These national parks make California an unforgettable beauty!
Heading to the Golden State soon? Be sure to visit some of these parklands that are known for their stunning landscapes.brand stories Updated: May 30, 2018 11:00 IST
Ask a local to list the best getaways in California, and he or she would be sure to mention the incredible national parks dotting the state. Here’s a lowdown on some of the best ones.
Joshua Tree National Park
Boulders and buttresses, rugged mountains, gold mining ruins, desert plains dotted with the oddball trees—this is one wonderful place. Joshua Tree, nicknamed “J-Tree” by locals, lies at an ecological crossroads, where the high Mojave Desert meets the low Colorado Desert.
The result is a unique desert flora, including those wacky namesake trees (a type of yucca). Joshua Tree’s beauty shines around the clock, with vibrant sunsets melting into nights filled with uncountable stars.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Famous for their giant sequoias, soaring mountains, deep canyons, and roaring rivers, this set of parks have plenty to see, even though they are not as well known as Yosemite, roughly 75 miles/120 kilometres north. Within the borders of Sequoia/Kings Canyon are Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States at 14,494 feet/4,417 meters, and the Kings River Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America.
Pinnacles National Park
California’s newest national park is home to cliffs, crags, and cave formations that were formed by an ancient volcano. Shaking and quaking along the San Andreas Fault carried volcanic rocks from the eruption, actually 200 miles/321 kilometres southeast, to their present home at this spot in the Salinas Valley. Now, millions of years later, the site is a stunner.
Yosemite National Park
Famous for its plunging waterfalls and massive granite faces, this unparalleled parkland, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, attracts 4 million visitors each year—with good reason. Nearly the size of Rhode Island and covering more than 1,100 square miles/284,899 hectares, it features unforgettable natural beauty, from the sheer walls of Yosemite Valley to the alpine beauty of Tuolumne Meadows.
Redwood National Park
Even if you’re a basketball player, you can’t help feeling downright puny in this stunning preserve, where soaring redwoods line up like living skyscrapers. Start your trip at the excellent Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center, one mile south of Orick. Of the five visitor centres in Redwood National and State Parks, this one is the largest, with numerous exhibits and a video on redwood ecology, a great bookstore, and access to a sandy beach.
Death Valley National Park
The largest national park outside of Alaska, Death Valley is an unfathomable place. The park’s 3.3 million acres /1.34 million hectares encompass mountain-sized sand dunes, below-sea-level salt flats, mysterious singing rocks, and colourful sandstone canyons. Extremes are the norm: Death Valley is the hottest and driest place in America, with summer temperatures peaking above 120 F°/49°C, and an average rainfall of 2 inches/5 cm per year.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Steaming sulphur vents, splattering mud pots, boiling springs—these lively features show that the Earth is not quiet in this fascinating park in the state’s wild northeast corner. The park’s signature volcano, Lassen Peak, last blew its top in May 1914, and its volcanic outbursts continued for three years. Today, things have settled down, and trails and overlooks let you safely see and learn about volcanic activity. Plus, there are miles of lush forests and sparkling lakes to explore.
Channel Islands National Park
Five islands off the Southern California coast comprise one of America’s most remote and magical national parks. Visitors arrive on the islands by boat (boats depart regularly from Ventura and Oxnard) or a small plane, and then use their hiking boots or kayaks to get around. Revered for its endemic plants and plentiful wildlife, the “Galapagos of North America” has no lodgings, stores, or restaurants—a place that draws you in without a lot of extra trappings.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Jutting dramatically out into the blue Pacific, the over 70,000-acre/28,732-hectare Point Reyes National Seashore almost seems to break away from the Northern California coast. The coastal preserve, some 30 miles/48 kilometres north of San Francisco, protects more than 1,500 animal and plant species and 80 miles/130 kilometres of the shoreline.