One of the most famous cities in the world and the heart of Southern California, Los Angeles is so much more than its titular “Hollywood sign.” A city is known for its glitz and glamour, the urban sprawl that blinds and takes you away with the city’s pulsing lifestyle, L.A. also houses some of the best marvels of nature.
Starting away with exotic coastal beaches along the pacific waters to tall woody forests, expansive mountain ranges, and whatnot, this geographically vast city attracts millions of visitors all year long.
The entertainment capital of the world is not just about its richness in the entertainment industry but preserves some spectacular outdoor attractions that are worth a visit. If you’re someone planning for a trip to L.A, you’ll be spoilt with multiple options that let you witness both nature’s paradise and the buzz of vibrant city patterns.
In this blog, we’ll be looking into some incredible national parks near Los Angeles that one should not miss out on while their stay in L.A. All these attractions lie beyond the city limits and can be reached within 5 hours from the city. Each park has its own show of wildlife and serenity and this guide
Six Best National Parks Near Los Angeles
Located on the coast of Southern California, Los Angeles becomes an integral base for major national parks. Most of these parks can be visited on a day trip, although staying overnight can let you make the most of your visit.
So if you are visiting Los Angeles anytime soon, make sure you don’t miss out on these very Southern California national parks. There are precisely 6 national parks near Los Angeles that have their very own specific climate and environment. These popular national parks are the closest to Los Angeles and promise remarkable outdoor views.
1. Joshua Tree National Park
About 130 miles from Los Angeles, that might take 2.5 hours long driving distance to reach the Joshua tree national park, and the park promises awe-inspiring landscapes featuring their tall standing cactus-like Joshua trees, and desert shrubs with chunky rock masses scattered all over the ground.
The brown barren land highlights piles of massive lava-formed boulders and rocks amidst the towering trees, contrasting with the blue skies to provide a marvelous sight viewing experience. The park also has various outdoor activities for visitors to indulge in like rock climbing, hiking, and camping.
There are numerous hiking trails to choose from including the ‘Hidden Valley’ nature trail and Warren peak being the most popular ones. Situated at the junction of two desert lands-Mojave and Colorado, Joshua tree national park undoubtedly is one the best tourist spots attracting over 2 million visitors every year.
2. Channel Islands National Park
Out of all the parks of Southern California, the Channel islands national park can be called the most worthwhile, providing you with a full package of experiences.
It takes about 2 hours from L. It covers a distance of 70 miles to reach the harbor, the park’s mainland visitor center located in Ventura, from where a ferry ride will take visitors to their desired island. The travel time via water usually takes 1 to 4 hours, depending on which island you visit.
The Channel Islands are a group of 8 islands out of which 5 islands form the Channel islands national park. These islands are Santa Cruz, Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara. Each of these islands has its specific offerings and embodies a unique charm that brings visitors to explore these preserved treasures.
From hiking trails, sea caves, deep canyons, camping, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, and wildlife viewing, the park has a proportionate mix of land and water-based activities.
Over 2000 species of plants and animals reside in the Channel islands, a certain number of these species are rare and can only be found on these islands. The Channel islands national park is a perfect place for wildlife lovers and people with a deeper interest in adventure sports.
Although the remoteness of the location makes it the least explored park in Southern California, the park is no surprise is one of the best national parks with its rich biodiversity.
3. Death Valley National Park
Situated at the border of California and Nevada, the Death Valley is also called the land of extreme because of its condition which makes it the hottest and driest place on earth. So goes the justifiable name, death valley has recorded the highest air temperature on the planet which is 56.7 degrees C. Out of all other national parks near L.A, the Death Valley happens to be the largest of them all. It also counts as the largest national park in the contiguous United States.
The Death Valley is about 215 miles away from Los Angeles and it takes around 4 hours driving distance to reach there. What makes Death Valley one of the most fascinating national parks is its striking landscape highlighting rolling sand dunes, canyons, salt flats, desert plains, and the surrounding mountains.
This park also houses the Badwater Basin, which is the lowest point in North America about 282 feet below sea level. Other significant attractions are the Zabriskie Point and Artist’s Palette.
This very national park also has a few outdoor activities for its visitors to engage in, one of them being stargazing. Yes! Stargazing in death valley can be an unforgettable experience as you can see astounding views of the star-filled skies as clear as glass.
This is because of low levels of light pollution and while you can enjoy camping and the breathtaking night sky here you must also know that the park is also called the International Dark Sky Park. Some of the excellent camping spots must include Furnace Creek, Mesquite Park, and Texas Spring.
4. Sequoia National Park
If the mythical aspects of nature deeply draw you, Sequoia national park can be the right place for you to be in. The Sequoia national park coexists with the King Canyon national park, two separate parks but cooperatively administered by the National Park Service.
Since both these parks lie by one another, they can be visited on a day trip. The distance from LA should not be more than 200 miles; it might take around 4 to 5 hours to reach the park premises.
Extremely popular for the towering 200 feet of sequoia trees that scatter all around the parking area, Sequoia is truly a paradise for nature enthusiasts. The park also is home to the General Sherman Tree, which is the world’s largest living tree to exist. The 275 feet tall tree is indeed a marvel gifted by nature.
This tree grows in the Giant Forest which also houses five of the world’s ten biggest trees. Visitors can spend their time trekking and discovering more the natural treasure where they can find granite rock formations and cascading waterfalls.
Sequoia national park also allows visitors to witness the 14.505 feet tall Mount Whitney which is the highest mountain in the continental United States. These parks allow you to experience a different environment away from the urban city lights in the truest sense.
The welcoming atmosphere of these parks amidst tall towering trees, surrounded by nature and its components can be an answer to your weekend getaway.
5. Kings Canyon National Park
Since both Kings Canyon national park and Sequoia national park share a common border and a common entry point, they can be visited in the same trip. While Sequoia is just 200 miles from Los Angeles, Kings Canyon is roughly 24o miles. These twin parks are adjacent to each other and lie in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, offering a fascinating show of tall trees and green landscapes.
The Kings Canyon national park also houses the General Grant Tree in Grant Grove which is the world’s second-largest tree. Other remarkable attractions include the Cedar Grove encompassed by tall granite canyon walls. Following from here, the trails take you to Zumwalt Meadow, Kings river, and the Roaring River Falls.
This park has one of the deepest canyons in the US. Visitors get a chance to explore the multiple canyons, valleys, unfathomably tall trees, and mountain peaks or admire the candid gushing waterfalls.
This amazing park indeed promises a worthy day trip allowing you to encounter nature closely. The General Highway, which connects Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, is another striking national park road offering spectacular scenic views.
6. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite national park is one of the most popular and most visited national parks. The iconic park has a diverse yet balanced mix of mountains, valleys, lakes, and forests.
The Yosemite national park is about 280 miles from Los Angeles, and it takes around 5 hours to reach the park. This park is a true example of a natural park in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.
Best known for its dazzling waterfalls, Yosemite national park is easily one of the best national parks near L.A. The park offers picturesque views of waterfalls, wildlife, and the most fascinating tall granite cliffs which are a major attraction here. What makes the park strikingly different is the Mariposa Grove which has big gigantic sequoia trees followed by Yosemite Valley and rock formations that steal the thunder, El Captain and Half Dome.
The park provides a perfect show of wildlife and plant life- you will find the Tuolumne Meadows which features wildflowers, lakes, and breathtaking scenery. Furthermore, the Merced River, Bridalveil falls, Tunnel view, and the iconic Yosemite falls are some must-visit spots inside the park.
The park also has numerous outdoor activities for visitors to relish, these include hiking, rock climbing, camping, and skiing during the winters.
Other Notable Places to Visit
We saw some of the best national parks near Los Angeles, but that’s not the end of it. There are ample more places you might consider visiting while staying in Los Angeles. Although these places have their own impeccable charm that makes them worth visiting, however, these places have relatively been less explored.
- Pinnacles National Park
This park is far less popular than the above-mentioned top national parks. However, this surely does not imply what the park has in store. About 5 hours driving distance from Los Angeles, passing through the Salinas Valley farmlands will bring you to this very park.
The park lies on the Sand Andreas Fault, and this fault split in half has monoliths and rock formations in the Pinnacles national park. Although there is not much about the park, its geological history makes it an interesting visit.
- Mojave National Preserve
This is a National Land Preserve which is a vast stretch of national land near L.A. Situated in the east of San Bernardino County, California, the preserve remains open for travelers all year long. While at Mojave, the sights of the Kelso Dunes can really be a part of a rewarding hike.
The roads will take you through the Joshua tree forest which is the largest of their kind. There are also two campsites that may further help you explore more of the desert land preserve.
These wonders bring great opportunities for common people to study the mysterious aspects of nature and not only that, adding more to the plate these parks have become important centers that protect and nurture wildlife.
While we saw some of the most spectacular national parks near Los Angeles, from towering Joshua trees to the giant sequoia trees, every national park had its own atmosphere and scenic show. Each of these national parks promises remarkable outdoors and an unforgettable experience of adventure activities.
Some places hold a historical backstory while some just have mesmerizing photo-worthy scenic beauty. So next time you plan a visit to the sparkling city of L.A, make sure you have a few of these parks on your bucket list.