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California National Parks: The Top Destinations for Summer Wilderness Adventure

This year, make your summer vacation a road trip all the way from northern California to southern California, taking in the sights of California's national parks.

With nine national parks plus Point Reyes National Seashore, California boasts no shortage of sights for the summertime adventurer.

Be sure to make pit stops at these spots and check with the National Park Service regarding closures before you head out.

Death Valley National Park

Spanning 3.3 million acres, Death Valley National Park earns its name as one of the hottest, driest destinations in North America with summertime temperatures topping 120 degrees. That's why the experts recommend touring its deserts at night - and you'll also get to witness an incredible display of stars. Some of the noteworthy spots within Death Valley National Park include the Devils Golf Course salt formations, Natural Bridge Canyon featuring an epic arch formed through years of erosion, Scotty's Castle, Ubehebe Crater, Badwater Basin and Furnace Creek.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Situated side-by-side, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks cover 800,000 acres, feature 800 miles of hiking trails and encompass a portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The pair of parks is home to Mount Whitney, which at 14,494 feet is the highest peak in the Lower 48, and the German Sherman Tree, a 275-foot tall sequoia measuring 36 in diameter at its base. Stellar scenic stops beyond some of the world's largest trees to add to your list include the rock formations of Moro Rock, Crescent Meadow, Cedar Grove Overlook and Zumwalt Meadow.

Joshua Tree National Park


Located at the intersection of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, Joshua Tree National Park features thousands of climbing routes, gold mine ruins and its namesake trees. For climbers, Intersection, Lost Horse, Real Hidden Valley and Indian Cove are musts, while plant lovers need to visit the Cholla Cactus Garden, Ocotillo Patch, Arch Rock Nature Trail and Hidden Valley Nature Trail.

Redwood National and State Parks

Home to 2,000-year-old redwoods measuring more than 370 feet high, this area includes Redwood National Park, Prairie Creek, Del Norte and Jedediah Smith State Parks. While the giants are the draw, you'll also want to check out Gold Bluffs Beach and Fern Canyon, which was featured in Jurassic Park 2.

Yosemite National Park

For the ultimate Yosemite experience, trek the John Muir Trail, rich with beautiful peaks and stunning views and the glacial Yosemite Valley. Other popular spots include the Half Dome Hike, Cathedral Lakes Hike, the Yosemite Falls Trail and Tuolumne Meadows.

Channel Islands National Park

Uniquely beautiful and secluded, Channel Island National Park spans five islands: Santa Cruz, Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara. For a sea kayaking adventure, visit Scorpion Beach or snorkel along Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz Islands. Water Canyon, Carrington Point, Scorpion Canyon and Scorpion Anchorage are also must-sees, especially during wildflower season. You'll only be able to access the islands by boat, and no amenities are available to visitors so plan ahead and come prepared.

Lassen Volcanic National Park


To avoid crowds, check out Lassen Volcanic National Park with its beautiful views from Lassen Peak, Bumpass Hell with its teal pond between fumaroles and Hot Springs Creek. Some great spots for hikers include Devil's Kitchen, Manzanita Lake and Echo Lake areas.

Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park, which only had its status updated by the NPS from a national monument in 2013, is most famous for the endangered California condor and the Talus Caves. Explore the park's 30 miles of hiking trails and spot its igneous rock spires on the High Peaks Loop and Moses Springs Trail.

NEXT: WANT ONE OF THESE SUMMER JOBS AT YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK?

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California National Parks: The Top Destinations for Summer Wilderness Adventure