Also see Northern California National Parks and Southern California National Parks
California National Parks - Central California
The National Park Service overseas 23 different National Parks in California -- 7 of which are located here in Central California. The state's National Parks offer visitors a wide variety of adventures - from historical and cultural experiences, to natural wonders, which cannot be seen anywhere else on earth.
For more details about each of the specific national parks in Central California (directions, hours, fees, history, things to do, maps, etc.), click on the park name or picture below to view the official National Park Service site for that particular park.
The "America the Beautiful" pass covers entrance to hundreds of National Parks in California and across the US. Learn more...
Central California National Parks (Listed alphabetically)
Death Valley National Park (Death Valley, CA & NV) - Hottest, Driest, Lowest! Death Valley is a land of extremes. It is a desert of pristine sand dunes, snow-capped mountains, multi-colored rock layers, fluted canyons and 3 million acres of stone wilderness. Badwater Basin, the lowest, hottest point in both North American and the entire Western Hemisphere (282' below sea level), is located in Death Valley - just 80 miles from Mt. Whitney (in Sequoia National Park), the highest peak in the continental US. Many of the features in Death Valley remind us of the troubles and misfortunes endured by the pioneers who first traversed and mined this region during last half of the 1800's. But today, you might be surprised to find unparalleled beauty - amazingly colorful rock formations and canyons; miles of fascinating sand dunes; unique salt features; and a wide range of wildlife.
You might be interested in this Death Valley temperature chart, which will give you daily average temperatures throughout the year.
Postpile National Monument (Eastern Sierra Nevadas) - Located near Mammoth Lakes, this park was established to protect the Devils Postpile formation, the 101-foot high Rainbow Falls and pristine mountain scenery. The Devils Postpile formation is a geologic wonder, and is considered one of the world's best examples of "columnar basalt." The columns tower 60' high and display a remarkable symmetry. There are also many recreational activities in the area. Within its nearly 800 acres, including the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River, visitors can enjoy camping, backpacking, hiking, fishing, photography and horseback riding.
Kings Canyon National Park (Central Sierra Nevadas) - Located east of the San Joaquin Valley, Kings Canyon National Park preserves a large and beautiful area containing deep glaciated canyons, numerous lakes, pools, meadows and waterfalls -- and over 20 peaks higher than 13,000 feet. The park also supports 6 groves of giant sequoia trees near the southern border, which is shared with Sequoia National Park.
Manzanar National Historical Site (Independence) - Located at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada in eastern California's Owens Valley, Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps at which Japanese Americans were interned in remote locations during World War II. Manzanar is the best preserved of these camps. However, the area is also dramatically beautiful. It is bordered by the Sierra Nevada, boasting Mt. Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous United States) and by the Inyo/White Mountain range (the deepest valley in the country). There are plenty of activities for visitors interested in exploring this diverse landscape.
Pinnacles National Monument (Paicines) - This a protected mountainous area located in the chaparral-covered Gabilan Mountains (east of central California's Salinas Valley). You'll find the eroded, yet spectacular remains of an ancient extinct volcano. Visitors are drawn here to hike, rock climb, watch wildlife, view wildflowers and experience nature. The park is a release point for the endangered California condor and you may see them as you hike along the trails. Pinnacles is most popular in the cooler months and hiking is best during the spring when the grasses are green and wildflowers can be seen along the trails. However, fall and winter are also excellent times to visit.
Sequoia National Park (Southern Sierra Nevadas) - Located east of Visalia, this park is known as the "Land of the Giants!" The remarkable giant Sequoia Redwoods are the prime attraction. Many groves are scattered along the west-facing slopes between 5,000 and 7,000 feet. The scale and grandeur of these giants is truly stunning. The park has many easy foot trails that wind through the groves. Among its many natural resources, the park contains the highest point in the continental United States - Mount Whitney at an elevation of 14,505 feet.
Yosemite National Park (Western Sierra Nevadas) - Located near Mariposa (about a 4-hour drive from either San Francisco or Sacramento), Yosemite is the most famous and popular national park in California! It covers 1,200 square miles of mountainous terrain offering
innumerable lakes, meadows, forests, granite summits and amazing alpine scenery. At the center of the park is the lovely Yosemite Valley, a depression carved by glaciers, surrounded by soaring 3,000' high domes and spectacular waterfalls - including 3 of the world's highest. The Merced River runs through the valley. There are two scenic drives on either side of the river, giving easy access to many viewpoints, picnic areas and trails.
Yosemite also includes the Badger Pass Ski Area. Badger has both downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ice skating and more. Many cross-country skiiers swear that Badger Pass has the best best cross-country skiing in the entire US.
Winter, spring, summer or fall... Yosemite is a natural wonder that is not to be missed!
Yosemite Insider Tip - Emigrant Wilderness! On the northern border of Yosemite, you'll find Emigrant Wilderness (in the Stanislaus National Forest). This area receives only about 15,000 visitors a year... compared to the more than 3 million per year that descend upon Yosemite. And while it's not as famous as Yosemite, Emigrant Wilderness' volcanic ridges, sparkling lakes and highland meadows are every bit as breathtaking! There are over 185 miles of trails winding through the park's 113,000 acres that lead to trout-stocked lakes and panoramic views of the Sierra Nevadas. So if you're hoping to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more "back to nature" experience, you might give Emigrant Wilderness a try.
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