One of best things about living in California is the wide array of beautiful and diverse National Parks all located within the state (there are eight of them). From Joshua Tree in the South to Lassen Volcanic Park in the North, California is full of diverse and wonderful parks for you to explore. I have spent a little time in a lot of the main parks and have collected my post and hike recaps in one page for you to enjoy. Check out the parks below for plenty of different adventures and be sure to drop me note if you think I missed something I should have seen. Hopefully I will have something on all of these parks soon. Here is the table of contents if you want to just go to a single post.
Yosemite National Park
My favorite park in California but also one of the busiest. When you leave the tunnel and enter into the park, I believe you would be hard pressed to find a better view anywhere that captures that much beauty (if you have been there you will know what I mean). Yosemite National Park is full of hikes, nature and rock climbing and really has something for everyone. Even if camping is not your thing they have a beautiful and expensive hotel called the Ahwahnee that is located right in the heart of the park. If you see one thing in California in your life my recommendation would be Yosemite. My write ups for this area is little lacking just because I have been there many times in my youth, but less recently, so I do not have a lot of great pictures to show for it.
- Half Dome From Glacier Point
- Half Dome Hike
- Awahnee Dining Room
- Tioga Pass
- Seven Things to do in the Winter
- Maraposa Grove
- The Mountain Room Restaurant
- Mirror Lake: Summer and Winter Comparison
Death Valley National Park
One of the most unusual parks in the whole United States, not to mention California, Death Valley National Park is a vast expanse of deserts and unique attractions. Home to lowest point in all of North America, Badwater, and less than 100 miles form the highest point in the whole United States, Mt Whitney, Death Valley really has everything.
Read about all of my favorite Death Valley spots here
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is the northern most National Park in California and sets itself apart with both a selection of large peaks as well as lots of volcanic activity. One of the best parts of the park is Lassen Peak which is a 10,000 foot peak that is easy accessible, as it is only around 5 miles round trip, and provides a beautiful 360 degree view of the entire park and even Mt Shasta. From there the park also offers an amazing trip to Bumpass Hell which is volcanic area. A less traveled park that is well worth an extended stay. There is also hundreds of miles of trails for you to explore as well.
Joshua Tree National Park
Somewhat like Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree is a desert park that has a huge amount of natural rock formations that are a draw for rock climbers all over the USA as they have routes from easy to difficult. They also have a natural arch rock, 5000 foot peak and a collection of Joshua Trees and Cholla “Jumping” Cactus. It is home to a huge collection of the unique Joshua Tree, from which it gets its name.
- Barker Dam Trail
- Arch Rock, Skull Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden
- Ryan Mountain
- Lost Horse Mine
- Keys View
- Wall Street Mill
- Silver Bell Mine
Channel Islands National Park
Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park
Redwoods National Park
Home of the famous and massive redwoods, this National Park in the North West part of California is home to a plethora of beautiful groves, massive trees and unique hikes. Lady Bird Johnson Grove is my personal favorite but if you are near by you should drive the Avenue of the Giants as well.
Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park is one of the lesser known gems in California and the newest of its National Parks. With only 150,000 people even entering it each year it doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic. This is mostly due to the fact that it is close to Yosemite and Sequoia so people probably skip it for one of those. However, Pinnacles National Monument is amazing. It has caves, peaks and a general other worldly landscape that is beautiful and will have you exploring for days. I would not recommend it in the heat of the summer as I went around July and it was around 104 degrees. During the cooler months though this is a great place to check out.
California also has 11 different National Monuments. Some are 1,000’s of acres and some are just a small piece of land, but all of them encompass a beauty that makes California unique. I have only travelled to a couple of them, but have left the full list here for you to enjoy and will update more as I get to visit more of them. Check them out below.
Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Park is different than others on this list as it is centered around a monument of Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo on the outer tip of the peninsula facing San Diego. However, just because that is the focus, it does not mean there is not a lot to explore here as well. There is an old turn of the century lighthouse, new modern lighthouse, collection of tide pools and a couple different hiking / walking trails. It is an interesting area that provides some beautiful views of San Diego and even Tijuana in the distance.
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument
“Rising abruptly from the desert floor, the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument reaches an elevation of 10,834 feet at the summit of Mount San Jacinto. The National Monument’s boundary encompasses about 272,000 acres, including 65,000 acres within the San Jacinto Ranger District of the San Bernardino National Forest, and 89,500 acres within the Bureau of Land Management’s California Desert Conservation Area. The National Monument includes two federal Wilderness Areas: the Santa Rosa Wilderness which contains 61,600 acres of BLM and Forest Service lands, and 19,470 acres of the Forest Service’s San Jacinto Wilderness.”
Fort Ord National Monument
“Fort Ord National Monument encompasses a sweeping landscape of vivid beauty and rich biodiversity in the heart of California’s Central Coast. In addition to its biological wonders, the area is notable for its historical significance, including its role in the Spanish settlement of California and in the military training of generations of American soldiers. The monument, which was designated in 2012, is a world-class destination for hikers, mountain bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts who come to enjoy the area’s history and scenic landscapes.”
Devils Postpile National Monument
“Devils Postpile National Monument is located near Mammoth Mountain in extreme northeastern Madera County in eastern California. It was created in 1911, and protects Devils Postpile, an unusual formation of columnar basalt. The name “Devils Postpile” refers to a dark cliff of columnar basalt. Modern potassium-argon dating indicates the formation was created by a lava flow at sometime less than 100,000 years ago, while other dating methods suggest that the lava flow might have occurred 700,000 years ago. The source of the lava is thought to have been somewhere near Upper Soda Springs campground at the north end of Pumice Flat on the floor of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, from where it flowed to the site of the Postpile and was impounded by a moraine. Estimates of the formations thickness range from 400 feet to 600 feet. In any event, the lava that now makes up the Postpile was near the bottom of this mass.”
Charrizo Plain National Monument
“The Carrizo Plain is a large enclosed plain, approximately 50 miles long and up to 15 miles across, in southeastern San Luis Obispo County, California. It contains the 250,000 acre Carrizo Plain National Monument, and it is the largest single native grassland remaining in California. It includes Painted Rock in the Carrizo Plain Rock Art Discontiguous District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012 it was further designated a National Historic Landmark due to its archeological value. It is one of the easiest places to view surface fractures of the San Andreas Fault which traverses below the plain.”
Giant Sequoia National Monument
“The monument includes 38 of the 39 Giant Sequoia groves in the Sequoia National Forest, amounting to about half of the sequoia groves currently in existence. This includes one of the ten largest Giant Sequoias, the Boole Tree. Its two parts are around Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.”
Lava Beds National Monument
“This is the site of the largest concentration of lava tube caves in North America. It also includes Petroglyph Point, one of the largest panels of Native American rock art. The monument lies on the northeast flank of the Medicine Lake Volcano, the largest volcano in the Cascade Range.”
Muir Woods National Monument
“Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, it protects one of the last old growth Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) groves in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as one of the most easily accessed.”
World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument
“Valor in the Pacific encompasses nine sites in three states associated with World War II: The Attack on Pearl Harbor, including the USS Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma memorials in Hawaii; the Aleutian Islands Campaign on Attu Island, Kiska Island, and Atka Island in Alaska; and the Japanese American internment at Tule Lake War Relocation Center in California.”
California Coastal National Monument
“Located off the 1,100 miles of California coastline, the California Coastal National Monument comprises more than 20,000 small islands, rocks, exposed reefs, and pinnacles between Mexico and Oregon. The scenic qualities and critical habitat of this public resource are protected as part of the National Landscape Conservation System, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior.”
National Historic Sites
Manzanar – Read more here
Mojave National Preserve – Read more here
Point Reyes National Seashore
National Recreation Areas
Santa Monica Mountains – Read about it here
Whiskeytown – Read about it here
Keep checking back here as I continue to explore more of California’s National Park and Monuments.