Whether you live in California or plan on visiting this summer, you need to check some of these National Parks off of your bucket list. California is one of my favourite stars on the flag, the Golden State literally has it all when it comes to natural landscape diversity. Whether you feel like lazing on a beach, walking through a desert-like scene, hiking up a rocky mountain face or wandering through a lush forest, you will find it here.
We’ve all heard of Yosemite at one point or another, it’s California’s most visited National Park and one of the top outdoor destinations in the United States. Located in Northern California, it hosts magnificent granite rock formation and stunning towering waterfalls. The most famous natural monuments in the area are Half Dome at the end of an unforgettable 24km hike and Vernal Fall, an impressive waterfall reaching almost 100m tall. Yosemite National Park is open all year long but beware of closures due to snow that can last until June.
In Sequoia National Park you are guaranteed to feel tiny, like a mouse passing through an elephant’s legs only you won’t be scaring anything away here. Home of the largest trees not only in California or in the country but in the whole world, Giant Forest, on of the several sequoia groves in the park is where General Sherman tree can be found, the largest of all at over 80m tall and 10m diameter. This true force of nature comes at a price, Sequoia National park is located 320km from Los Angeles, which can make day trips difficult but luckily there are plenty of options for accommodation in the area.
Kings Canyon hosts the Great Western Divide, probably the largest sub range in the Sierra Nevada. Characterized by stunning rocky cliffs on both sides of a large granite canyon shaped by the passage of glaciers and lush forest full of wildlife. It has a very similar feel to Yosemite but here you will be avoiding the crowds. It is a little drive away from LA but on the up side, it is right next to Sequoia National Park and only one pass is needed to access both National Parks.
While Sequoia National Park has the largest trees in the world, the Redwoods actually hosts the tallest species on earth, they might be skinnier than their cousin but you will sure be humbled by their sky scrapping head of leaves. There isn’t only one park along the northwestern coastline but multiple areas where these trees can be observed. The tallest living tree in the world towering at a high 115.7m has been named Hyperin, but rare are the lucky ones who will get to see it has it’s location is being kept secret to ensure a long and quiet life. The clash of the red bark and the green lush ferns creates a truly enchanting forest.
While the towering rock formations called pinnacles were created over 23 millions years ago by volcanic activity, Pinnacles National Park is the baby of National Parks in the state joining the family only in 2013. It offers a wide of activities, the most popular being rock climbing, exploring the numerous limestone caves and caverns and bird watching. Pinnacles is home of many birds including one of the rarest bird in the world: the California Condor. Last but not least, it is impossible to drive across the park, you can only get through on foot, which ensures the preservation of the habitat and gives you a truly wild experience.
This park gets its name from a strange looking tree species native of the Mojave Desert, the Joshua trees that thrive in this dry landscape covering over 800,000 acres. The main feature attracting adventurers from around the world are the uncommon rock formations offering the perfect climbable boulders glittering under the desert sun. The skies also offer a unique spectacle, free from city pollution and best-observed October through December when meteor showers are in full swing. The extraordinary landscape has drawn musicians and artists over the years in search of inspiration.
Probably the hottest and driest place in North America reaching highs of 50 degrees Celsius in the summer, Death Valley National Park was named after an unfortunate gold rusher died in 1849 trying to cross the desertic landscape. Although this might not seem like a place you would want to visit, it’s otherworldly terrain draws adventurers all year round in the largest National Park in the state. From the sand dunes to snowy mountains tops, the vivid and colourful scene makes for an unforgettable hike through a truly magnificent site.
Point Reyes offers Pacific Coastal landscapes with stunning sea cliffs and remote bays along wild beaches, only a handful of them can still be found in California. The site welcomes each year a number of hikers, campers, wildlife and bird watchers coming for the incredible diversity in fauna and flora from birds, seals and elks to whales passing by in the winter. Point Reyes offers stunning backcountry campgrounds only accessible by foot or boat for a unique experience. Some even start the US’s longest hike right here, the American Discovery Trail that crosses the country all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
1915 was marked by Lassen’s last volcanic blast, the area was immediately protected to preserve and observe the evolving volcanic landscape. Still today, over 100 years later, the damage can be noticed with massive patches of hardened lava but life has come back with flora flourishing in between rocks. 150 miles of hiking trails through impressive volcanic features map out the park. Sulphur vents, steamy hot springs and bubbly pools are results of the warm soil composition. In the winter, the weather completely switches and the park gets an incredible amount of snow making for fantastic snowshoeing and backcountry skiing.
California’s most remote national park is a combination of 5 islands that are often referred to as the Galapagos of America. Thousands of species of animals and plants can be found in the park and over 100 of them are native to this area. This truly unique wildlife experience can be appreciated through the numerous hiking trails following coastal sea cliffs or by kayak and snorkelling through sea caves along the shoreline. This isolated and paradise-like beauty of nature should be on everyone bucket list.
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