With its beachside towns, towering mountains and rugged deserts, California is inarguably one of the nation’s most beautiful states. The region’s most stunning natural features are often located in the state’s easily-accessible parks and preserves. Here, I review five of the most breathtaking parks California residents and visitors can enjoy.


Joshua Tree National Park


Joshua Tree National Park draws visitors from around the nation every year. The windswept Joshua trees are set against a beautiful backdrop of giant boulders and desert sands. To enjoy the views, hike through one of the on-site hiking trails or enjoy panoramic views of Coachella Valley at Keys View lookout. Camping is also available at the area’s on-site Jumbo Rock Campground.


Yosemite National Park


Yosemite National Park offers attractions like giant redwood trees, mountain views and interesting geological features, such as El Capitan Meadow, a sprawling green meadow with views of the majestic mountains in the distance. Visit Yosemite in the summer to enjoy mild weather and blue skies. A visitor’s center is located near the park entrance to provide maps, souvenirs and other information.


Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve


Meadows filled with wild flowers and views of the rugged coastline welcome visitors at the Torrey Pine State Natural Reserve. The reserve is named for its most unique inhabitant, the torrey pine tree. The torrey pine is a species that is rarely found outside this particular nature preserve. Visit Torrey Pines by heading north from La Jolla to immerse yourself in the unique views found in this nature preserve.


Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Reserve


Antelope Valley is a nature preserve located in the foothills adjacent to the Mojave Desert. From February through May, the preserve is covered in bright orange poppy flowers, making it the perfect backdrop for scenic vacation photos. Avid hikers can enjoy the eight miles of criss-crossing trails in the park, and a gift shop and visitor’s center is located onsite for information and souvenirs.


Bristlecone Pine Forest


Although California’s Redwood National Park boasts some of the nation’s largest trees, Bristlecone Pine Forest is home to old growth pine trees that are thought to be around 4,000 years. The forest is part of the Inyo National Forest, a protected area located in the White Mountains of eastern California. Self-guided trails and boardwalks are provided to explore the forest, but hikers should avoid walking in areas outside the marked trails to prevent damaging the local flora and fauna.