeast of San Jose will also lead you towards Pinnacles.
4. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Earth has still many hydrothermal areas, and the Lassen Volcanic National Park is one unique out of them. The hydrothermal here are fuming to date, and one can found four types of the volcano here, including shield, a stratovolcano, cinder cone, and plug dome. The park is also home to the largest plug dome volcano in the world. Designed in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the National park also houses the Cinder Cone National Monument and the Lassen Peak National Monument. The series of eruptions from 1914 till 1917 increased the stark volcanic beauty of this park which is still available all around for tourism experience. Some of the must-visit areas in the park include Bumpass Hell boardwalk trails, the Devils Kitchen, the Echo Lake hike (fo0r magnificent view of Lassen peak, king’s creek (a hiking destination), and the Boling Springs Lake (125°C water). During winters, most of the area at Lessen is covered with snow and boosts several snow adventure opportunities, including snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The view of scenic lakes here is worth a while despite whichever season you visit.
How to Reach: The park can easily get reached via State Routes 89 and 44. State Route 89 passes directly adjacent to the base of Lassen Volcanic National park. The park is also reachable via Highway 36 (to the South) Highway 44 (to the north).
5. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area covers several parks, open space preserves and recreational points. It is stretch over 50 miles across the north-western boundary of the Los Angeles basin encompassing a total area of 150,000 acres which includes coastal marine and lush Mediterranean ecosystems. The Santa Monica Mountains is also home to one of the largest protected areas of the Mediterranean-type ecosystem. This recreational area is also home to 1,000 different plant species and 500 unique animal species, with about 30 endangered plants and animals thriving. Being here, one can witness golden eagle flying overhead and even some beautiful bobcats. Within the region lies several waterfalls, hiking trails, spectacular beaches, and a magnificent city view. Santa Monica Mountains holds one of the significant coastal marine environments anywhere in the world. The entire recreational area houses three state parks, 2 National parks, a historic park, and a national forest. Only non-motorized and electric vehicles are allowed within the zone.
How to Reach: Transportation from the centre of Los Angeles is frequently operated to several entrances of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, including Newbury Park, Woodland Hills, and Topanga, Malibu, Agoura Hills, Calabasas.
6. Channel Islands National Park
One of the prettiest National parks in California, the Channel Islands National Park, comprises five beautiful islands. All the islands within the park offer unparalleled opportunity to seek one of the unique environments. A gateway from the hustle and bustle of metro city life, this national park takes you near a more remote location and very different ocean environments than most of the National parks in California. The Channel Islands National Park is also home to significant cultural and natural resources spread over 249,561 acres, out of which the 79,019 acres is just the federal land. The abundance of sand dunes, crystal clear ocean water, rugged coastlines, authentic sea caves, islands, mountain ranges, and wildlife (both land and marine) make it a National park that is difficult to find anywhere in the world. Camping, hiking, boating, sea kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkelling are some of the popular activities operated within the Channel Island National park. Autumn is the best time to visit the park for experiencing comfortable weather, fewer winds and when most of the marine animals are spotted at the water level.
How to Reach: The Channel Islands National Park is accessible from Ventura Harbour and Oxnard only via seaplanes, boats, and ferries. Motorbikes and cycles are not allowed to carry along on the route towards the park.
7. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is defiantly one of the most magnificent sights in California State. The name might sound threatening; however, visiting Death Valley is undoubtedly a treat. It is the lowest National Park in entire North America and home to one of the most considerable environmental extremes found in the United States. The National park boundaries cover four different valleys, including the Death Valley, Southern Eureka valley, the Saline Valley, and the northern Panamint Valley. The park area houses extensive salt flats that goes longer and longer but are worth every sight. Being here, one can explore lands with several vast and small sand dunes, mysteriously moving rocks and the Bad water Basin, which is 282 feet below sea level (the lowest point in entire North America). For travel seekers who want to explore the world down below the sea level, Death Valley National Park is defiantly a visit-worthy place for them. The park can be freezing during the winter, with the temperature dropping into minus and boiling and dry during summers when the temperature reaches up to 60 degree Celsius. However, from Mid-October to Mid-April, exploring Death Valley national park takes you close to one of the rarest yet remarkable experiences of life.
How to Reach: The highway 395 in Lone Pine towards highway 136 southeast to Highway 190 takes you towards the west of the Death Valley national park. However, highway 374 and 267 leads you towards the southwest into the park.
8. Sequoia National Park
A 404,064-acre wilder spread, the Sequoia National Park is home to giant sequoias and groves of big trees, some of which are counted amongst the oldest and largest living things on earth. The largest tree here is known to be and is named “the General Sherman Tree”. It is heightened almost 274.9 feet with the base circumference of 102.6 feet. The tree lies along with many other immense groves of trees in the Giant Forest section. Most of the forest belonging here will make you feel tiny when standing along with them. However, there’s much more to do within the Sequoia National Park, including snowshoeing, snow sledding, skiing, hiking, and exploring the huge and tiniest caves. Another must-visit location in the park is the tunnel log alongside the Crescent Meadow road within the Giant Forest, where the beauty can capture photography enthusiasts for an entire day. When here, make sure you hike up to the Moro rock for the mesmerizing view of the Great Western Divide and the western half of Sequoia National Park.
How to Reach: For reaching Sequoia, take California Highway 198 via Three Rivers and Visalia, which will further take you towards the Ash Mountain entrance. It is the shortest yet most scenic route from Los Angeles.
9. Kings Canyon National Park
Last yet, one of the most popular national parks in California is the Kings Canyon National Park. It comprises glaciers, valleys, mountains, watersheds and abundance of plants and wildlife species. The sky-scraping trees, distinctive rock outcroppings, deep valleys and panoramic views make it one of the beautiful sights in California. It is one part of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park that makes one of the best sights seeing destination within the State. Kings Canyon is also compared to the Yosemite National park due to being home to one of the deepest canyons in North America. When here, do explore the Cedar Grove, The Nation’s Christmas Tree (the General Grant tree, second largest in the world), the nearby Grant Grove Village, high granite walls alongside Zumwalt meadows, Grant Grove Stables, and the Boyden cavern. Kings Canyon also features miles of camping, horse-riding, picnicking, and hiking trails that attract the adventure minds of all age.
How to Reach: The northern entrance and the western entrance via Fresno of the park is connected with Highway 180. The route is preferably built for more significant and longer vehicles.