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33 Sites to Discover in California

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If you are wandering in The Golden State and looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, you don't have to look too far to find some of the nation's most treasured landscapes and natural wonders.

California is rich with land that has been set aside, protected, and carefully managed by the National Park Service. From the iconic grandeur of Yosemite which sits in the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the offshore coastal outcroppings of the Channel Islands in Southern California, there are parks and recreational areas that are food for your mind, body, and soul.

Here are the California Parks (in alpha order), and a few details to enhance your journey. For links to all of the parks go to WanderingButNotLost blog.

So let's hit the road. Get up, get out, and #FindYourPark!


  • Alcatraz Island - San Francisco
  • Cabrillo National Monument - San Diego
  • California National Historic Trail
  • Castle Mountains National Monument - Barstow
  • César E. Chávez National Monument - Keene

Channel Islands National Park - Ventura. Five rugged islands off the shore of California make up this National Park - Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. Congress set this area aside as a National Park in 1980 to preserve the fragile resources and ecosystems that are found here. Isolation from the mainland has provided a sanctuary for 145 plants and animals that are found nowhere else in the world. Visitors here must appreciate the delicate balance in play while taking in the incredible views, or while hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, diving or any of the other activities available. December through April is whale-watching season which is a highlight for many. A trip here will certainly provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of Southern California. There are many options available to get to the islands (boats depart from Santa Barbara, Oxnard & Ventura) so you'll be able to find something that fits your schedule.

  • Death Valley National Park - Death Valley
  • Devil's Postpile National Monument - Mammoth Lakes
  • Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site - Danville
  • Fort Point National Historic Site - Presidio of San Francisco
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area - San Francisco
  • John Muir National Historic Site - Martinez

Joshua Tree National Park - Twentynine Palms. With nearly 800,000 acres of raw desert landscape, Joshua Tree National Park is a wide open arid feast for your eyes. It's where the Colorado and Mojave deserts collide, and both sit below a sky that seems much bigger than usual. Actually nothing seems usual here, and that's what makes it such an amazing place to visit. Created from molten liquid and morphing over the past 100 million years, the dramatic rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park are spectacular and are some of the best geological displays in the southwestern deserts. Many forces combined to present the rock piles that we see today which are great for climbers, making JTNP a magnet for rock scaling enthusiasts. Established as a National Monument in 1936, it gained National Park status in 1994. It is within 3 hours of 18 million people and boasts preservation of 501 archeological sites, 88 historic structures, 19 cultural landscapes, and houses 123,253 items in its collection.

  • Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail - Nogales, AZ to San Francisco
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park - Mineral
  • Lava Beds National Monument - Tulelake
  • Manzanar National Historic Site - Independence
  • Mojave National Preserve - Headquarters in Barstow
  • Muir Woods National Monument- Mill Valley
  • Old Spanish Historic Trail - Los Angeles
  • Pinnacles National Park - Paicines
  • Point Reyes National Seashore - Point Reyes
  • Pony Express National Historic Trail - Sacramento, San Francisco
  • Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial - Concord
  • Presidio of San Francisco - San Francisco


Redwood National and State Parks - Del Norte & Humboldt Counties. Redwood National & State Parks are located along the Pacific Coast in Northern California. Instead of one large Park, you'll find a series of Parks that make up the larger Redwood National and State Parks. These include; Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park - all of which were established in the 1920s, and Redwood National Park- which was established in 1968. This mosaic of parks totals about 132,000 acres of land visited by approximately 420,000 people a year.

  • Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park - Richmond
  • San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park - San Francisco
  • Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area - Thousand Oaks
  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks - Tulare and Fresno Counties in the Southern Sierras
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area - Whiskeytown


Yosemite National Park - outside of Fresno in the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite National Park was established in 1890 as the Nation's second recognized Park, although protection began as early as 1864 while Abraham Lincoln was in office. There are over 750,000 acres protected yet when most think of Yosemite they are typically referring to the 7 square miles of Yosemite Valley. It is rich with iconic granite peaks, cliffs and domes, dramatic waterfalls and some of the most beautiful meadows to be found. It truly is a remarkable place and, whether you are seeing it for the first time or are a longtime fan, when you get your glimpse of the valley it is jaw-dropping.

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