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California has the most national parks in the United States, truly a Golden State when it comes to natural wonders. It has nine national parks (one shared with Nevada) that offer iconic views and stunning landscapes.

The state’s national parks are varied: the Channel Islands offer ocean views; the arid but scenic Death Valley; the desert paradise of Joshua Tree; the steaming Lassen; the mountainous Pinnacles; Redwood and its towering trees; the scenic Kings Canyon; the Yosemite and its roaring cascades; and the lush Sequoia.

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California has one of the most visited national parks in the US, Yosemite, and it should be a part of a nature lover's bucket list. Wherever tourists choose to visit, the state's national parks offer nothing but various rewarding outdoor activities or quietness for those who want that.

Channel Islands

The Channel Islands is composed of eight islands, five of which are part of the national park. Tourists can try a variety of activities like hiking, fishing, scuba diving, camping, and backpacking on any of the islands. One of the best experiences to try in the park is kayaking in its welcoming sea caves. Here are the five islands and what they offer to tourists.

  • San Miguel, which was reopened to tourism in 2016, is slowly attracting campers and hikers. Hikers can view resident elephant seals and sea lions, and later on camp while enjoying the Pacific breeze. Divers and kayakers, meanwhile, are recommended to explore the area from late morning to early afternoon when great white sharks are not present.
  • Santa Rosa is historic because the Arlington Springs Man remains were discovered here. The 13,000-year-old fossils are considered the oldest human remains found in the Americas. As such, tourists can hike near the island's archaeological sites.
  • Santa Cruz, the largest of the islands, is a place for beach lovers. The island has coves and sandy beaches where tourists can sunbathe while checking out Devils Peak.
  • Santa Barbara is the smallest of the islands but not one to be overlooked. Here, tourists can check out nesting Scripps's murrelet, a threatened species. There's also an endemic succulent called the Santa Barbara Island live-forever.
  • The volcanic Anacapa Island has a rich history which travelers can learn via interpretive programs. Other than that, they can also try watersports and hiking.

The Robert J. Lagomarsino Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center in Ventura is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., while the Outdoors Santa Barbara Visitor Center opens at 11 a.m. There's no entrance fee.

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Death Valley

Death Valley is the “hottest, driest, and lowest” US national park and despite its name, it’s brimming with wildlife. The park is open 24 hours and has an entrance fee of $30 per vehicle. Here are some places of interest in this massive park.

  • The tourist viewpoint at Aguereberry is the perfect spot for appreciating the Panamint Range.
  • The geological formations of Amargosa Chaos are stunningly beautiful.
  • Those unaware of how salt is made should check out the Badwater Basin.
  • The singing sand phenomenon awaits guests at the Eureka Valley.
  • Hikers can navigate Mosaic Canyon's 4-mile trail (roundtrip), where they can try crawling between boulders.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree is where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts meet, making it a unique place for wilderness adventures. The park is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There's an entrance fee of $30 for vehicles.

  • Backpackers and campers are welcome to stay in any of the nine campgrounds.
  • There are 13 trails for beginning hikers and 15 others for those who want to challenge themselves. The most demanding is the Boy Scout Trail which could take six hours to finish.
  • For those who want some adrenaline rush, the park is also ideal for bouldering, climbing, slacklining, and highlining.
  • Amateur astronomers also flock to the Joshua Tree for some stargazing.
  • From February to April, tourists can busy themselves taking pictures of blooming wildflowers.
  • Birdwatchers are in for a treat since the place is home to roadrunners, wrens, doves, and quails. Migratory birds also pass through the area.

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Lassen Volcanic National Park

In this park, tourists will be welcomed by Lassen Peak, the world’s largest plug dome volcano. Visitors will have the chance to check out fumaroles, openings that emit volcanic gas and steam, aside from mud pots and boiling pools. Guests should not go beyond railings and should follow designated trails for their safety. Recreational activities include hiking, camping, biking, and lake/creek swimming, among others. The park is open 24 hours a day, with a vehicle entrance fee of $30.

Pinnacles

This mountainous park is famous for its rock formations and its talus caves. Aside from camping, guests can hike, conquer the climbing routes, birdwatch, and meet some bats in the caves. Its East Side gate is open 24 hours, while the West Side operates from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. There’s a vehicle entrance fee of $30.

Yosemite

This park is best known for waterfalls, but it's also home to lush valleys and meadows. The park is open 24 hours, with a vehicle entrance fee of $35. Here are must-visit spots in the park.

  • visiting from mid to late February might get lucky to see an orange Horsetail Fall.
  • Some mornings, tourists can observe frazil ice or when creeks look slushy. The scenic Hetch Hetchy Valley is worth visiting, thanks to its views of peaks, canyons, and lakes.
  • There are 10 viewpoints, with Glacier Point being the most popular because it's the perfect spot to appreciate the Yosemite Valley. 1

Redwood

This park has almost 39,000 acres of virgin forest, with some redwoods aged 500 to 700. It’s a humbling experience to be near towering redwoods, and only in California can this be had. The park is free to visit, and tourists can busy themselves hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, biking, and wildlife viewing.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon

Another of Mother Nature’s masterpieces, this twin park is home to the largest tree in the world. Just looking at the towering trees seems surreal, imagine standing near them – it’s pure bliss. Aside from exploring sequoia groves, tourists can also enjoy their day hiking, horseback riding, climbing, fishing, and caving. The park is open 24 hours a day, with a vehicle entrance fee of $35.

California is truly the place to be when exploring the wilderness whatever the season.