There are eight national parks in California, from Joshua Tree to Yosemite. For hikers, these parks offer a variety of terrains and sights to stretch your skills and experience unique vistas.
Hiking the California national parks should be on every outdoor enthusiast's bucket list, but be sure to read up on these tips below before you set out on your next adventure.
PLANNING THE ROAD TRIP
Whether you start in north California, or south, consider the following order of national parks to visit.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Redwood National Park
Yosemite National Park
Sequoia and Kings National Park
Death Valley National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Channel Islands National Park
Pinnacles National Park
This order will allow you to see all eight national parks with the most efficient and scenic route, including interesting stops and experiences along your way.
PREPARING FOR CALIFORNIA HIKING
Whether you're a seasoned outdoor adventurer or taking your very first trek in the wilderness, there are some non-negotiable basics that you must consider before you begin any kind of serious hike.
Decide whether you will day-hike or backpack and camp in the park
Check all rules and regulations of the park you are hiking in (rules, hours and regulations can and will change depending on the national park)
Purchase the proper gear for weather, terrain and any personal physical needs (such as knee braces or protective sun gear)
Tell a trusted friend or family member of all of your hiking plans, including schedule check in days and times
In addition to the above, consult the national parks website for up to date information on weather and any potentially dangerous conditions at the parks during your travels. California is known to have dangerous weather, wildfires and droughts, which will require additional planning and preparation on your part.
Do not be discourage should you need to adjust your plans around nature, consider the option of reversing your trip order or doubling back to any parks during more hospitable conditions.
Ensuring a safe and enjoyable hiking experience in the California national parks requires simple proactive measures before your trip begins.
DURING YOUR HIKES
Once you arrive at each national park, be sure to review the policy for that park carefully and don't hesitate to consult with park rangers and staff if you have any questions.
Follow all best practices for Leave No Trace.
Plan ahead and prepare
Use existing paths and campsites
Properly dispose of waste
Leave what you find
Minimize impact of camp fires
Be considerate to other hikers
Don't disturb natural wildlife or vegetation and encourage other national park visitors to do the same.
Practice safe and sensible photography, remaining aware of your surroundings and the safety of others when pausing to capture a photo. No picture is worth an injury to you or anyone else.
Stay to established trails and be sure to learn the trail markers for each path you embark on. If you need help identifying trail markers, consult park rangers or staff. If you become lost, remain where you are and call for help.
With the right preparation and planning, hiking the California national parks can be an amazing experience that you will remember for a lifetime.
By combining these hikes with a roadtrip, you'll have a quintessentially American adventure that you'll cherish forever.
Investing in the early stages of your trip will pay off in the confidence you'll have on the road and on the trails.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.