STATE & NATIONAL PARKS
One of the world’s hottest places in summer, Death Valley also contains the lowest point in North America, and this is just 85 miles from Mount Whitney, the continental U.S.’S highest point. After wet winters, early spring wildflower blooms here are usually spectacular.
Scramble up boulders
in Joshua Tree’s Wonderland of Rocks. Time travel on a historic ship in San Francisco Bay. Stand beneath giant redwoods that author John Steinbeck called ambassadors from another time. Whatever your passion, California’s 280 state parks and 32 national parks, seashores and monuments—whose mission is to protect the state’s natural and cultural treasures—are the gateway to experiences as varied as the state’s geography.
Yosemite & the Sierra Nevada
Yosemite National Park, with its glaciersculpted valley and granite peaks, is justifiably one of the world’s natural treasures. Come in spring when the waterfalls thunder to the valley floor. Come in summer when the park is abuzz with visitors to explore by tram, bike or on foot. Choose a gentle half-hour hike or reserve a spot for the all-day climb up Half Dome. Junior Ranger Walks are popular with kids. Backpackers can enjoy the solitude of the park’s high country and expert rock climbers have dozens of granite walls to scale. Don’t leave the park without stopping at Glacier Point with its views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley or at the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias to marvel at its 2,700-year-old Grizzly Giant.
To see a really big tree—the world’s largest by volume—head south to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and marvel at the weighty General Sherman. While still in the mountains, take a trip to