national parks in southern California national parks in southern California

The Best National Parks in Southern California: 7 Best Parks

California is a place that is full of life. The city is very famous for its glitz and glamour. But apart from the glamour, California is also rich in natural and cultural resources. The place is home to some of the best national parks, of which the majority are present in southern California.

Every national park in southern California has something different to offer. You will get awestruck by the fantastic natural view that they provide. Here is a list of the best national parks in southern California. Make sure to visit some of them on your next trip to California.

Best National Parks in Southern California

As mentioned above, Southern California national parks offer exciting things to visitors. They are nature covered and have something for people of all age groups.

Curated below are the best from the list of national parks in California.

1. Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands national park is the top-rated national park in California. It is also known as the “Galapagos Islands of North America.” The place has five islands among the eight-channel islands in the country. These five islands are located relatively close to each other and not very far away from Southern California’s shore.

As per records, the Santa Rosa Island of North America has the remains of the oldest known human existence. It was about 30,000 years back. To date, these islands are one of the most popular national parks in California. They have also remained unhampered by human development.

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It is home to unique wildlife creatures, including the giant sea bass and the California spiny lobster. The giant sea bass can grow over 7 feet, and the lobsters can achieve a length of over three feet.

The Channel Islands provide a lot of options for recreation. You can choose what you want to do according to your preference. The Anacapa island present here offers the most surreal view. Santa Cruz Island is home to some of the best flora and fauna in the world. The presence of the large sea caves makes this place more popular. 

Some other activities you can enjoy here are scuba diving, bird watching, kayaking, spear fishing, and hiking on the hiking trails.

2. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is very popular as it is one of the hottest and driest places in the country. The desert environment is one of the major attractions of this place. It comprises dunes, salt flats, valleys, canyons, badlands, and mountains.

Though the summer weather can get rough and dry, autumn and spring are beautiful here. During these seasons, you can witness fantastic scenery in this amazing park.

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There are a lot of mysteries that are related to this place. One such mystery is the phenomenon of “sailing stones”. For years, people have noticed that this area’s big stones and rocks have been moving, leaving a trail behind. It is one of the reasons why people have been attracted to this place for years.

3. Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree is one of Southern California’s most popular national parks. It covers a large area which is slightly larger than Rhode Island. Before this place was established as a national park, it was inhabited by various hunter-gatherers whose main survival mode was hunting and large trees.

In this national park, you can witness amazing desert scenery along with huge Joshua trees. The blue skies and the barren hills make a vibrant contrast with the different shades of brown of the deserts of Southern California.

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It would help if you stayed a day or two in this fantastic national park rather than on a day trip. You can witness many other things if you plan to halt at this place.

Some fun daytime activities in Joshua tree are camping, hiking, road cycling, and rock climbing. In comparison, the night activities include stargazing.

The Joshua Tree national park is the best place for the ones who love looking at the night sky. It provides the best opportunity and facilities for stargazing.

Apart from these, you will also be able to witness different wildlife in this national park. If you plan to visit the Joshua tree during the day, you might also be able to encounter the giant desert scorpion or the tarantulas. `

4. Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park, which is also known as the Sequoia National Park, is one of the unique Southern California national parks. It has the world’s biggest trees, also known as General Sherman.

The trees of this region are 275 feet tall. The largest tree in this range has a diameter of about 7 feet. It does not end here; the trees are 2000-2500 years old, which makes them the oldest trees alive.

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The Congress Trail is one of the most popular spots in this national park. It is a paved loop trail with a starting point from the General Sherman Tree. Along the way, it also offers the sight of some other wonderful small and huge trees.

Another famous place to visit in this area is the Big Trees Trail. It starts near the Gaint Forest Museum and offers a great experience with the redwoods.

Moro Rock climbing is one of the most popular activities that you can enjoy in the Kings Canyon National Park. Besides this, this national park offers many other hiking options for great hiking lovers.

5. Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park is one of Southern California’s most underrated national parks. It is situated at a distance of 5 hours from Los Angeles. After driving through the Salinas Valley Farmlands, you will arrive at this wonderful place.

The national park is situated on the San Andreas Fault, part of a very old volcanic field. The San Andreas Faults split the field in half, which drags the monoliths and the rock formations to the north of the park while the other part of the park stays put.

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Another fascinating part of this national park is the High Peaks Trail. It is the best place for hiking on a day with your friends. The big vultures found generally in the Western United States, also known as Captive-bred California condors, are left open in this place.

Apart from hiking, rock climbing, and camping are other activities you can enjoy here.

6. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite national park is famous for its wildlife, waterfalls, granite rock walls and glorious views. Situated near Los Angeles, this national park is also famous for its amazing view during a drive.

The popularity of Yosemite National Park makes it overly crowded during summer. If you plan to explore this place to the fullest, visiting during the spring or fall season is advised.

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Yosemite Valley is the major attraction of Yosemite National Park. It is home to various outstanding features like the Half Dome, El Captain, Tunnel View, Yosemite Falls, and other attractions.

Mariposa Grove is one of the most distinctive features of Yosemite National Park. It is home to various types of wildlife, wildflowers, lakes, and meadows.

If you are planning to start your journey from Los Angeles, then it is advised to take some food along as it is going to be a 5 hours journey. But soon after your reach this national park, all your tiredness will vanish after witnessing the beauty of this place.

7. Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument is situated at the Southernmost tip of San Diego. Various types of wildlife, like octopuses and sea lions, are found in this place.

A lot of grey whales come to this area every year. These great whales attract numerous tourists, a distinct feature of this national monument. If you want to spot the migrating grey whales, head to the Whale Overlook station.

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While talking about this place, we cannot forget the Point Loma Lighthouse. It is situated at a level 422 feet above sea level and is an attraction to this place.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Types of Activities May You Engage in At These National Parks?

The national parks in Southern California offer a wide range of activities, such as hiking, rock climbing, camping, astronomy, bird viewing, and wildlife spotting.

2. Does It Cost Anything to Enter These National Parks?

Well, the costs vary based on the park and the kind of car you drive, but they normally fall between $10 and $35 per car.

3. Do These National Parks Accept Pets?

In some portions of the national parks in Southern California, pets are permitted, although they must always be kept on a leash. Before bringing your pet to a park, it’s crucial to review the rules and guidelines for that park. Pets may not be allowed in certain regions because of wildlife or sensitive environments.


If you plan to visit Southern California, visit these places to have a great experience. Apart from these, some other national parks in Southern California are equally famous. All these places are perfect for a day trip with your friends or even with your family. At the same time, some places mentioned here will require staying for a day or two.

So get ready to indulge in these parks’ amazing natural views.

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Last Updated on March 12, 2023 by Steffy Michael