California is the most beautiful state in the USA (totally bias here!) and is filled with plenty of National Parks. We love the outdoors and wanted to share a short introduction to each park and our experiences at each one. Hopefully these will inspire you to visit one or more! Below, the parks are listed from North to South.
Redwood National and State Parks
Located at the border between California and Oregon, the region is lush and is a prime growing grounds for giant, majestic Redwood trees. This National Park is actually made up of many smaller parks all boarding together and are filled with some of the tallest trees on earth. The three state parks: Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park along with Redwood National Park contain miles of hiking trails through the forest as well as along the coast. One of our favorite spots in the region is Fern Canyon located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This area is very wet and moist (how ferns grow!), so be prepared to get muddy and wet!
Lassen Volcanic National Park
This park is known for it’s bubbly sulphuric landscape. If you are a geology nerd, this place is for you. Although the coolest areas of the park are quite smelly, it’s pretty amazing to see smoke, steam and natural water and mud bubbling and boiling. Our favorite hike was to Bumpass Hell, the park’s largest hydrothermal area. We love that this park isn’t as crowded as some of the other National Parks.
Pinnacles National Park
This is the closest National Park to the Bay Area and the Newest National Park in the USA (as of 2013). The park is filled with unique rock formations and caves that make it a great family friendly place to visit. Many climbers come here for outdoor climbing and its always fun to grab a flashlight and explore the bat caves. During our visit spotted a bat hiding in one of the dark corners! Make sure to check the park website since the caves are sometimes closed due to bats nesting. We went for a weekend of camping and had fun rock scrambling and checking out Bear Gulch Reservoir.
Yosemite National Park
One of the most famous National Parks in California, Yosemite a must for visitors and locals alike. Towering granite mountains, gorgeous waterfalls, and breathtaking scenery surrounds you. The Yosemite Valley is the jewel of the park but there are many back country hikes and areas such as Hetch Hetchy Reservoir or the Giant Sequoias Grove that are also worthwhile to explore. We’ve visited in every season and our favorite is Fall- the trees are covered in yellow, orange, and red and the summer crowds have thinned out. But really any season you go has its perks! Check out our Yosemite Guide for further information about this park.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
This National Park is conveniently located in the middle of California so it’s fairly easy to get to from the North or South. Sequoia National Park is adjacent to Kings Canyon National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Like the name suggests, huge sequoia trees are scattered throughout the park. Make sure to visit the General Sherman Tree. It’s the world’s largest tree measured by volume. During our visit to this park we did a two-night backpacking trip to Twin Lakes, one of the many Alpine lakes in the back country. It was glorious turning the corner of to arrive at the lake and instantly felt like all the effort was worth it. Jumping into the lake to cool off was even better!
Death Valley National Park
This park is not as scary as it sounds, but it sure is hot out here, especially in the summer. It is the hottest, driest, and lowest of the National Parks in the United States, The Badwater Basin area is the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere and the lowest point in North America. Beautiful landscape and sand dunes can be found throughout the park with lots of hiking trails and picnic areas. Please be sure to bring along lots of water for your trip since the park is located far from any towns. Our favorite moment was watching the sun set on the sand dunes and feeling the air cool down as the sun disappeared.
Channel Islands National Park
We still need to visit this park!
Joshua Tree National Park
An escape for many artists and musicians, Joshua Tree is a unique place like no other. The park is known for its unique rock formations formed over millions of years from water washing away the earth around them. These formations are popular for rock climbers. Camping is available within the park, or there are plenty of lodging options nearby. We highly suggest staying a few nights in or near the park to get the full experience of seeing the million of stars that appear at night! We had the pleasure of staying at this amazing Airbnb called the Hiking Cabin located right at one of the entrances to the park. It screams Joshua Tree vibes!