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California’s National Parks

April 8, 2018

I finished my first pass through Treasured Lands today, and I’ve already identified several new National Parks I’d like to visit (adding to the existing set of those I already knew I wanted to see). Looking through the book also reminded me how much I’ve enjoyed previous visits to National Parks, and in particularly how lucky we are in the West to have relatively easy access to some truly spectacular parks. One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is that some of my favorite parks are within a day’s drive.

Yosemite is hands-down my favorite park. Most people just spend a day in the park, driving around the valley and making a few stops. But to really appreciate the park you need to stay for several days and go for some of the longer hikes. Walking along the valley in the morning or evening, hiking up to the top of Yosemite falls, hiking up the Mist Trail to Vernal (and then on to Nevada) Falls, and hiking down from Glacier Point to Illilouette Falls all provide amazing views of the valley and the surrounding mountains. And that’s just listing a few possibilities within the valley itself.

View of Half Dome and falls from Glacier Point

 

Sequoia National Park, farther south along the Sierra Nevadas, is impressive as well, although for slightly different reasons. While it also provides some amazing views of the surrounding mountains and the foothills leading to the Central Valley, the sequoia trees are more of the draw. We’ve only been to Sequoia once, but with just a few days we went on multiple hikes with amazing (and quite varied) views. Sequoia is proximate to Kings Canyon National Park, but we spent minimal time in that park on our trip. Our plan is that on our next visit we’ll concentrate on exploring that park.

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Joshua Tree is also a favorite, but in a very different way. While both Yosemite and Sequoia are very lush and green (except when California is undergoing yet another drought), Joshua Tree is beautiful in a much more sparse, desolate way. The rock formations are beautiful in the morning and evening light, and the Joshua trees and other native vegetation stand out by virtue of the empty landscape. I suspect I wouldn’t find it nearly as enjoyable in the summer, but in the spring the park is amazing to visit.

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We’ve also visited Pinnacles National Park, the Point Reyes National Seashore, and driven through Death Valley. One day I’d like to catch the spring wildflower blooms in Death Valley, but after looking through Treasured Lands I’m leaning toward visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park next (well, after Kings Canyon). The landscapes look amazing, and it draws fewer people than the more prominent parks in California.

From → Travel

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