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California is one of the most geographically diverse states in the country – with the tallest peak in the continental US, Mount Whitney, and the lowest point in North America: Badwater Basin. California holds several National Parks featuring deserts, volcanoes, mountains, forests, coastlines, and so much more. If you’re looking for the ultimate California National Park Road trip, look no further!
This Ultimate California National Park Road Trip Starts in LA
This Ultimate California National Park road trip starts in LA. Los Angeles is a great jumping off point on it’s own for many of these National Parks, or you can compile them into a road trip, which is what we’ve done here! This road trip starts in the desert and is best done in the fall, winter, or spring.
Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree National Park is named for the Seussical looking Joshua Trees that cover the landscape. However, there’s so much more than meets the eye at Joshua Tree National Park. 131 miles from Los Angeles, this is a great first stop on your California National Park Road trip. Joshua Tree is a must-see in California. From hiking, rock climbing, bouldering, stargazing, or just taking a scenic drive, it’s easy to fill a day or two in Joshua Tree. There are also plenty of camping options available for you!
Death Valley National Park
The next stop on your California National Park road trip is Death Valley: the hottest, driest, and also the lowest National Park in the US! Death Valley National Park is 230 miles from Joshua Tree, driving through the beautiful Mojave Desert. Book your stay at one of the amazing campgrounds!
Death Valley is a below-sea-level basin where summer temperatures can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit on the regular. However, even in this extreme landscape, life can thrive. There are many things to see in Death Valley National Park, and don’t miss Badwater Basin – the lowest point in North America!
Sequoia National Park
From Death Valley to Sequoia National Park is about 230 miles. Sequoia National Park was the second National Park in the US, created in 1890 to protect the giant Sequoia trees from logging practices. This was the first National Park created to protect a living organism. There are many activities and things to do in Sequoia National Park. When you go, do not miss seeing General Sherman! General Sherman is the largest tree in the entire world at 275 feet tall. The nearby campground provides easy access.
After Sequoia, you’ll head to adjacent Kings Canyon National Park right next door.
Kings Canyon National Park
The beautiful Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park are side-be-side, so you’ve got to see both! Kings Canyon National Park is home to the deepest canyon in the United States at over a mile and a half deep, created by a glacier.
This national park rivals Yosemite in beauty and also has many opportunities for hiking, camping, horseback riding, and more. Kings Canyon is home to the second-largest tree in the world, a sequoia named General Grant! Check out the nearby boondocking camping spot to save money and stay nearby.
Yosemite National Park
The 5th stop on your California National Park Road trip is the famous Yosemite National Park, 111 miles from Kings Canyon. Yosemite is best known for its waterfalls (the tallest in the world), huge granite monoliths, and lush valleys.
Yosemite was the 3rd National Park in the United States, but it is what sparked the idea for National Parks in the first place. Naturalist and writer John Muir settled in and helped create Yosemite National Park. To quote John Muir: “No temple made with hands can compare to Yosemite. Every rock in its wall seems to glow with life.”
Try your luck and see if you can book one of the campgrounds in the Yosemite Valley (they book quickly) or play it safe at the campgrounds outside the park.
Bonus Stop: Lake Tahoe
125 miles from Yosemite lies the incredibly beautiful Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe isn’t a National Park, but it should be! From its clear water, picturesque shores, and snow-covered mountains, Lake Tahoe is a MUST SEE. And it makes a convenient stop between Yosemite and Lassen National Parks… so, when in Rome! Er… California. 😉
Lassen Volcanic National Park
186 miles from Lake Tahoe is Lassen Volcanic National Park. Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to many volcanoes and Lassen Peak – the largest plug dome volcano in the world. California has many of the world’s largest things! Lassen Peak is still considered an active volcano, although it has been quiet since 1921. The entire landscape of the park displays spectacular results of volcanic activity – a bubbling mudpot, beautiful lakes, even a devastated area from the last eruption. These campgrounds are perfect for your
Redwood National Park
The last stop on your ultimate California National Park road trip is Redwood National Park. Redwood National Park is 214 miles from Lassen Volcanic National Park and lies on the beautiful Northern California coast. The entirety of the Redwood National and State Parks are comprised of 3 state parks and encompasses more than 139,000 acres. Redwood National Park features towering old-growth redwoods, a beautiful and rugged coastline and so much more. You won’t regret your stay at one of the campgrounds in the middle of a Redwood forest.
Conclusion of the Ultimate California National Park Road Trip
Altogether, this California National Park road trip spans over 1,400 miles and takes you through most geographically diverse state in the continental US. Through deserts, forests, mountains, volcanoes, deep canyons and valleys, this is the ultimate road trip for anyone who wants a glimpse of what all this state has to offer!
Finish your trip home by heading down the famous Pacific Coast Highway and enjoying everything the coastline offers.