Best National Parks in California & Beyond: Old teal and white SUV with canoe on top sits on side of road in Arches National Park.

Konnichi wa / Great Outdoors


There's so much more to life than urban sprawl and freeways that look like parking lots in modern American life, which is why you should plan a trip to one of the many beautiful natural parks throughout the United States. The western states are home to some of the most iconic, most diverse, and most breathtaking natural parks in the world, and a road trip to one or more of these parks is sure to leave you with lasting memories. Whether you're looking to plan a getaway with your family or just as a solo trip, consider hitting the road to explore some of America's (and perhaps even North America's) greatest natural treasures.

National Parks in California: Yosemite National Park

Sign pointing toward Glacier Point with El Capitan in background at Yosemite National Park.

This beloved California gem was one of the world's very first designated wilderness parks, and to this day it attracts visitors from around the globe. Yosemite is home to famous waterfalls and some of the largest trees, giant sequoia trees, as well as the majestic Half Dome, which you can hike if you're willing to brave the steep climb. Yosemite National Park is massive, with nearly 1,200 square miles of picturesque meadows and jaw-dropping rock formations. There's also the John Muir Trail, a 211-mile long-distance trail in the Sierra Nevada, that runs through Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks.

Make sure to read our other articles Things to Do in Yosemite National Park and The Best Time to Visit Yosemite National Park for further information on when to visit, where to stay, and what to do while visiting Yosemite National Park and Yosemite Valley. Whether trekking from north of San Francisco or south of Los Angeles along the California coast, Yosemite is a national park that's worth the trip.

National Parks in Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park

Large waterfall sits in distance with mountains on either side and pine trees in foreground; Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming is home to more than 300 geysers, including the iconic Old Faithful. In addition, this unique park features plenty of beautiful hiking trails and bountiful wildlife, which is why Yellowstone continues to draw millions of visitors every year. From lakes and rivers to geysers and calderas, there is no shortage of natural wonders to see in Yellowstone. Once you spend some time exploring this world-famous park, you'll understand just why it became the world's very first national park.

National Parks in California: Redwood National Park

Redwood trees shoot to the sky with red bark and green leaves in Redwood National Park.

The towering, giant redwood trees of Redwood National Park in California are world-renown, and they'll keep taking your breath away again and again. Some of these colossal trees are almost 2,000 years old, and many are over 350 feet high - some of the world's tallest trees. Redwood National Park offers an abundance of great hikes as well as picturesque drives along the Pacific Ocean.

National Parks in Utah: Arches National Park

Red arch flows across the foreground with bright blue sky in background at Arches National Park.

Located in Utah, Arches is one of the most unique and majestic national parks in the world. It's known for its gravity-defying balanced rock formations, its skyscraping pinnacles, and its beautiful natural stone arches - of which there are more than 2,000. Arches' red rock formations will have you in awe from the moment you enter the park, so be sure to take full advantage of your beautiful, one-of-a-kind natural surroundings by going on hikes and witnessing the idyllic sunsets.

National Parks in Arizona: Grand Canyon National Park

Greenish river flows through reddish canyon rocks with blue hues in the background at Grand Canyon National Park.

The Grand Canyon is nothing short of iconic, and it should definitely be on every nature lover's bucket list. The Grand Canyon is more than 5,000 feet deep in some parts, and you can venture down to the very bottom for an unforgettable rafting experience on the Colorado River. If that's not your style, you should at least make a quick pit stop at one of the Grand Canyon viewpoints to soak in the scenic vistas.

Wrapping-Up: Best National Parks in California & Beyond

River flows around red rock formation in horseshoe format at Grand Canyon National Park.

Of course, there are other great national parks we didn't mention, like Joshua Tree National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park, and Lassen Volcanic National Park, Death Valley National Park, Channel Islands National Park, Pinnacles National Park, and Sequoia National Park. Then, there are great state parks, national monuments, and national recreation areas like Point Reyes National Seashore, Mammoth Lakes, Devils Postpile National Monument, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Muir Woods National Monument, the Mojave Desert, the Santa Monica Mountains, and Cabrillo National Monument.

It's clear, whether you reside in San Diego or Los Angeles in southern California or San Francisco in the Bay Area in northern California, or even Nevada and beyond, the National Park Service (NPS) park system has a lot to offer in terms of parks and national historic sites. If you want to immerse yourself in the great outdoors with rock climbing, hot springs, tide pools, or sand dunes and enjoy some of the most breathtaking natural scenery in the West, you should definitely plan a trip to one or more of these national parks. Not only will you leave with great photos, but you'll also leave with incredible memories and a renewed sense of wonder.

Looking for more on the best national parks in California and other national parks throughout the U.S.? Try these:

“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

— John Muir

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April 29, 2019 — Konnichi wa