California’s National Parks are truly remarkable places in the states. They are loved by locals and tourists alike, as the parks that cover mountains, forests, deserts, coastal areas, and islands offer an outstanding experience.
Today we’ll talk about which of the national parks in California must be visited in the fall. And the ones worth a million photos!
Fall is truly one of the best times to visit California national parks; the leaves are switching colours, giving off a warm, earthy feel. The weather is starting to cool, promising chill evenings.
At A Glance
- Let’s start with the basics
- 8 Best National Parks To Visit In Fall In California
- Purchase the US National Parks Annual Pass
Let’s start with the basics
In California, as in many other US states, federal law defines special natural areas that are protected at the state level – these are national parks. Unlike the simple wilderness of the United States, national parks are convenient for the whole family to visit by car, as they have an excellent tourist infrastructure.
- All national parks have excellent roads for cars and convenient parking facilities. Be sure to drive to stop at any convenient time and relish the beauty of the parks. By the way, if you are a student, we advise you to find out what is a smart student discount for car insurance in case of unforeseen trouble on the road.
- On the main roads in California parks, you can drive a regular city car, but you may only need an SUV to tow a trailer with a boat/snowmobile or on specially designed routes, for example, to descend into a canyon on a dirt road.
- At the entrance to the park and inside there are special visitor centers where you can receive all the necessary information about the park and find out in advance what you can see, get maps and tips for visiting from the rangers.
- There are trails in national parks – marked and prepared routes for hiking, as well as areas for organizing picnics during the day and special campgrounds where tourists stop for the night with tents or in their motorhomes.
- And finally, most of California’s national parks also have lodges – these are comfortable hotels in nature, which are located right in the heart of the national parks.
8 Best National Parks To Visit In Fall In California
1. Redwood National Park
The park, located on the Pacific coast, is famous for its red trees as well as an observation deck. The latter’s located near the Klamat country at 200 metres above sea level. Thousands of tourists come here to watch migration of gray whales.
2. Yosemite National Park
Probably the most beautiful park in California, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Yosemite National Park is famous for its waterfalls and granite monoliths, towering a kilometre above the surface of the park.
The main attractions of Yosemite National Park are:
- Yosemite Valley;
- Yosemite Fall – that’s 739 metres high (the tallest waterfall in North America and the sixth tallest waterfall in the world);
- Ribbon Stream – one of the waterfalls with the highest point of the unimpeded waterfall;
- Half Dome granite rock with a height of more than 1500 metres;
- El Capitan – that’s the largest granite monolith;
- twin peaks Three Brothers;
- Mariposa Grove – a forest of giant sequoias
That, and of course it’s well known for attracting rock climbers from all over the world. Here’s a guide on rock climbing in Yosemite if you’re also a rock climber like me!
Well, 4 million visitors a year – the number speaks for itself. Get ready for the journey!
3. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Sequoia and Kings Canyon Park is located just 4 hours from Los Angeles. And this road is worth overcoming. The main attractions of the Sequoia Park are giant sequoias, including the largest tree on the planet – General Sherman, which is located in the Giant Forest.
Besides the undoubtedly unusual sequoia trees, for the sake of which it’s worth going to the park of the same name, we also advise you to climb the historical stairs to the Moro Rock observation deck, from where you can enjoy stunning views of the surroundings.
Also, tourists love to drive their car through the tunnel, which is cut in the fallen redwoods, and take a memorable photo there.
4. Pinnacles National Park
Pinnacles National Park, formed in 2013, features massive cliffs and winding caves, and incredible green surroundings.
Pinnacles Park is divided into two parts: east and west. It’s impossible to cross it by car, there are no roads, but you can walk – the trails stretch for 8 km. There’s camping, a visitor centre, and a shop.
Please note: you can leave the park later than 8 pm, but you cannot enter.
5. Death Valley
The most popular parkland across the US covers almost 1.5 million hectares. This is a park of contrasts: there are sand dunes, sandstone canyons, and sharp height differences. The down point of the park is more than 85 metres below sea level, and the highest is at more than 3300 metres above.
Death Valley is the largest park in America, 95% of which is wild, uninhabited places. It’s also the hottest and driest place on the planet.
Visits here are only recommended during the winter months, as temperatures rise above 49 degrees in summer. Only the Sahara managed to beat these temperatures by 2 degrees only once.
So be sure to take water and comfortable shoes with you; the most interesting things can be seen on the dirt roads. And although rental car companies only allow driving on paved road, if you’re extremely careful, then everything’s possible.
6. Joshua Tree Park
This is one of the locals’ favourite parks in California. It’s named after the tree growing on its territory – the yucca tree, or the Joshua tree, which grows exclusively in the Mojave Desert.
Joshua Tree Park was formed at the junction of two deserts – the high-mountainous Mojave and Colorado. Therefore, their most characteristic features are combined on its territory.
From the Mojave – unique trees and rocks of curious shapes that are popular with climbers, and from Colorado – high mountains, cholla cacti and the only native California palm trees – California Fan Palm. If you’re visiting Colorado, you’ll want to check out these Colorado cabin rentals – the nature and atmosphere are incredibly similar to the places we reference in this blog.
7. Lassen Volcanic Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park is a very special place in the north of the state. It’s well known for its volcanic activity and is often visited to observe the effects of volcanos because there are 4 different types of them. The last time one of them came to life back in 1914 and seems to have died out completely.
In addition to the volcano, the park has several beautiful peaks, picturesque rocks, forests, and lakes. The most famous attraction is the Bumpass Hell trail, around which most of the most curious geothermal phenomena have accumulated.
Keep in mind that in autumn and spring it can be quite chilly due to the fact that the territory of the park is located at a rather high altitude, and in winter the road to Lassen Peak is generally closed. However, skiing is possible near the entrances to the park.
8. Channel Islands
The 5 islands off the coast of Southern California are one of America’s most remote and absolutely magical national parks. Despite the fact that the islands are quite close to the coast, they are striking in the underdeveloped infrastructure compared to the mainland of Southern California. This park was created in 1980 to protect the unique nature and preserve the cultural heritage which can not be found anywhere else in the world.
There are no housing, shops, and even restaurants here. People come here to visit the sea caves on kayaks, go for a walk along the prepared hiking routes, go diving, observe sea inhabitants.
Most tourists visit these unique islands in summer, but in winter and spring, it’s also worth stopping by, as there’s a chance to see migrating whales from their territory.
And in the fall, connoisseurs of scuba diving come here, as at this time there’s excellent diving.
Purchase the US National Parks Annual Pass
Tourists, as well as locals, know that there’s a charge to enter California’s national parks. Usually, the cost varies greatly, with an average of USD 30 per car.
However, everyone has the opportunity to buy an annual pass at the entrance to the very first park – it applies to all national parks and costs about USD 80. This will definitely be more beneficial if you are going to visit more than two parks.
Well, our story about the national parks of California has come to an end. As you can see, the variety of natural conditions of California determines the very rich flora and fauna of the state.
Almost 45% of California is covered with forests, here you can see the oldest (intermontane bristlecone pine, up to 4,900 years old), the tallest (sequoia, up to 115 metres), and the most massive (sequoiadendron or mammoth tree) trees on Earth.
In addition to flora, California is rich in high mountains and vast valleys, dense forests and desert salt marshes, turbulent rivers and dry lakes.
In addition to the parks listed, be sure to visit the Point Reyes Cape, Big Sur, Santa Cruz beach, Laguna Beach, La Jolla Bay (to see seals and sea lions), and the Algodones Dunes.
We wish you interesting walks in nature and pleasant impressions from your trip across the USA!