7 of the Best National Parks in California

California is home to nine national parks, which is more than any other state. Each park has its own unique features and appeal and they differ immensely from each other. From the foreboding desert of Death Valley to the balmy Pacific Ocean archipelago of the Channel Islands, the diversity of The Golden State’s National Parks is remarkable. There’s something for everyone! Ready to explore? Here are some of the best National Parks in California.

7 of the Best National Parks in California

1. Death Valley

Death Valley is the hottest National Park in California. In fact, during the summer, it is one of the hottest places on Earth! It is also the largest National Park in California with over 3-million acres of designated wilderness. However, despite its name, a great diversity of life survives here. You’ll find vast fields of stunning wildflowers and lush oases that provide habitats for animals and plants. The scenery in Death Valley feels very much out-of-this-world. It is a landscape of contrasts.

2. Joshua Tree

Located in the heart of southeastern California, this breathtaking landscape is known as The Place Where Deserts Meet as it is home to the two distinct ecosystems of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. Joshua Tree National Park is a place of incredible myths and legends. Again, this is another desert area full of otherworldly charm and dynamic flora including its peculiar trees. For serenity, scenery and stars, this place is hard to beat.

best national parks california

3. Yosemite National Park

This World Heritage site is famous for its waterfalls, deep valleys, sweeping meadows, ancient giant sequoias and vast wilderness areas. With over 4-million visitors a year, Yosemite is not only the most visited national park in California but one of the most visited national parks in America. Perched in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, this park is a mecca for rock climbers and adventure seekers as well as those who just want to reacquaint themselves with nature the great outdoors.

4. Sequoia & Kings Canyon

Located in the southern Sierra Nevada in Tulare and Fresno counties, Sequoia & Kings Canyon is where you’ll find some of the world’s largest trees. It’s actually two different parks, The Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. These are the lands of giants and it’s where you’ll find the General Grant Tree, the world’s second-largest tree. Apart from Sequoias, you’ll also find huge mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons and vast caverns to explore, or admire, depending on how adventurous you are.

5. Channel Islands

If you want to escape civilisation, head to the Channel Islands. Located just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, you reach these five remarkable islands via a one-hour ferry ride from Los Angeles. Due to thousands of years of isolation, the Channel Islands National Park is a wonderful place to see the unique animal, plant, and archaeological resources found nowhere else on Earth. You really get to experience coastal southern California as it once was and this picture-perfect paradise is an idyllic place to escape to for those looking to relax and recharge.

6. Pinnacles National Park

Some 23-million years ago, volcanoes erupted and flowed and began forming the unique landscape of Pinnacles National Park. As you explore the area you’ll venture through chaparral and oak woodlands and enter rare talus caves. From the canyon floor, towering rock spires surround and, if you look up, you’ll spot prairie and peregrine falcons, golden eagles and the endangered California condor. Pinnacles National Park is a wonderland for wildlife lovers.

7. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in northern California, around three hours northeast of Sacramento. The jagged peaks of the park give away its eruptive past as do the steaming fumaroles and numerous volcanoes. But you’ll also find much more peaceful areas including meadows carpeted with wildflowers and clear, calm mountain lakes. Lassen Volcanic National Park is great for hiking and there is a network of trails through the forest and around the lakes that connects with the Pacific Crest Trail.

Melanie May

Melanie is an intrepid solo traveller, endlessly curious about people, places and food. She is a fan of slow travel and loves exploring the world by mouth, discovering a culture through its food. Having backpacked her way around the world she turned her wanderlust into a career and is now a full-time travel writer.

View stories