Photo by Tom Hilton – Wikimedia

The Best Parks in California


The parks in California are made up of varied ecosystems, you will not find the same features or attractions in each park. This makes it even more inviting to explore as many parks as possible.

These parks offer several activities such as hiking, camping, rock climbing and winter sports too. There are also sea caves to explore at the Channel Islands.

Millions of local and international tourists visit the parks every year to admire their natural beauty. The best part about these parks in California is that one can visit them at any time of the year.

From snow-capped mountains, glistening beaches, volcanoes to deserts, the list is endless. The parks are home to different species of animals some of which are rare.

Here are the top 10 best parks to visit while in California.   

1. Channel Islands National Park

Photo by Toddclark – Wikimedia

This park has been nicknamed America’s Galapagos. It is made up of five islands spread along the coast of Santa Barbara.

There are over 2,000 species of plants and animals in the Channel Islands national park. About 150 species of wildlife are unique to these islands.

Some marine life to look out for include whales and dolphins. There are also several types of birds, perfect for birdwatching and photography.

During summer, you will be lucky to catch the humpback and blue whales. This time of the year is also best for kayaking and diving.

Sunsets at the Channel Islands are magnificent. The island’s landscape gets illuminated revealing the natural beauty of the park.    

Activities: Kayaking, bird watching, camping.

2. Lassen Volcanic National Park

This park is famous for its sulphur vents, hot springs, and bubbling mud pools. The park is set in a volcanic landscape with lush green forests and crystal clear lakes.

Lassen volcanic national park is located on a dormant volcano, its last active eruption was in 1914. There are several hiking trails as well as rock climbing opportunities.

Lake Hellen is found at the foot of the volcano and is the perfect place for a panoramic view of the park.

During winter, lake Hellen gets covered by ice since it is at high altitudes. The ice melts in summer leaving behind a glassy turquoise water body. 

Activities: Picnicking, hiking, sightseeing.

3. Yosemite National Park

Photo by Diliff – Wikimedia

The Yosemite national park is the crown jewel of all parks in California. This park is home to the Sierra Nevada mountains.

It is very popular with nature lovers, rock climbers and nature photographers. Over 4 million tourists visit the park annually  

There are over 1,100 square miles to explore in this park. Hiking, wildlife watching and camping are the popular activities here.

The Tuolumne Meadows has some of the best sights in the park. River Tuolumne acts as a trail marker for hikers linking the Pacific Crest Trail.

This is one of the parks in California that can be accessed all year long. During winter, the powdery snow is perfect for cross-country and backcountry skiing. 

Activities: hiking, camping, skiing, rafting, fishing, rock climbing and snowshoeing.    

4. Point Reyes National Seashore

This park covers 80 miles of coastline and is a beautiful nature preserve. It is home to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals.

Point Reyes national park is located north of San Francisco making it a great escape from the busy city. It is an hour’s drive from the city.

Once there, hiking boots on, one can opt to hike or get on a bike and explore the park. This is one of the parks that offer a backcountry experience.

Activities: camping, hiking.

5. Joshua Tree National Park

A Jumbo Rocks Campground site By Joshua Tree National Park management – Wikimedia

Joshua Tree National Park is a magical world of big boulders, breath-taking sunsets. There are several fun activities to do in this park during the day and at night too.

It is nestled between Colorado and Mojave desserts and is a popular park for families and solo travellers too. There are more than 120 camping sites with stunning sceneries.

Popular sights here include the Skull rock. The park has some unusual trees that bloom during the spring season.

It was named by the Mormons because of the interesting tree shapes. They believed the trees resembled Joshua from the bible pointing to the promised land.

Activities: camping, hiking, rock climbing.

6. Redwood National Park

Redwood national park is located in the northern coastal region of California. It is home to two-fifths of the coastal redwoods in the world.

The towering trees, clean air, tranquil streams are some of the things to look forward to at this park. Several hiking trails are ranging from moderate to difficult.

From the Fern Canyon trail to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, this park sits on more than 100,000 acres of land. Trees in this park are towering at 350-feet high. 

A fun activity unique to this park is the gondola high above the redwood trees. The sky trail serves glorious views of the skyline with mountains and the ocean at the horizon.   

Activities: swimming, hiking, wildlife watching, picnicking, camping and scenic driving.

7. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Photo by Tom Hilton – Wikimedia

These two may be separate parks but operate as a single unit, it’s a pay for one get one park free. This is because they are adjacent to each other.

The Sequoia forest has massive trees above swift rivers. The trees here are some of the largest in the world.    

In wintertime, the hills at the park get covered in snow, creating a picturesque landscape. There are several caves as well as crystal caverns that are ready to be explored.  

There are guides to offer educational tours at the marble caves.

Activities: scenic drive, hiking

8. Devils Postpile National Monument

Located in the heart of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, is the Devils Postpile National Park.

Its main attraction is the impressive columns of basalt rocks that have charmed visitors for several centuries. The rocks were formed after a volcanic eruption.

Lava streams down the mountain froze and formed the hexagonal shapes we see today. Other than the rock formations, there is the 100-foot rainbow waterfall as well as Mammoth lake.  

Most visitors enjoy their summertime by this lake. There are festivals and swimming competitions during the summer that attracts several visitors.

Activities: swimming, photography, summer festivals.

9. Pinnacles National Park

Photo by Inklein – Wikimedia

This is one of the newest national parks in California. It is made up of rugged rock formations and cliffs. It has a contrasting landscape that formed during a volcanic more than 23 million years ago.

With each changing season, the scenery at the park morphs into a colourful nature haven. It gets hot during summer but the nights are cooler perfect for camping and stargazing.

Being one of the little known parks as well as smaller in size, it is one of the easy parks to navigate through.

Activities: hiking, camping

10. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is one of the most amazing parks in California and the entire United States. The temperatures here are usually very high but cool down during spring and late fall.

It got its name back in 1849 when a gold miner died while attempting to cross the valley.

Visitors flock to this park during spring. There are dynamic environments in this park such as salt crystals and super-sized dunes.

The desert has bright colours and used to be home to the Timbisha tribe. This tribe lived on the valley floor as well as the fertile mountains. 

One can also find lodging options and seasonal camping grounds.

Activities: camping, sightseeing.