California’s National Parks

The diversity, beauty and wide range of geographical areas make California one of the most unique and coveted places to visit or call home in the entire country.  With so many amazing places to see, unique pastimes to enjoy and great communities to put up roots it is no wonder that so many people come to California and never leave.

Brea, California is consistently rated among the best small towns to call home and for good reason.  The proximity to so many unique and wonderful places, national parks, stunning beaches as well as huge cultural hubs all make the welcoming community a special place.  As your premier real estate agent for homes for sale in Brea, I would like to share with you another great reason that Brea is the place to live in the golden state – California’s National Parks.

Although many of these national parks can be a distance from Brea, the convenient freeway access that surrounds Brea makes almost all of the parks easier to access than you may think.  The other beautiful part about living in Brea is that regardless of the distance of your drive, the state of California is beautiful and scenic and there is always something to look at.  So, pack your bags, your family, or your friends and get ready for some of the most epic road trips to some of the most picturesque places that you have ever seen.  Happy travels.

Joshua Tree National Park

This National Park takes its name from the unique trees that dot the landscape.  Located in Southern California and only 114 miles or 2 hours from Brea, Joshua Tree National Park sits at an ecological crossroads where the high Mojave Desert meets the low Colorado Desert.  The result – amazing desert flora (the Yucca tree where the park gets its name from), spectacular sunsets and sunrises and uncountable stars.

Some of the highlights of the park and must do hikes, walks and viewpoints include:

  • Keys View- this climb offers a panoramic vista of Mount San Jacinto as well as Mount Gorgonio with the Salton Sea stretching out in the distance.
  • Keys Ranch – be sure to take a guided walking tour of this unforgettable terrain and see what life was like for a 20th century pioneer.
  • Rock climbing – if you are looking to do some climbing, Joshua Tree National Park has over 8,000 established routes – ranging from easy beginner scrambles to extreme vertical cracks and everything in between.

9 separate campgrounds offer a wide range of options and unique camping opportunities or if you want to avoid the crowds, set off on foot as you can camp almost anywhere in the park with very few restrictions.

Here’s the deal:

If you are looking to avoid crowds, try to visit the park midweek.  The best times to visit the park are early spring, late fall or winter to avoid the scorching heat of the Mojave Desert.

Yosemite National Park

One of the crown jewels of the country’s national parks, Yosemite offers stunning glacier-sculpted geology, abundant wildlife for viewing and world-class recreational opportunities.  Yosemite is 300 miles or 5 hours from Brea.  Some of the highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage Site include:

  • Glacier Point – This 7,214-foot granite precipice is the most iconic landmark in the park. It offers views of the valley’s most famous landmarks – Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Liberty Cap, as well as Vernal and Nevada Falls.  Try to catch it at sunset for an unforgettable view.
  • Waterfalls – 3 of the world’s tallest falls – Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls and Ribbon Falls can all be found in Yosemite. To see these falls at their best, try to visit during spring melt (April to June).
  • Tuolumne Meadows – This wide grassy expanse is one of the most photographed areas in the park and is the largest subalpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada.

Here’s the Deal:

With so much to see, try to plan for a few days in Yosemite to enjoy all that it has to offer.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is the largest national park outside of Alaska.  The park’s 3.3 million acres is home to mountain-sized sand dunes, below-sea-level salt flats, mysterious singing rocks and colorful sandstone canyons.  Death Valley National Park is about 4 hours from Brea or just over 200 miles. Death Valley is also the hottest and driest place in the United States so be ready for extremes when planning your visit.  Some of the can’t miss highlights of Death Valley National Park include:

  • Golden Canyon and Zabriskie Point – enjoy stunning vistas of the badlands from 2 distinct points. Catch a sunset or sunrise and be prepared for every shade of gold imaginable from orange to apricot all found in the Golden Canyon cliffs.
  • Mosaic Canyon – One of the scenic highlights of Death Valley, the trail through the canyon features polished marble and colorful smooth rock all carved out from countless flash floods.
  • Badwater and Artists Drive – Badwater is the lowest point in North America and was once a lake that was over 600 feet deep hundreds of thousands of years ago. Today it is a surreal expanse of salt crystals.  Just around the corner lies Artists Drive, a scenic road that shows off the colorful hues of the Amargosa Range’s sedimentary hills.  Try to catch it in the late afternoon to see the vivid pink, mauve, green, gold, and lavender colors.
  • Ubehebe Crater – This unique land formation was created when lava came in contact with groundwater and the earth exploded. When the dust and ash settled, a half-mile and 600-foot-deep colorful crater is what remained.  The striped sedimentary rock is easily seen from the road or can be explored more intimately with a short hike.  Either way it is sure not to disappoint.

Channel Islands National Park

One of California’s most remote and most difficult national parks to get to, Channel Islands National Park consists of 5 separate islands that are only accessible by either boat or plane.  Most boat trips depart from Ventura Harbor and go to the two closest islands – Santa Cruz and Anacapa.  Here is a brief overview of each of the five islands and some of the highlights that you will find at each of them.

  • Santa Cruz Island – This is the largest of the islands and is a 1-hour boat ride from the mainland across beautiful turquoise water. Santa Cruz Island offers camping, hiking, and birding for those who are interested.  Be sure to keep an eye out for passing whales and sea lions in the secret coves along the rugged shoreline.
  • Anacapa Island – Anacapa is the closest island to the mainland (12 miles) and thus the most visited. The island features a lighthouse to warn passing boats of the treacherous shoreline and a trail that allows you to explore part of the island.  Be sure to bring your snorkel gear to view the giant kelp beds that surround the island.
  • Santa Rosa Island – This is the second-largest island in the National Park and because of its distance – a 3-hour boat ride, far less visited and more remote than the previous two islands. Lobo Canyon is a must-do hike if you plan on visiting Santa Rosa Island.  On the hike, you will see an embedded fossil of a pygmy mammoth, eroded sandstone formations as well as the rare flora that is found only on this island.
  • Santa Barbara Island – The loneliest of the island chain, Santa Barbara Island offers hikes with dramatic views of 360 degrees of ocean and an opportunity to see the nesting habitat of the Scripp’s Murrelet, a rare seabird.
  • Sutil Island – This is the last and smallest of the islands that comprise the national park and is rarely visited.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Located 4.5 hours or 270 miles from Brea, this tandem set of parks is famous for its giant Sequoia trees, deep canyons and raging rivers.  Within the borders of this park, you will find Mount Whitney (14, 494 ft) as well as Kings River Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America.  Besides these two stunning features, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park offer other spectacular highlights as well.  These include:

  • The General Sherman Tree – The world’s largest living tree soars over 275 feet into the air and measures 103 feet around. The general is the most visited attraction in the park so be prepared for crowds, but to just stand in its awe-inspiring majesticness is something that you will have to experience to fully grasp.
  • Grant Grove – This signature grove of trees is where most visitors get their first glimpse of the park. Grant Grove is also known as the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” as each year since 1926, the park has held a Yuletide celebration around the tree’s base.
  • Crystal Cave – Step into an underground world and be prepared to enter a landscape of glittering minerals and otherworldly features such as sparkling stalactites and polished marble walls.
  • Moro Rock – Climb the over 400 stairs of Moro Rock to catch a view of the Great Western Divide. This spectacular vista features a skyline of sawtooth peaks reaching over 13 000 feet into the air. For the best views and to beat the crowds be sure to do the hike early in the morning.

Pinnacles National Park

5 hours or 300 miles north of Brea lies Pinnacle National Park.  Pinnacle is California’s newest national park and is home to crags, cliffs and caves all formed from volcanic activity.  The park is divided into two separate sides – east and west and they are not connected via road.  Some of the highlights of Pinnacles National Park include:

  • Talus Caves – Although not technically a cave, but more of huge rock chunks falling in among themselves and forming “a roof” this network of underground passages provides an endless set of underground mazes. Turn on your headlamp and get ready for an adventure.
  • High Peaks Area – The park’s most exciting hike takes you on a trek through a series of jagged pinnacles that eventually climbs to an elevation of over 2,700 feet. The final mile of the hike is a series of labyrinths with handholds and guardrails carved right into the rock.  When you finally reach the summit, keep your eyes open for condors.
  • Rock climbing – All of the volcanic activity in the park has created an enormous number of rock-climbing opportunities. From beginner climbs and numerous climbing camps and schools, you will find something to challenge you at Pinnacle National Park.

Redwood National Park

If you are looking for a road trip and wanting to see another part of California that is sure to leave you standing in awe, then Redwood National Park is for you.  The park is 11 hours or just over 700 miles from Brea so you may want to think about seeing a few other sights on the way to or from Redwood National Park.  While visiting the park, be sure to walk among these giants and do one of the following easy hikes or drives:

  • Begin your drive 5 miles north of Klamath and head to the Klamath River Overlook where this freshwater river meets the Pacific Ocean creating a huge estuary. If you are lucky you may see a Grey Whale or two as this is part of their migration route.
  • Next, head south to cruise the famous Coastal Drive which meanders along the coastline passing a camouflaged World War 2 radar station that was meant to look like a farmhouse. Stop for a lunch at High Bluff Overlook to watch the sea lions and thousands of seabirds nesting on the offshore rocks.
  • Be sure to take an easy stroll through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove loop beneath the towering redwoods.

This is by no means an extensive list of the national parks that can be found in the state.  Some other national parks that you may want to consider include Lassen Volcanic Park located in the northeastern part of California as well as Point Reyes National Seashore that lies off the coast of San Francisco.  Both offer stunning landscapes and unique geography.   Regardless of your decisions or the parks that you choose to visit, one thing is certain, you will not be disappointed and will leave with a deeper understanding of why California is the place to live.

If you are interested in any of these national parks or have any more information or details, please feel free to add or comment below.  In addition, if you have been thinking about putting your house up on Brea’s real estate market or need help finding your dream home, contact me today.  I would love to show you why Brea is such a special place and why it is the place to live in California. I look forward to working with you soon.

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