California’s national parks and scenic sites
Coming up with a list of
With so many criteria to choose from, I settled on an unscientific measure I call the “wow factor.” On my assignments covering the outdoors, here are places that stopped me in my tracks, left me dumbfounded and had me fumbling for my camera. I have visited only a tiny fraction of the nation’s third-largest state, so I’m sure I missed many other “wow” places. Send your nominees to email@example.com. ()
California’s north-central coast is lush with redwoods, ferns and coastal live oaks, a heavenly stretch of shoreline that is home to great Big Sur and Point Lobos parks. But Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has a serene and rugged feel that sets it apart from other nearby enclaves. These 3,580 acres are in a redwood canyon that rises from the beach to about 1,500 feet. The cherry on top of this visual feast is the 80-foot McWay Waterfall, which crashes from a rocky cliff onto the sand in a wonderful, secluded cove. It’s an iconic scene no one should miss. The park is 37 miles south of Carmel along California 1. Info: (831) 667-2315, www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=578. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
No list of California parks would be complete without a mention of Yosemite. It can be crowded and noisy in the summer, but if you stay clear of the tourist-clogged Yosemite Village, you will see why
Once upon a time, while wandering along the beach at this national seashore, I came across a herd of cattle strolling on the sand. Who can blame them? These 70,000 acres on a peninsula north of San Francisco, shrouded in cool fog and blanketed by green grass, resemble a postcard of the rocky shores of Ireland. But it’s the wildlife that sets Point Reyes apart: More than 1,000 species call the park home, including a menagerie of shorebirds and raptors. The park is about 30 miles from
Want to put life and its annoying problems into perspective? Get lost in the land of the giants, home to some of the largest trees in the world. At Redwood National and State Parks, the union of three state parks and a national park near Orick, you’ll feel you are a part of a bigger, more beautiful world inhabited by bear, elk, Steller’s Jays and banana slugs. The stars of these parks are the coastal redwoods that soar more than 365 feet into the sky, span more than 22 feet in diameter and date back to the days of Christ. The parks are along U.S. 101, about 80 miles north of Eureka. Info: (707) 464-6101, www.nps.gov /redw/index.htm. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Several California desert parks deserve inclusion in an ultimate list, particularly Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, where spring wildflowers turn the parched badlands into a sea of color and life. But the surreal rock formations at Joshua Tree, east of Palm Springs, give it that added magical feel, particularly if you visit during a new moon, when the stars gleam like crushed diamonds on black velvet. And then you have the Joshua trees, which Mormon pioneers believed resembled the upstretched arms of Joshua leading them to the promised land. For rock climbers and stargazers, Joshua Tree is the promised land. The park is 140 miles east of Los Angeles along Interstate 10. Info: (760) 367-5500, www.nps.gov/jotr. (Chris Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
California is home to 138 designated wilderness areas, protected by some of the nation’s strictest land protection laws. For hikers, the John Muir Wilderness, southwest of Mammoth Lakes, has few equals. With 590 miles of trails, dozens of pristine aquamarine lakes and the most spectacular peaks in the Sierra
Find out about historic and scenic sites as well as programs, fees and directions to California’s national parks, monuments and recreation areas:
Cabrillo National Monument, 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, San Diego, CA 92106; (619) 557-5450, fax (619) 226-6311, www.nps.gov/cabr.
California National Historic Trail, 324 S. State St., Suite 200, Box 30, Salt Lake City, UT 84111; (801) 741-1012, fax (801) 741-1102, www.nps.gov/cali.
Channel Islands National Park, 1901 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura, CA 93001; (805) 658-5730, fax (805) 658-5799, www.nps.gov/chis.
Death Valley National Park, California 190, Visitors Center, P.O. Box 579, Death Valley, CA 92328; (760) 786-3200, fax (760) 786-3283, www.nps.gov/deva.
Devils Postpile National Monument, near Mammoth Lakes, P.O. Box 3999, Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546, www.nps.gov/depo.
Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site, P.O. Box 280, Danville, CA 94526; (925) 838-0249, fax (925) 838-9471, www.nps.gov/euon.
Fort Point National Historic Site, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Fort Mason, B201, San Francisco, CA 94123; (415) 556-1693, www.nps.gov/fopo.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area (includes Crissy Field, Ocean Beach, Sweeney Ridge, Marin Headlands, Phleger Estate, Fort Funston, Alcatraz and the Presidio), Fort Mason, Building 201, San Francisco, CA 94123; (415) 561-4700, www.nps.gov/goga.
John Muir National Historic Site, 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez, CA 94553; (925) 228-8860, fax (925) 228-8192, www.nps.gov/jomu.
Joshua Tree National Park, 74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, CA 92277; (760) 367-5500, fax (760) 367-6392, www.nps.gov/jotr.
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, 1111 Jackson St., Suite 700, Oakland, CA 94607; (510) 817-1323, fax (510) 817-1505, www.nps.gov/juba.
Lassen Volcanic National Park, P.O. Box 100, Mineral, CA 96063; (530) 595-4480, fax (530) 595-3262, www.nps.gov/lavo.
Lava Beds National Monument, 1 Indian Well Headquarters, Tulelake, CA 96134; (530) 667-8100, fax (530) 667-2737, www.nps.gov/labe.Mammoth Lakes Visitors Center, (760) 924-5500 or (760) 934-2289 from early June to mid-Oct.
Manzanar National Historic Site, P.O. Box 426, 5001 U.S. Highway 395, Independence, CA 93526; (760) 878-2194, fax (760) 878-2949, www.nps.gov/manz.
Mojave National Preserve, 2701 Barstow Road, Barstow, CA 92311; (760) 252-6100, fax (760) 252-6174, www.nps.gov/moja.
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, CA 94941; (415) 388-2595, fax (415) 389-6957, www.nps.gov/muwo.
Pinnacles National Monument, 5000 California 146, Paicines, CA 95043; (831) 389-4485, fax (831) 389-4489 (numbers are for east district; west does not have a phone), www.nps.gov/pinn.
Point Reyes National Seashore, 1 Bear Valley Road, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956; (415) 464-5137 or (415) 464-5100, camping reservations (415) 663-8054, www.nps.gov/pore.
Pony Express National Historic Trail, 324 S. State St., Suite 200, Box 30, Salt Lake City, UT 84111; (801) 741-1012, fax (801) 741-1102, www.nps.gov/poex.
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, P.O. Box 280, Danville, CA 94526, (925) 228-8860, www.nps.gov/poch.
Presidio of San Francisco, Presidio Trust, 34 Graham St., San Francisco, CA 94129, officers club and visitors center, (415) 561-4323, fax (415) 561-5315, www.presidio.gov.
Redwood National and State Parks, 1111 2nd St., Crescent City, CA 95531; (707) 465-7335, fax (707) 464-1812; California State Park camping reservations, (800) 444-7275, www.nps.gov/redw.
Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, Melville Square/Esplanade Drive, Richmond, CA 94804; message center, (510) 232-5050, www.nps.gov/rori.
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Lower Fort Mason, Building E, Room 265, San Francisco, CA 94123. Renovation of Museum at 900 Beach St. is almost complete, temporary exhibits will open in March, and historic ships moored at Hyde Street Pier remain open; (415) 447-5000, fax (415) 556-1624, www.nps.gov/safr.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, 401 W. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360; (805) 370-2301, fax (805) 370-1851, www.nps.gov/samo.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271-9700; (559) 565-3341, fax (559) 565-3730, www.nps.gov/seki.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, P.O. Box 188, , Whiskeytown, CA 96095; (530) 246-1225, fax (530) 246-5154, www.nps.gov/whis.
Yosemite National Park, P.O. Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389; (209) 372-0200, , www.nps.gov/yose.
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