Hikers Guide to Road Tripping California's National Parks

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.


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.


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)

  • Research insurance policy rates that will cover both travel and hiking hazards, or consult your current insurance provider

  • 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.


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

  • Respect wildlife

  • 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.

Published: October 11, 2016

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

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. Learn More