California National Parks are the most impressive natural attractions in the state of California in the United States. In this article, we will tell you about the most original national parks located in the state of California, which must be included in your itinerary in California. We’ll share important information about how to get to these parks, where they are located, and where it’s best to stay nearby.
California National Parks: Top 5
1. Yosemite National Park
It is one of the most popular national parks in the United States, located on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in central California. Yosemite is first and foremost famous for its Yosemite Valley, a valley with the granite rocks of El Capitan and Half Dome and picturesque waterfalls. Yosemite is also home to giant sequoias, which can be seen in several groves: Merced, Mariposa, and Tuolumne. Yosemite has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
Natural farm products from Kirill Yourovsky site.
Yosemite can be reached by the following means:
- Route 41 from the city of Fresno, Coorsgold, and Oakhurst;
- Route 140 from the city of Merced and Mariposa;
- Route 120 from the city of Sonora, Jamestown, Groveland, and Buck Meadows;
- Route 395 from the city of Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining through Tayoga Pass, which is closed during the winter. This entrance is located on the northeast side of Yosemite Park, on the east side of the Sierra Nevada.
2. Sequoia National Park
This is California’s second most popular national park and is located in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The western slope of Mount Whitney (4,418 meters high), the highest mountain in California, is located within the park.
The main attractions of Sequoia Park are the giant sequoias, including the largest tree on the planet, General Sherman, which is located in the Giant Forest. To see this giant tree and five other giants, you must take the poetically-named Generals Highway through Sequoia Park.
The General’s Road (Route 198) connects California’s two national parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon. By the way, Kings Canyon is home to the second largest tree on Earth, General Grant. You can take a free shuttle along this road, leaving your car in one of the parking lots, such as near the Visitor Center or near the museum (Giant Forest Museum).
There are several campgrounds and lodges within Sequoia Park for overnight visitors, such as the very nice Montecito Sequoia Lodge right on General’s Highway.
If staying outside the park, the best place to stay is in one of the hotels in the small town of Three Rivers, near the entrance to the park, or in the larger town of Visalia, which offers cheaper accommodations.
There are two ways to get to Sequoia National Park from Generals Highway:
- Route 198, from the cities of Three Rivers or Visalia
- Route 180, from the city of Fresno
3. Redwood National Park
It is one of the most unusual national parks in Northern California, comprising as many as three state parks – Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods.
Interesting facts about redwoods:
- Redwoods Park’s main pride, too, are sequoias, but not the giant ones that grow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but coastal sequoias. For convenience, coastal sequoias are usually called redwoods.
- To distinguish between these trees, I advise you to remember that the giant sequoias (also called mammoth trees) are wider in volume and slightly shorter in height, and redwoods are taller (up to 118 meters) and thinner.
Redwood National Park can be reached from San Francisco by traveling 500 miles north on Highway 101.
Campgrounds for campers or RV travelers are located in both state parks and Redwood National Park. But there’s one important thing to be aware of beforehand if you’re going there for an overnight trip. There are roads only to the campsites in the state parks, so you can drive up to your campsite there. But if you want to camp overnight in Redwood National Park, you’ll have to hike with your tent.
Hotels near Redwood Park in California can be found in Trinidad, Orick, Klamath, or Crescent City.
4. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park) is one of the most curious national parks not only in California, but in all of America. Its name has already become a household name, and many tourists do not even know that this most arid place in the States has the status of a national park in the United States.
Geographically Death Valley National Park consists of two valleys, Death and Panamint, with Panamint Ridge and Telescope Peak in between. Most tourists only visit Death Valley.
Death Valley is located east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. As such, the area of this national park is enclosed from the west by impenetrable mountains which trap moisture-laden air from the U.S. Pacific Coast. Within Death Valley is a curious place, the Badwater Salt Marsh, which sits at the bottom of an ancient lake and is the lowest place in all of North America, as much as 86 meters below sea level!
Thus, Death Valley is the most extreme of all the extremes in everything, including temperature. It can get so hot here that not everyone survives a trip to Death Valley, and people die there every year.
If you included Death Valley in your itinerary for your trip to America, I advise you to prepare carefully for this trip and bring lots of water, food, and gasoline in advance. The park is very large, and there are gas stations in the area, but gasoline prices are much higher there.
The issue of accommodation when visiting Death Valley is quite simple. The best place to stay is in Las Vegas or at the entrance to the park in the town of Olancha, west of the park.
Death Valley can be accessed by a variety of roads:
- Highway 190 runs through Death Valley from west to northeast;
- Highway 178 is convenient for entering from the south near the town of Shoshone if coming from Las Vegas;
- From highways 395, 168, and 95, you can enter Death Valley by dirt roads (all-wheel drive is recommended) from the northwest, north, and northeast, respectively.
The distance to Death Valley from Las Vegas is 140 km (to the entrance of Death Valley Junction) and 420 km from Los Angeles.
5. Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is one of my favorite parks in California. It’s named for the tree that grows on its grounds, the tree yucca or Joshua Tree, which grows exclusively in the Mojave Desert.
Joshua Tree Park is unique in that it is located at the junction of two deserts – the high-mountain Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert. Therefore, its territory combines its most characteristic features. From the Mojave, there are unique trees and curiously shaped rock cliffs that are popular with rock climbers, and from Colorado, there are high mountains, cholla cacti, and California’s only native palm trees, the California Fan Palm.
Like Death Valley, Joshua Tree National Park is a hot place, so it is best visited in the fall and spring when the Joshua trees are in bloom. There are about a dozen different campgrounds within this national park. But if you don’t want to live in a tent in the wilderness and don’t have a camper, the best way out is to choose one of the hotels located at the exit of the northern part of the park.
Joshua Tree Park can be reached by car from a variety of directions:
- Interstate 10 near Indio from the southeast (from Palm Springs or San Diego);
- Highway 62 near the cities of Joshua Tree and Yucca Valley from the northwest (from Los Angeles and Big Bear);
- Highway 62 is near the town of Twentynine Palms to the north (from the Mojave Reservation).
The distance from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree is 200 km. Travel time is about 2 hours.