California is a vast state with a lot to offer. Where you go changes what you will encounter. While most people think of Hollywood and L.A. when they think of California, there’s a lot more to it than that. From sandy beaches to amazing mountain vistas, California has a little something for everyone. However, this list is not your typical list. Instead of places in L.A. to visit, this list is comprised of National Parks in California that are definitely worth checking out the next time you’re in the golden state.
Believe it or not, Alcatraz Island is a National Park, and it has a lot to offer. It was once a prison for some of America’s most notorious criminals and has been featured in several classic films. Set just a little over a mile off the coast of San Francisco, this ominous island holds a lot of history. Some of the buildings were built and maintained by the prisoners who lived inside the walls. As time went on, Alcatraz became a federal prison. It held Al Capone and many other prisoners until it was shut down in 1963. Eventually, Alcatraz was turned into a National Park and has hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. An audio tour will guide you through the central experiences of the prisoners and explain the main events that happened here.
Sequoia National Park is a must-see. Trees that are thousands of years old tower to unimaginable heights and fill you with wonder. Home to no less than ten of the largest trees on the planet, the majesty of this park gives you a strangely unique feeling of insignificance as you wonder beneath them. The park covers more than 631 square miles and features popular spots like Tokopah Falls, Congress Trail and Moro Rock. If you’re looking for a way to commune with nature, then you should definitely visit this park.
No other park in California is as unique as Yosemite National Park. Not only does Yosemite feature an amazing waterfall you can hike next to, but it also features El Capitan, a 3,000-foot granite rock face that is featured in the documentary Free Solo. In Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s 2019 Oscar-Winning documentary, rock climber Alex Honnold climbs El Capitan without any ropes or equipment. With tons of hiking and spectacular views, there is no other place on earth that offers the type of topography that you will see at Yosemite. If you time your visit for mid to late February, you can experience fire-fall, which looks like the sun melting into a waterfall. There are also vast vistas where you are able to see for miles around you.
Lassen Volcanic National Park is the last must see on our list. Located in Northern California, it is one you will have to see over the summer. This park not only features a beautiful river, but at the very top of the park is an extinct volcano that you can hike up to if you don’t mind a steep climb. There are also deep blue lakes that surround the park, along with geothermal areas that include bubbling “clay pots” and geysers. This park, while similar to Yellowstone, offers a wide range of camping, hiking, and scenery. You can choose to take it easy and hike in the meadow or enjoy a picnic by a lake. However you decide to spend your time, Lassen is a beautiful place to visit with a lot to do.
Because California is such a large state, there are tons of places to visit and lots to see. However, if you’re looking for something utterly unique to California, these four parks are going to give you the experience you’re looking for. From the giant Sequoia trees to a Volcano you can hike to, there’s almost a little bit of everything to keep you busy on your next trip.