Welcome to our post of images and videos highlighting the nine national parks in California that you must see.
Great National Parks of California
If you ask a local to make a list of the ten best places to visit in California, nine of the slots are probably going to be taken by the state’s incredible national parks. Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Redwood, Death Valley…the national parks in California contain some of the most jaw-dropping views and landscapes on earth.
They are home to all manner of extremes: the world’s largest tree – General Sherman that sands strong in Sequoia; one of the nation’s highest waterfalls – Yosemite Falls in Yosemite and massive spires and sheer canyons in Pinnacles.
Explore for yourself this dream list of otherworldly national parks in California and learn about smart tips and insider travel ideas on what to do and see.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts more than 4 million visitors every year – with good reason. It is a parkland of unparalleled natural beauty, from the alpine charm of Tuolumne Meadows to the sheer walls of Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite is famous all over the world for its plunging waterfalls, giant sequoia groves, pure streams and spectacular granite cliffs. In addition to the stunning glacier-chiseled geology, the park has abundant wildlife and state-of-the-art recreational facilities, making it one of the crown jewels of the nation’s national park system.
Almost 95 percent of the park is natural wilderness, making it a prime stop for any visitor looking to experience nature at its beautiful, wild best.
Yosemite is also home to twenty percent of California’s 7,000 plant species. You will find upper montane forest, alpine, subalpine vegetation and oak woodland among other vegetation, including 160 rare types of plants.
The meadows provide vital habitat for wildlife. Animals come to feed on the rich grasses and use the flowing waters found there. Predators, in turn, also come here to hunt for food.
A year-round tourist destination, Yosemite National Park in California attracts hiking, rafting, bird-watching, fishing and rock-climbing enthusiasts.
Joshua Tree National Park
The second largest national park in California is Joshua Tree National Park covering close to 800,000 acres of desert, and infinitely variable. It can appear to be unwelcoming, bordering on hostile during the heat of the summer, but, in fact, it is quite delicate.
This is a land sculpted and chiseled by strong winds, sudden powerful torrents of rain and the usual climatic extremes typical of such areas. The end result is a park that is not short of beautiful landscape formations, patiently shaped by the forces of nature.
Expect to see transcendental trees that dot the expanse of the park – with an unusually tall species of yucca (Joshua Tree) being the most common. It is from these unique trees that the park borrows its name. Viewed from the outside, the park only hints at its hidden beauty. Get up-close and you will find that this desert park is full of beauty and life.
The real stars of this park, however, are the rock formations: hugger-mugger piles of oversized boulders that gleam with crystals in the Californian sun. Rock-climbers troop in from all corners of the world to conquer these boulders, but you can still have a blast around this granite jungle even if you are not a pro.
The other stars of Joshua Tree National Park are the stars themselves. When there is no humidity and the skies are devoid of light pollution, the Milky Way is overpoweringly vivid. For an unforgettable experience, schedule your trip between November and December when meteor showers are common.
Channel Islands National Park
One of America’s most remote and absolutely charming national parks is the Channel Islands National Park, located off the coast of Southern California. It comprises of five islands which visitors can access via boat or small plane after which they can hike or kayak to get around.
Channel Island National Park Video – Source : 58NationalParks
Channel Islands National Park is renowned for its endemic plants and wildlife that live in a habitat that is virtually undisturbed by human activities. There are no lodgings, stores, shops or restaurants here – it is a magical place that enamors without a lot of extra trappings.
Each of the five islands is a captivating world unto itself – the miniature versions of the old California that many tourists may have thought was lost ages ago. In this ocean sanctuary, it is all about unending, pristine beauty, solitude and the chance to completely unwind.
For company you will have over 2,000 species of flora and fauna, with 145 of them unique to the islands, not found anywhere else in the world. There are a few designated camping sites, and it is advisable to carry all the necessary gear since supplies are not available in the islands.
Channel Islands National Park provides a wonderful break from the hustle and bustle of urban life. You will find lots of tranquility as you hike, camp, kayak, birdwatch, snorkel and takes pictures with friends and family.
Sequoia National Park
There is something simply riveting and awakening about Sequoia National Park. The park is known for its giant sequoia trees, the world’s largest. You will not find more sequoia trees anywhere else in the world. It is therefore fitting that the world’s biggest tree, the General Sherman tree is found in this park.
This incredible tree grows in the Giant Forest where it is in good company among five of the ten largest trees which are growing in the world today.
The Giant Forest and General Sherman Tree – Source : Beautiful Places
And the landscape is as dramatic as the trees: towering granite monoliths, limestone caves, pristine lakes and reservoirs, glacier-carved canyons and world-class whitewater are all found here.
With elevations ranging from 1,000 ft in the lower canyons to 12,000 ft high peaks resting on the crest of the Sierra, nature has made sure that you get to enjoy panoramic views in a wide range of settings.
Bobcats, foxes, ground squirrels, mountain lions and mule deer are some of the animals which live in this national park. And if you love a mountain lodge experience, the Wuksachi Lodge, along with its rich menu, cocktail lounge and primly-located guest rooms will not disappoint.
Pinnacles National Park
Until recently, the dramatic cliffs found 64 kilometers southeast of Salinas were referred to as Pinnacles National Monument. However, in early 2013, they became the country’s newest national park.
The huge spires and canyons that the park is famous for were formed 23 million years ago when several volcanoes erupted, flowed and slid to create the unique landscape of Pinnacle National Park.
Source : finleyholiday
Visitors journey through oak woodlands, canyon bottoms, vast grasslands and chaparral. Rare talus caves lead to prominent rock spires bustling with life: golden eagles, California condors and the prairie and Peregrine falcons. This park is one of the 4 sites in which captive-raised condors are released to start life in the wild. The numbers are now on the rise after reaching a low of only 22 birds during the early 1980s.
While towering rock spires, canyons and condors are what draw many tourists to Pinnacles National Park, there are not all that there is to see here. Visitors can explore systems of talus caves which are home to big-eared bats, red-legged frogs and other animals. The caves are dark and cool inside, and their roofs are massive rocks hanging steadily over your head.
If you want to stay in the sun, there are 32 miles of trails that come to life in the spring with blooming California poppies, mariposa lilies and other beautiful wildflowers. You may also see lots of bees, bobcats, snakes, black-tailed deer and coyotes.
Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park is a vast preserve of breathtaking beauty. Based around the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains the park contains deep, glaciated canyons, many small lakes, waterfalls and meadows as well as more than 20 peaks, all higher than 13,000 feet.
The park also protects giant sequoia trees which grow near the southern boundary that is shared with another national park; Sequoia. These two parks share miles of boundary although congress created them at different times. They are managed as one unit, with the same entrance fee of $5 per head, but Sequoia National Park has more of the huge trees.
Kings Canyon, Yosemite and Zion National Parks are similar in that the main attraction is a deep valley which is only accessible from one end, creating a front and back country. Kings River Canyon is frighteningly deep – one of the deepest in the US – and the sight is one to behold. The park also protects the southern forks of both the Kings and the San Joaquin Rivers – some of the most pristine in all of California.
Enjoy gazing at the giant trees and if you have more time and company, try conquering Mount Whitney, one of the tallest mountains in North America.
Redwood National and State Parks
If you have visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, you are already familiar with the world’s largest trees. However, Redwood National and State Parks boasts having the taller trees, including the 115.7m Hyperion – the tallest living tree in the world.
Ranger Talk – Redwood National Park – Source : finleyholiday
When the author John Steinbeck stood among redwood trees, the tallest living things on earth, he described the experience as a “cathedral rush”. Even the tallest basketball players will feel downright puny in the presence coastal redwoods
Start your trip at the wonderful Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center, 1.6 km south of Orick. It is the largest of the 5 visitor centers found in Redwood National and State Parks, with many exhibits and great videos on redwood ecology.
Next, drive a little bit, starting 8km at the Klamath River Overlook where the river meets the Pacific Ocean. At 198m above sea level, this overlook point provides great views of migrating gray whales. Then drive south on the Coastal Drive and enjoy other wonderful views and historical sites. As you head to the picnic area at High Bluff Overlook, keep an eye out for whales, sea lions, pelicans and thousands of sea birds resting on offshore rocks.
Death Valley National Park
It sounds a bit ominous, but don’t let the name scare you. Some of the features have chilling names such as the Funeral Mountains, Hell’s Gate and Dead Man Pass, reflecting the perils and troubles endured by the early pioneers as they traversed and inhabited the region in search of gold and silver.
Death Valley National Park is the hottest and driest of all the national parks in California, with temperatures being extremely high most of the year. But visit in the winter or early spring and you will be surprised to find a beautiful place bubbling with life. The park is home to many plants and animals which are used to the harsh desert environment. Examples include coyote, bighorn sheep, Death Valley pupfish as well as creosote bush.
From the beautiful wildflowers that bloom in spring to the enticing ghost towns, historic mining operations and the wildlife that lives here, Death Valley National Park has something for everyone. Visitors will also find numerous colorful rocks and canyons, miles upon miles of pristine sand dunes and unique evaporative salt features.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park is famous for its volcanic features such as fumaroles, mud springs and shield volcanoes, but northern California has an equivalent of its own: Lassen Volcanic National Park, located 80km south of Redding. The world’s largest volcanic dome, the Lassen Peak resides here. Larsen last erupted in 1915, laying waste to large swaths of neighboring land.
After the eruption, the national park was created so as to preserve the devastated area for future study. It has 4 shield volcanoes: Mount Harkness, Red Mountain, Prospect Peak and Raker Peak. All of them are 7,000-8,000 feet above sea level.
Lassen Volcanic National Park has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. More than 700 species of flowering plants grow here, providing shelter and food to animals and insects. Some of the plants include sugar pines, white fir, Jeffery Pines and ponderosa. There are miles of forests and clear lakes to explore too.
Despite all the underground heat as a result of volcanic activity, Lassen also receives epic snowfalls, converting the park into a winter wonderland frequented by snowshoers and backcountry skiers.
In summary, the 9 national parks in California offer the nature enthusiast a huge variety of parks and natural scenery to explore. Whether it’s hiking, cycling, climbing, camping, backpacking or watching wildlife, the California outdoors should be at the top of every nature lovers bucketlist.