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9 Best National Parks In California

A grove of Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park

With nine national parks, the beautiful state of California has more than any other in the nation – a fact far too overshadowed by the glamor of Hollywood and the magic of Disneyland. The city lights and culinary delights of places like Los Angeles and San Francisco are great, but California’s national parks are home to some of the most intriguing natural beauty you can find on the west coast and beyond.

These beautiful national parks are each highly unique, and many visitors find each better than the last. The interior of California offers everything ranging from desolate deserts to lush forests, from flat plains to jagged mountaintops, and from small plants and vegetation to massive trees reaching hundreds of feet to the sky. Off the coast, you’ll find pristine island environments that few national park-goers will ever make it to.

There is even more to see beyond the nine main parks in the Golden State. The United States National Park System also manages seven national monuments and two national recreation areas, while the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management manage dozens more national forests and wildlife preserves; there are hundreds of state parks throughout the state, too. Needless to say, you’ll never be far from a place to enjoy the great outdoors in California, and with a properly planned trip, you can see a ton.

We’ve put together the below ultimate guide to the best of California national parks and how to enjoy each of them. Know where to stay, what to do, and how to prepare for the trip of a lifetime to this part of the country.

Exploring The Best National Parks In California

1. Joshua Tree National Park

A grove of Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park
Brad Sutton / NPS

We’ll start in southern California at a park that can be reached just two hours from Los Angeles: Joshua Tree National Park. This expanse counts over 800,000 acres of remote, protected land near the posh town of Palm Springs.

Joshua Tree National Park is unique because of its crossroads ecosystems where two deserts meet. The Mojave and Colorado deserts bring together ecosystems of fascinating plants and animals. The most famous, as denoted by the park’s name, is the Joshua tree that can be found throughout.

Joshua trees are desert plants with a striking appearance. Tall, twisted, and seeming to have bushes at its branch ends, this member of the Agave family is spiky and sharp.

Their very tough leaves were once used for clothing and tools, while lumber was used…

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