The Golden State
California’s official state nickname is the “Golden State,” due to the discovery of gold in the mid to late 1800s and because of all the fields of golden poppies that can be seen. The state is large and one of the most visited states in the entire U.S. It has 27 national parks available and among those are some of these most visited parks with stunning landscapes. From dry, sandy terrain, to some of the most viewed mountain peaks in the states, California has every type of land imaginable. Explore some of these national parks in California on your next visit to the Golden state.
The famous fort located on an island off of the mainland is a popular tourist destination. It can only be reached by ferry and the massive wall of the fort that was turned into a famous federal penitentiary is fascinating to visitors. Ranger-led guides can be taken to learn about the extensive history of the famed prison. The Alcatraz island also has the very first lighthouse that was built on U.S. soil. This is an exciting and interesting place to visit and is one of the top park sites in California.
Cabrillo National Monument
The monument, named after Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was the first European to set foot on the west coast of the U.S., is located on the tip of Point Loma. The point sits high above the San Diego Bay offering perfect views of the cityscape of San Diego, the bay full of sailboats and other vessels and the amazing statue of Juan. The opposite side of the monument has some sheer drop offs and presents the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye can see. The monument is beautiful and has some of the best views of the ocean and city. There is also a light house to explore and nice places to sit and take photographs.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the most photographed parks in the U.S. the massive cliffs on either side of a lush and beautiful valley along with the famous Yosemite Falls have been many photographer’s dream come true. The park is just stunning and one of the original places that people wanted to protect due to its unbelievable beauty. Try the Glacier Point trail, or the 7 mile walk to the top of the falls to truly get the best experience and views of the park.
Known as the hottest place in the world and also the driest in North America, Death Valley has scorching summer temperatures. The record was in 1913 when the area reached a melting 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer temperatures normally rise above 120 degrees, so winter may be the most comfortable time to visit if you don’t want to test the heat. The basin in the park is below sea level and has a steady drought. The area has surprisingly different landscapes and nice views though. Sand dunes, different colored mountains, flower-filled fields and much more create the park. Wildlife and vegetation is surprisingly abundant in certain areas and for some of the best views of the park try the Zabriskie Point, especially at sunrise or sunset.
Five lovely islands make up this national park just off the coast of southern California. There are two visitor centers located on the mainland in the cities of Santa Barbara. The islands can be reached using the park concessionaire boats and planes or using a private boat. Seals and sea lions viewing are available especially on the island of San Miguel. Each island has hikes visitors can do to see the flora and fauna and explore some of the islands. Amazing ocean views can be seen from the highest points, so don’t forget your camera. This park is harder to get to, but well worth the effort.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Golden Gate has a collection of sites in various locations that have banded together to be called the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Hike along the ocean and see the massive and iconic Golden Gate Bridge and stunning cityscape of lights at night of the city of San Francisco. Three different counties representing over 30 sites, parks and must-see places make up the area. Famous lighthouses, cliffs, gorgeous views, historic buildings and surprising landscapes all lay within the recreation area. Try some of the hikes and hear a Ranger talk and learn about the history and see some impressive sights California offers.
Joshua Tree National Park
Named for its interesting looking trees, Joshua Tree National Park has some neat features. The trees are actually species of yucca. They can grow to be extremely tall, as tall as a normal tree, but instead of leaves it has sharp, spiny bristles. This park is a favorite for rock climbers due to the huge piles of giant boulders and rock faces to scale. Another favorite thing to do here is examine the night skies. There is very little light pollution and humidity here, which makes the conditions perfect for vivid starry night skies. The Milky Way galaxy can be clearly seen as well as meteor showers and thousands of stars.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
These parks are actually two separate entities, but they share a border and are also co-managed. Here, you can see the largest trees in the world called the giant sequoias. The sequoia trees win in size for their sheer mass. The infamous tree called General Sherman is ginormous! It is estimated to weigh over 2,000 tons and its trunk measures 1487 cubic meters. The famous Kings Canyon is one of the deepest in the country and drops more than 2500 meters. It was created by glacier movement during the last ice age. Explore the forests of massive trees that make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
Lava Beds National Monument
Among California’s diverse land is an area called Lava Beds National Monument. The Cave Loop road near the visitor center has most of the developed caves visitors can explore. There are many, many caves to explore and they are divided into easy, moderate and difficult. The land at Lava Beds monument is both diverse and rugged. Years of volcanic eruptions have created over 700 caves. Visitors can also find historic sites, ancient battlefields, Native American rock art sites and desert wilderness.
Many Parks, Beautiful Areas, One State
The parks mentioned here are only a few of the sites worth seeing in this remarkable state. Due to the fact that California lies at the Pacific Ocean, many of the parks and sites have ocean views and scenery because of their close proximity to the coast. There is also the Old Spanish Historic Trail, Point Reyes, Pony Express Historic trail, Mojave National preserve, Muir Woods National monument, Fort Point, Castle Mountains and lots of others to see. Explore all the national parks in California scattered from the south to the northern end and enjoy the history and the scenery of an amazing state.