How Many National Parks Are In California? [An Overview]

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Did you know California has more national parks than any other state in the U.S.? That’s right, nine of them! Ever wondered what makes these places so epic?

They showcase some of the most stunning views in America. Towering redwoods up north make you feel super tiny, and vast deserts down south are full of otherworldly experiences. Each park offers a unique slice of nature’s best, drawing people from all over the world.

Interested in exploring what each park has to offer? We've got the scoop on each one below.

Exploring California's National Parks

Now, let's explore more of these extraordinary regions! We've shared an overview below—from the majestic granite cliffs of Yosemite to the vast deserts of Death Valley.

1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park. Yosemite valley. Yosemite upper fall. Beautiful waterfall. Light photo in nature.

Right in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite National Park is all about stunning waterfalls and huge cliffs.

Explore the iconic Half Dome and glacially sculpted Yosemite Valley. An adventure here can bring you closer to the wild, with opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and winter sports.

Check out these Yosemite National Park pictures to get a glimpse of Yosemite's seasonal allure before your journey.

2. Sequoia National Park

General Sherman Tree - the largest tree on Earth, Giant Sequoia Trees in Sequoia National Park, California, USA

Home to giant sequoias, Sequoia National Park hosts the world's largest tree—the General Sherman Tree. As you wander among these massive sequoias, you'll definitely feel a sense of wonder.

The park isn't just about the trees, though—it's got deep canyons and towering mountain peaks, with plenty of trails that suit everyone from beginners to seasoned hikers.

3. Kings Canyon National Park

Tributary of Kings river on Kings Canyon National Park scenic view. On Highway 180 in California, United States of America. Located in southern Sierra Nevada, bordered by Sequoia National Park.

Right next door to Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Park is a stunner with its deep valleys and tough, rugged terrain. You can wander through Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the U.S., and enjoy the tranquility of the high Sierra backcountry.

Whether you’re hiking through quiet forests or gazing up at towering cliffs, this park is definitely all about epic views and serene moments.

4. Death Valley National Park

Iconic sunrise colorful waves at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park

A land of extremes, Death Valley National Park features some of the hottest and driest conditions in the world. But even with its harsh conditions, there’s a stunning beauty to be found here.

You can check out the salt flats, wander the sand dunes, and take in the vibrant colors at Artist's Palette. You’ll really feel the immense open spaces this valley has to offer.

Read this article for more details on things to do in Death Valley.

5. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park with blue skies, wildflowers and cactus blooms

Where the Mojave and Colorado deserts meet, Joshua Tree National Park offers a surreal landscape punctuated by its namesake Joshua trees.

These yuccas, set against the backdrop of rugged rocks and desert skies, create an otherworldly experience for climbers, hikers, campers, and stargazers alike.

For tips on where to pitch your tent and make the most of your visit, check out this handy guide to camping in the park.

6. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Small stream and boiling mud pot at Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California, USA.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a cool spot where you can see volcanic activity right up close. With steaming fumaroles, meadows bursting with wildflowers, and crystal-clear mountain lakes, it's like a quieter, less crowded version of Yellowstone packed with awesome geothermal sights.

If you're wondering what to do while you're there, here are ten great activities to try out in Lassen National Park.

7. Redwood National Park

Redwood National and State Parks are strings of protected forests, in California, Redwoods State Park has trails through dense old-growth woods.

Towering above the forest floor, the redwoods of Redwood National Park claim the skies. These ancient giants create a magical vibe in a cool, misty rainforest, perfect for peaceful hikes and spotting wildlife among the towering trees.

It's an ideal spot for disconnecting and soaking in the tranquil atmosphere, surrounded by some of the tallest trees on Earth.

We've spent a good amount of time exploring this amazing national park and put together a guide right here if you're curious to learn more about it.

8. Channel Islands National Park

Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park.

The Channel Islands National Park, just off the coast of Southern California, comprises five awesome islands, each with its own vibe and adventures.

Here’s a quick rundown of what you can do on each one:

  • Anacapa Island: This island is all about stunning ocean views and that famous Arch Rock. It’s a top spot for birdwatching and checking out seals and sea lions chilling on the rocks.
  • Santa Cruz Island: This is the biggest island in the park and has everything from cool hiking trails to some epic sea cave kayaking. Plus, you can dive into some local history with old ranches and little museums.
  • Santa Rosa Island: Hit up this island for its gorgeous beaches and wild canyons, perfect for hiking or kayaking. It's also home to the rare Torrey Pine, which bursts into color with wildflowers in the spring.
  • San Miguel Island: This place is a bit more out there, so it's great for feeling like you’re off the grid. It’s a hotspot for seeing seals and sea lions, especially at Point Bennett.
  • Santa Barbara Island: The smallest of the bunch, it offers a more intimate nature experience. Fantastic for snorkeling among the kelp forests and watching seabirds.

Each island lets you dive into different activities, and we've got a guide right here if you want to make sure you hit all the highlights.

9. Pinnacles National Park

Last Sunlight on High Peaks at Pinnacles National Park. San Benito County, California, USA.

Pinnacles National Park is a geologic wonder birthed from volcanic eruptions over 23 million years ago.

Today, it's a cool spot for climbers with its jagged terrain and a home for the endangered California condor. You can explore the talus caves or hike to the peaks for killer views.

If you're looking for more cool stuff to do at Pinnacles, here’s a list of some other awesome activities to check out.

Practical Information for Visitors

Exploring California's national parks is a dream adventure; having the right information can make your journey even more enjoyable. Let's walk through the essentials that will help ensure you have a memorable experience.

When to Visit Each Park for the Best Experience

Each of California's national parks offers unique landscapes and climates. 

Yosemite, for instance, is stunning during the spring waterfall season, while Death Valley is more pleasant in the cooler months. Meanwhile, the Pinnacles National Park is best for savoring wildflowers in late winter or early spring.

Checking each park's specific weather patterns and visitor guides ensures you arrive at the perfect time.

Necessary Fees & Permits for Activities in the Parks

Exploring these natural treasures often requires a day-use fee or a park-specific pass.

Also, if you're planning special activities like camping or backcountry hiking, securing the right permits in advance is a must to avoid any mishaps. For example, in Yosemite National Park, you'll need a wilderness permit for overnight stays in the backcountry.

Getting these permits ahead of time will help you avoid any hiccups and ensure you're all set for your adventure. For more detailed information on permits and how to apply for them, check out these helpful links from the National Park Service for each park.

Booking Park Accommodations and Stays

Accommodations range from plush lodges to rustic campsites, cozy lodges, and simple campsites. It’s a good idea to book early, especially during busy times.

You can find all the details about places to stay and how to book them on the park's official websites. Keep in mind that the best spots get taken quickly!

Safety and Preservation Guidelines

Staying safe means respecting wildlife, staying on marked trails, and understanding each park's rules.

Be sure to review and follow the Leave No Trace principles to protect these precious environments for future generations. And again, always check for recent safety updates before your visit!

Exploring Beyond the Parks

After exploring California's national parks, you might be itching for more adventures. Good news—there's plenty more to see in California beyond the parks!

You'll find hidden treasures like state parks and amazing beaches, each with their own charm and stunning views.

Stay curious and keep exploring. There are always incredible spots waiting to be discovered, promising new experiences and unforgettable memories!

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