10 Most Beautiful National Parks in California

10 Most Beautiful National Parks in California
© Leong Chee Onn | Dreamstime.com

California is often called the Golden State or the Movie State. The US state is located directly on the west coast of the USA on the Pacific Ocean. California has something to offer for everyone. Besides fascinating cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco there are mountains and beaches as well as lots of national parks. In these national parks California offers pure nature. In addition to breathtaking landscapes, there are also a variety of wild animals and wonderful plants to admire. In the following we present the 10 most beautiful National Parks in California.

10. Devils Postpile National Monument

Devils Postpile National Monument is located in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The center of the area, which covers 3.2 square kilometers, is a 20-meter-high cliff made of regular basalt columns. The area was placed under protection in 1911 at the instigation of President William Howard Taft. Since 1916 there is the official park administration. The national park is located in the Reds Meadow Valley, a high valley on the western flank of the Sierra Nevada, and the basalt cliff dates back to a lava flow that erupted here a good 100,000 years ago above the present area.

The Inyo National Forest extends around the protected area. Shuttle buses enter the area between the end of June and the end of October, as private vehicles are not allowed in this national park. The national park area is only accessible from the end of June to the end of October. There is an upscale hotel in the park area, Reds Meadow Resort. There is also a simple campground. Trekking tours of several days are offered by the national park administration. Everyone can and may explore the national park on his own.

9. Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore is a protected area located on the Pacific Coast in Marin County / California – just outside San Francisco, so to speak. The area of the present National Park was a habitat of the Coast Miwoks. The 287.6 square kilometer area is located on the Point Reyes Peninsula, or a small strip of ocean. U.S. President John F. Kennedy established this national park in 1962. Bishop pine dominates the granite soils to the south of the peninsula, while Douglas fir dominates the shale and sandstone soils to the south.

The beaches of the national park are breeding grounds for piping plovers and crested quail, California’s symbolic state bird. Offshore, coho salmon and sea lions frolic. During the peak whale-watching season – between late December and late April – no automobile traffic is allowed in the park. A shuttle bus system is offered as an alternative. The tourist infrastructure of the park is rather sparse. In the hinterland there are camping sites for multi-day hikers.

8. Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park is located on Channel Islands, a group of islands off the coast off the southern mainland of California. The national park encompasses five of the eight islands in the archipelago and covers an area of 1009.1 square kilometers. More specifically, Santa Barbara Island, Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island and San Miguel Island are part of the national park. Half of the area of the national park is underwater and covers about six nautical miles around the islands.

Animals that live in the national park include seagulls, sea lions, cormorants, dolphins and the California pelicans, and blue whales. On the land area, in addition to the plankton in the sea, about 2000 other plants are native to the islands. On the mainland there are two visitor centers, on Santa Barbara and Ventura. Two so-called visitor contact stations are located on Santa Barbara Island and Anacapa Island. Information is also available about the island gray fox, which is found only in this national park and on six of the eight Channel Islands. Of course there are more animals to discover on the islands.

7. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are two national parks located in California’s Sierra Nevada. Both national parks border each other and are managed by a National Park Service. Both parks cover an area of 3504.5 square kilometers. The parks have high mountains, deep canyons, and very tall trees, the giant sequoias. The geology of the parks is unique. There are sights here at an altitude of about 412 meters to 4418 meters. The highest elevation is Mount Whitney.

Across the borders of the two national parks, black bears, mule deer, as well as coyotes, foxes, and marmots, raccoons, and martens and whistling hares have their territories here. Mountain lions and bighorn sheep are also found here. Kings Canyon National Park is accessed via Highway 180 and Sequoia National Park is accessed via Highway 198, with both national parks connected by the Generals Highway. The national park is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Hikes from one park to the other are possible without any problems.

6. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in Northern California, about 200 kilometers from Sacramento. More specifically, Lassen Volcanic National Park extends at the base of the southern end of the Cascade Range, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The national park is located east of the upper Sacramento Valley, a rather heavily agricultural region of Northern California. Covering 431 square kilometers, the national park is known for its volcanic landscape. Lassen Peak last erupted a good 100 years ago.

That there is still volcanic activity in the region is evidenced by the mud pots, hot springs and fumaroles. The region is unique in the world. Hardly anywhere else do shield volcanoes, ash cones, lava domes and stratovolcanoes occur simultaneously. Accessible via California State Route 89, the National Park is located at altitudes ranging from 1500 to 3000 meters and has three vegetation zones. Sugar pine, Jeffrey pine and white fir grow at an altitude of about 2000 meters.

5. Pinnacles National Park

The Pinnacles National Park has a size of 107.99 square kilometers and is located in the west of California. The area is characterized by formations of volcanic origin with rugged rock formations. According to legend, the bandit Tiburcio Vasquez buried treasures in the caves of the Pinnacles in the second half of the 19th century. The region of today’s National Park was identified as a tourist destination as early as 1900 and proclaimed a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.

The area of the national park lies almost entirely in San Benito County, about 130 kilometers south of San Francisco. It is about 50 kilometers to the Pacific coast from the western edge of the national park. The western part of the area can be reached via U.S. Highway 101. The national park encompasses a small mountain range within the California coastal chain and is a reintroduction area for California condors. In addition, the national park is also home to 40 species of mammals and many reptiles and amphibians, as well as bird species. The national park is home to a large population of prairie falcons.

4. Joshua Tree National Park

In southeastern California, where desert landscapes predominate, is Joshua Tree National Park. This region represents the transition between the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. The park is named after the Joshua palm lily (Yucca brevifolia) that grows here. In addition to the Joshua Tree forests, there are many interesting rock formations that punctuate the barren cliffs within the 3,199.59-square-foot park. Joshua Tree National Park has officially existed only since 1994. Prior to that, the region was managed as a National Monument- and had been since 1936. There are five natural water sources in the national park.

The largest animal living in the national park is the desert bighorn sheep. Touristically, the national park is not very developed. There are some simple campsites. Better accommodations can be found in the towns outside the gates of the national park. Those who find their way to the national park are attracted to one particular place, Cottonwood Spring. This is an oasis, created by humans. Here there is a wonderful panoramic view from 1500 meters above sea level and a nature trail and an old gold mine.

3. Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is located on California’s Pacific Coast, very close to the Oregon border. The extraordinary attraction of the national park is the coast redwoods, the tallest trees found anywhere in the world. The park also includes pristine, multi-faceted shorelines with a rugged cliff coastline, but also with sections of flat rocky structure and tide pools, as well as sandy beaches. The history of the National Park dates back to the 1920s. In 1968 the official foundation of the national park took place.

The national park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980. The territory of today’s national park was once inhabited by members of the Na-Dené culture, later by the Yurok Indians, and from the 16th century by the Tolowa, the Chilula and the Hoopa. Later, fur hunters and gold prospectors sought their fortune in this region, and after that the timber industry penetrated the area. The national park stretches almost 90 kilometers along the west coast of the U.S., reaching into the hills of the coastal mountains. The highest elevation in the park is Grashoppers Peak (1014 meters), located in the Bald Hills.

2. Death Valley National Park

Probably the most famous national park in California is Death Valley National Park. This national park is located in the Mojave Desert, east of the Sierra Nevada. Death Valley is characterized by stone, sand and salt deserts. Who makes a trip here, must be well equipped. In the summer months, the temperature here can reach up to 48 degrees Celsius. It is much cooler in the winter months. Then the temperature here does not climb more than 20 °C.

The lowest point in Death Valley is Badwater Basin, 86 meters below sea level. It is possible to explore Death Valley with your own car or with a rental car. Death Valley was once a gold and silver prospecting El Dorado and also borax for soap production was mined here. Death Valley has hardly any permanent inhabitants. Only a small colony of the Timbisha Shoshone settles here. In Death Valley there are numerous hotels in Furnace Creek. Several hundred species of birds, 51 species of mammals, including cougars and bobcats, as well as snakes and lizards can be observed in Death Valley.

1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is located about 300 kilometers from San Francisco and covers 3,081 square kilometers. The national park is located on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada. The central part of the national park is the Yosemite Valley. The national park was founded in 1864 and is the third oldest national park in the USA. Since 1984 the national park belongs to the UNESCO world natural heritage. Today’s face of the region was formed by volcanic eruptions, which broke over this region several thousand years ago. At the altitudes of 500 to 3500 meters there are different habitats for animals and plants.

Imposing are also the waterfalls in the park area, such as Yosemite Falls and Nevada Fall. In addition to hiking, you can also indulge your passion for climbing in this park. In the winter, much of the park is closed. Heavy snowfalls descend on much of the park. Open in winter is the oldest ski area in California, Badger Pass Ski Area, located in the national park. Snowshoe tours through the snowy region of Yosemite National Park are also offered.