The best California National Parks
The Golden State of California is blessed with thirty-two of America’s 391 National Parks, Monuments, Historic Sites and Recreation Areas. These preserves and monuments often offer a unique insight into the history of California and its inhabitants. The monuments include the stunning hexagonal columns of the Devils Postpile, the somber penal colony of Alcatraz and the beautiful home of the illustrious naturalist John Muir, whilst the National Parks include Lassen Volcanic in the north of California, Joshua Tree in the south and the undisputed jewel in California’s crown – the glorious temple of Yosemite in the high Sierra. John Muir held that, “everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” Californians are fortunate to be surrounded by a tapestry of natural riches and are privileged to have some of America’s best national parks.
Death Valley National Park Known as “Tumpisa” by the Timbisha Shoshone Indians, literally translated as “red rock paint,” Death Valley was declared a National Monument by President Hoover in 1933, becoming a National Park in 1994. The park holds a number of “western hemisphere” records, from the hottest recorded temperature – 134° Fahrenheit, to the lowest point – 282 feet below sea-level in the Badwater Basin. Death Valley is bordered by the Panamint Range, including the 11,049 foot Telescope Peak, to the west and the Amargosa range to the east. In spite of the valley’s harsh environment it supports a diverse ecosystem of flora, fauna and wildlife. The park has a number of beautiful overlooks and challenging hikes and you can also visit the Furnace Creek Inn, take a tour of Scotty’s Castle or explore one of the many ghost towns. There are no NPS campgrounds with RV hookups. However, hookups are available at Stovepipe Wells RV Park, Furnace Creek Ranch and Panamint Springs Resort. Driving distance from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park: 232 miles.
Devils Postpile National Monument. “The Mammoth area possesses an abundance of stunning natural and man-made features including the Devil’s Postpile National Monument established in 1911, with its immense hexagonal basalt columns. You can hike from here to the neighboring 101 foot Rainbow Falls.” The Devils Postpile campground will take RV’s up to 30 feet (no hookups). Alternatively, you can camp at Convict Lake. Pets are allowed on both the trails and the shuttle bus. Driving distance from Los Angeles to Devils Postpile National Monument: 309 miles.
Joshua Tree, established in 1936, is a wonderful 1,239 square mile National Park at the confluence of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. Ancient Joshua Trees, the Yucca Brevifolia, soar like sentinels above the spartan desert landscape. In the spring, the Yuccas and numerous wildflowers add a vibrant and panoramic splash of color to the desert environment. The park is very popular with hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, rock climbers and bird watchers. Driving distance from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree National Park: 140 miles.
Lassen Volcanic National Park was initially comprised of two separate National Monuments, Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak which were created by Teddy Roosevelt in 1907. It was designated a National Park by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. The Park covers 106,372 acres and is dominated by the 10,457 foot Lassen Peak, part of the Cascade Mountain range, which overlooks Manzanita Lake. The park’s hydrothermal features were described by John Muir as. “reeking and bubbling with hot springs, many of them so boisterous and sulphurous they seem ever ready to become spouting geysers.
Driving distance from Los Angeles to Lassen Volcanic National Park: 575 miles.
Redwood National and State Parks “on the Northern California Coast covers 110,000 acres, provides great RVing opportunities, is open year round and contains the world’s tallest living tree. A 367 foot California Redwood, the lost monarch of the North Coast.Driving distance from Los Angeles to Redwoods National Park: 583 miles.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is within easy reach of Los Angeles and provides a wonderful recreation destination for hiking, cycling and horseback riding. The park covers 153,075 acres and provides RV camping at Malibu Creek State Park, Point Mugu State Park and Leo Carrillo State Park. Dogs can be walked on-leash on trails managed by the National Park Service within the NRA, but are restricted solely to campgrounds within State Parks. Driving distance from Los Angeles to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: 43 miles.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park “are famous for their tall trees, waterfalls, rivers, sweeping canyon vistas and copious wildlife, and cover 864,000 acres of California’s High Sierras, from the foothills of the Central Valley to the 14,494 foot peak of Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Read Sequoia and Kings Canyon article. Driving distance from LA to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks: 239 miles.
Yosemite National Park with its polished granite domes, chiseled ridges, towering waterfalls and alpine meadows, “Is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”