California is home to some of the world’s most iconic views and dramatic landscapes contained within the state’s National Parks. There are 23 parks in California that spread throughout the state and a visit to the state should include a trip to at least one of them. Here are some of the best to explore.
Joshua Tree National Park.
Named after the strange, other worldly trees that have formed in the park, Joshua Tree National Park, is situated in Southern California and straddles the Colorado and Majove Deserts. The area was declared a National Park in 1994, before then it had a been a US National Monument since 1936.
The park covers a huge area of 790,636 acres and comprises of two deserts and a designated wilderness area. Joshua Tree Park is characterized by a few things, the stark desert landscape, the famous twisted trees and the rugged rock formations that sit all over the park. It is this landscape that brings in the visitors.
People visit the park for a number of reasons. Hiking is a popular recreation in the park and there are several hiking trails to take. The short trails such a the 1 mile hike that goes through Hidden Valley are very popular as it is a great opportunity to view the dramatic landscape and beauty of the park without straying too much into the desert. There are 3 nature walks, Indian Cove, Cholla Cactus Garden and Hidden Valley as well as longer trails such as Lost Horse Mine and Boy Scout Hiking and Equestrian Trail.
Rock Climbing is another popular sport within the park. At onetime it was mainly used during the snow bound winter months when other areas of the state were inaccessible but now it is very popular in its own right. The rocks are made up of a rough type of granite and are typically short climbs due to the elevation of the rocks, most being no larger than 230 feet high. This means as there is easy access to the rocks, just a short hike through the desert, that a few climbs can be completed in one day.
As well as adventure and adrenalin packed interests, Joshua Tree Park is also popular with nature enthusiasts . Bird watching is a popular past time with more than 250 species to look out for, Barker Dam and Smith Water Canyon being two popular noted spots. Barker Dam is also a good place to view the wildlife within the Park. Tours are available to view the many species that live within the Park.
Astronomy and Star Gazing is also very popular within the park due to it being a well-known dark sky area. It is free from the light pollution that plagues a lot of California as well as the height of the Park and the dry desert environment all these factors combine to make this the ideal place to view the night skies. If you really want a once in a lifetime experience go in October to experience a meteor shower such as Orionids.
The park has plenty of camping available 9 sites are well established and 3 have water and flushing toilets there is a charge per night to stay.If you don’t want to camp, then the park lies 125 East of Los Angeles so you can find plenty of places to stay and travel in for the day. Spring and Autumn at the best times to visit due to the extreme heat during the Summer months.
Yosemite National Park.
Set within the California Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Yosemite National Park, is famed for its giant Sequoia trees and Tunnel View. The Park was established as a national park in 1890 and in 1916 the newly formed National park Service began maintaining it.The importance of the park as a place of scenic beauty has been established for a long time and as long ago as 1864, Abraham Lincoln the then President signed a grant to permanently protect the land. The park now welcomes over 4 million visitors a year.
Yosemite lying 200 miles east of San Fransisco is a real jewel in the USA National parks. Everything you could wish for is here from dramatic mountain ranges to stunning water falls, breathtaking vistas to great hiking.
People come for many activities. During the Summer months Yosemite is ideal for hiking and climbing. Guided walks with Park Rangers will highlight some of the parks varied animal and plant life. You can hike through some of North America’s most spectacular areas of wilderness. Catch the iconic vistas such as Bridalveil Falls and marvel at the granite cliffs of El Captain and Half Dome Mountain, Tunnel view is the most popular view-point in the Park to see Yosemite Valley with El Captain on one side and Bridalveil Fall on the other and Half Dome in the center.
Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in USA at 2425 feet and there are more than 300 species of animals in the park and an abundance of black bears. Famed for its awe-inspiring rock formations it attracts many climbers.
It’s a park with year round appeal in the winter months ice skating, snowboarding and alpine skiing takeover, it is without doubt the ultimate outdoor play area. There are road ways within the park but this is a place that needs to be explored on foot and ideally due to the size, over a few days. Take your pick from either wilderness camping, cabins or luxury accommodation whatever way you choose this is a once in a lifetime experience.
Death Valley National Park.
Although a foreboding sounding place, Death Valley National Park is well worth taking a trip to. Although you will have to plan your trip well as most of the year Death Valley is scorching hot, Spring and Winter are good times to go.
The park came to be known as Death Valley in 1849, when a group of Eurpoean-Americans as part of the gold rush crossed the desert here and one of the group died there.
In 1994 it became a National Park and is now managed by the National Park service. It is the hottest and driest of all the National Parks and of America itself.
There are two major valleys in the park, Death and Panamount and the park consists of a diverse desert environment made up of salt flats, badlands and mountains. As well as this 95% of the park is made up of wilderness.
Visitors will be amazed at the vivid colours of the desert and in its own eerie isolating way, it is a beautiful and stunning place. You can stay at the park as there are nine campsites and some air-conditioned lodges. One thing that is a must is watching the sunset at Zabriskie point, this is a famous point with amazing panoramic views and a wonderful place to watch the sun go down.
There is some good hiking in Death Valley, Golden Canyon Trail is a good hike, it is a two-mile round trip and will take you through the colourful canyon. Badwater Salt Flats is a fairly easy hike, which will take you onto the white salt flats that are 282 feet below sea level.
Despite its name Death Valley has a large population of wild life and flora and fauna, much more than many people expect when you think of the terrain so it’s a good place for avid nature watches to go to as well as anybody interested in photography as there are some amazing places to get some fantastic shots.
National Parks of California – Final Words.
California’s National Parks will leave you breathless, the sheer size and magnitude of all that you will see will stay with you forever. They are places to really experience seeing, all the harshness of nature and the magnificence as well. Whether you do a day trip or decide to stay in one of the Parks many places campsites, you definitely need to include the parks on your to do list whilst in California.