Top California day trips and weekend getaways
Summertime is a busy travel time and it seems everywhere you go it’s crowded. Instead of heading to the beach or Yosemite along with everyone else, try heading to one of the many beautiful and crowd-free California National Parks.
Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon
Less busy than Yellowstone, Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon are two separate National Parks managed as one, which means you only have to pay one entrance fee for the both of them. Sequoia National Park truly is an undiscovered California treasure. In the park you’ll find the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world; Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States; the second-largest road-free wilderness area in the United States, and Crescent Meadow, a Sequoia-rimmed meadow called the “gem of the Sierra” by John Muir.
Channel Islands National Park
Each island has its own endemic plants and animals, leading the Channel Islands to often be called California’s Galapagos. Over 2,000 species of plants and animals can be found within the park, which consists of five of the eight Channel Islands along the southern California coast from Point Conception near Santa Barbara to just north of Los Angeles. The park is lightly visited, never crowded and beautiful year-round. Fall is the best time to visit this California National Park though, because blue and humpback whales can be seen migrating.
Death Valley National Park
Home to one of the starkest landscapes in California, Death Valley is a geological wonder filled with exposed rock and sparse vegetation. With 3.4 million acres, Death Valley is the largest National Park in the contiguous U.S. The 18-mile drive from Furnace Creek to Badwater is a must, along the drive you’ll see fantastic salt formations, colorful views and the lowest place in the western hemisphere.
According to John Muir the beauty of Mount Shasta turned his blood to wine. Located in Northern California, Mount Shasta is the largest volcanic peak in the contiguous U.S., a towering mountain with one of the highest base-to-summit rises in the world. Snowcapped Mt. Shasta has pristine mountain lakes and rivers, majestic forests, and miles of backcountry to explore plus plenty of skiing, snowboarding, fishing, golfing, mountain biking, rock climbing and hiking.
Joshua Tree National Park
Located in south eastern California, Joshua Tree National Park includes two deserts, each with an ecosystem whose characteristics are determined primarily by elevation. This California National Park gets its name from the unique looking Joshua tree which can be found in the higher, slightly cooler Mojave Desert. The geologically unique landscape of the area features hills of bare rock, broken up into loose bolder, making the area huge for rock climbing and scrambling enthusiasts. Barker Dam, Keys View, which offers views of the Coachella Valley and Salton Sea, bird watching, and Hidden Valley (not the salad dressing) are all must-sees of the Joshua Tree National Park.