California National Parks - California's Park System


California National Parks ( and National Forests include a diverse offering of attractions including national parks, national recreation areas, national monuments, national seashores, national historic sites, national historic trails and national forests. Below is a list of national park and national forest pages with information and photos to help you plan your vacations in California.

National Parks Service holdings include over 4.1 million acres operated under a national land management system. Their diversity both geographically and in offerings are striking. Some are located on the Pacific Ocean with others situated in California's arid deserts. The nine National Parks in California are maintained by the National Parks Service, with 23 units that include nine National Parks. If we had to pick a favorite in all of California for a vacation, it would be a tough choice. However, for an all inclusive vacation where you stay at the park, Yosemite National Park ranks among the nation's and world's favorites. Immortalized by famous painters and photographers such as Ansel Adams, the park that visitors see lies in a valley with hotel lodgings quite nice, and surroundings that offer such views from your hotel room or deck that you feel you've touched paradise. Unfortunately, as you enter this region's summer season beginning in April through early September, hotel pickings become slim. The area transforms to a mass of people driving in and out. It is truly the peak season for visiting and on our current look for rooms, we found something available at the gorgeous Tenaya Lodge for over $350/night. If you can wait till what's known at the shoulder season (October through March), you many more opportunities to stay inside the park and enjoy its less crowded atmosphere.


National Park Service areas offer visitors a wide variety of adventures from historical and cultural experiences to natural wonders seen nowhere else on earth. Not to be confused with the 277 California State Parks ( operated by a division of the State of California, the National Parks have their own set of regulations for parking, camping and fee structure.


The National Parks in California that are operated by the US government agency, rather than the California State agency employ their own caretakers, rangers and charge fees on a structure not related to the state parks system.

Alcatraz Island - Located in the San Francisco Bay, the island of Alcatraz is a tourist attraction today but once served as a military fortification, home to the West Coast's first lighthouse and an infamous federal prison long off-limits to the public. Visitors to the island can explore and also learn about the Native American occupation of 1969 - 1971. The island features gardens, tide pools, bird colonies and spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay.

Burney Falls (National Natural Landmark) - A 129-foot Burney Falls flows at 100 million gallons every day. Located in Shasta County 80 miles northeast of Redding within the McArthur-Burney Falls State Park, it is one of the best examples in the western United States of river drainage regulated by stratigraphically-controlled springs and a waterfall formed by undercutting of horizontal rock layers.

Cabrillo National Monument - Cabrillo National Monument commemorates Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo's arrival and landing at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. A large statue is the centerpiece of a spectacular vista park offering views of San Diego’s harbor and skyline.

Channel Islands National Park - Five in a chain of eight southern California islands visible from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, Channel Islands National Park is home to San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara Islands. Over 2,000 species of plants and animals, including four mammals endemic to the islands and 145 species found nowhere else in the world make up this ecological reserve and marine sanctuary accessible to the public by boat.

Death Valley National Park - Death Valley National Park is the driest place in North America, experiencing less than 2 inches average rainfall per year. Combined with temperatures over 100 degrees in the summer months, Death Valley is has been the subject of movies such as Federico Fellini's Zabriskie Point.


Devils Postpile National Monument - Devils Postpile is a formation with 101-foot high Rainbow Falls that  ranks as one of the world’s finest examples of columnar basalt. Its symmetrical columns are 60 feet high and display an unusual symmetry. Located in Sierra back country.

Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site - Nobel Prize winning playwright Eugene Gladstone O'Neill was America's only Nobel playwrigth.  He built and lived at Tao House in the hills above Danville, California from 1937 to 1944 where O'Neill wrote The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey Into Night and A Moon For the Misbegotten." Reservations required to visit this site. Call: (925) 838-0249.

Fort Point National Historic Site - Located at the south anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge at the end of Marine Drive, Fort Point or “the pride of the Pacific," was constructed at the height of the California Gold Rush, and served as a military vantage point for attacks. Built between 1853 and 1861 by the U.S. Army Engineers as part of a defense system of forts planned for the protection of San Francisco Bay, it has never witnessed an attack, but was selected as part of the National Parks for its historic significance to the military. In the late 1930s  demolition of Fort Point was halted in the wake of construction for the Golden Gate Bridge. Spared the knife or ax, it was dedicated as an historic site in the 1970s and is now open to the public with a visitor center.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

John Muir National Historic Site

Joshua Tree National Park
- Located in San Bernardino County less than 2 hours from Los Angeles, the twisted trees and rock formations create a splendid scene that eerily feels as if nature reached its hand down and created magic out of the dust of this hot, desert spot that looks to the tallest peaks of the San Bernardino mountains.  What contrasts, what splendor! This trip is ideal for those planning a stay at nearby Palm Desert region.

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

Lassen Volcanic National Park -
Featuring all four types of volcanic activity in one location, Lassen is one of the most beautiful forest areas with lakes, cross country ski trails and natural forests.

Lava Beds National Monument - The historic battlegrounds of the Modoc War and the surrounding volcanic landscape includes cinder cones, lava flows, spatter cones, lava tube caves and pit craters. There are more than 500 lava tube caves visitors can explore.

Manzanar National Historic Site
- Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten Japanese American citizen camps during World War II. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California's Owens Valley, Manzanar has been identified as the best preserved of these camps.

Mojave National Preserve

Muir Woods National Monument

Pinnacles National Monument
Point Reyes National Seashore -
Uniquely formed by the San Andreas Fault, Point Reyes Peninsula is separated from the rest of the North American continent. This Marin County attraction includes Tomales Bay which is popular for fishing.

Pony Express National Historic Trail

Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial

Presidio of San Francisco

Redwood National and State Parks
- include not the largest trees by mass weight & circumference, but the tallest trees in the world are located along the shores of the northern California coast. Expect rain, maybe some fog, and the majesty of red and green.

Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area - In the heart of Los Angeles lies a 150,000 acre mountain oasis open to the public for hiking, camping and nature watching.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks - Include the world's largest trees, the giant sequoias. In addition, you'll find mountains, cave tours, streams, lakes, forests and four seasons beauty to behold.

Tahoe National Forest
in Nevada City, Nevada County

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area -
This recreation area is known for its role during the California Gold Rush. It includes a lake for fishing and mountains with waterfalls, hiking, kayaking and camping. It is located just 8 miles west of Redding.

Yosemite National Park - Ansel Adams was a regular at this spectacular park with a valley, rushing waterfalls, massive, jutting rock formations and rich traditions with fine dining and accommodations right inside the park.



California National Park Photos

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