An Insider’s Guide toNational Parks in the West Coast

From Southern California’s sun-parched deserts to the lush rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, the stunning geography and terrain of national parks along the West Coast offer outdoor lovers a lifetime’s worth of exploring. California alone boasts nine spectacular parks—the most out of any other state—that could keep any adventurer occupied indefinitely. Further north towards Oregon and Washington, the gorgeous green of Olympic and North Cascades are worth a trip on their own, while the snow-capped peak of Mt. Rainier, the iconic namesake behind Rainier National Park, is on many a mountaineer’s bucket list.

Desert-loving adventurers will delight in the dramatic landscapes of Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks in southern California. Joshua Tree boasts 1,234 square miles of rugged rock formations and the twisted, Dr. Seussian-esque trees that give the park its name; camping and hiking here can feel like moonscape expeditions. And for even more extreme adventures, Death Valley National Park, the lowest, driest, and hottest in the NPS system, delivers with rugged mountain peaks and parched deserts. Summer temperatures can soar well above 120 degrees here, and hiking isn’t recommended past 10 am.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park Mitchel Jones

Head west, meanwhile, to Channel Islands National Park and you’ll find an ocean landscape, consisting of five of the eight islands in the Channel Islands. Depending on the time of year, lucky visitors just might have the coastal trails that criss-cross the islands (accessible only via ferry and seaplane) to themselves, as this is the least-visited national park in the system.

California also is home to the country’s newest national park: Pinnacles, located about two hours south of the Bay Area. The park’s otherworldly spires, caves, and craggy trails make it an excellent option for hikers, photography buffs, and wildlife enthusiasts. Further north, in the Central Valley, adventurers can follow in the well-trodden footsteps of John Muir, the late conservationist whose preservation efforts and long backcountry expeditions made him an outdoors icon who’s still revered in the West. Muir’s most well-known stomping grounds are the majestic granite domes, roaring waterfalls, and serene meadows of Yosemite, which draws adventurers from all over with world-class hiking, camping, and climbing. But Yosemite’s lesser-known neighbors, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks, are equally worthy of a visit, with groves of ancient redwoods and excellent hiking and camping options, not to mention much less traffic than Yosemite. Further north, soaring redwoods and dramatic geothermal activity take center stage at Redwoods and Lassen Volcanic national parks.

In Pacific Northwest parks, landscapes showcase every possible hue of green, from moss-covered trails to soaring redwoods glistening with raindrops, while gems like active volcanoes and alpine lakes add to the stunning natural beauty. The jaw-dropping centerpiece of its namesake national park, the country’s fifth-oldest, Oregon’s Crater Lake is worth a visit alone just to see its otherworldly blue color, while jagged peaks formed by more than 300 glaciers form a natural outdoor playground in North Cascades National Park. The nearly one million acres of Washington’s Olympic National Park, including old-growth forests and 70 miles of coastline, beckon from the far northwest corner of the country. Meanwhile, the 14,410-foot summit of Mt. Rainier, the centerpiece of the Washington landscape, anchors a climbers’ paradise in this beautiful park.

Featured photo by Adam Fagen.

Fall in Love With The Outside Road Tour

RootsRated and Marmot are teaming up to celebrate the Outside by hosting Pint Nights in speciality retailers across the country. At each Fall In Love With The Outside Road Tour event, we will raise money for local conservation groups, while playing live music, pouring cold brews, hosting tent pitching contests, playing outdoor trivia, and having conversations about where to go outdoors and all things we love outside.

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Fall in Love With The Outside Road Tour