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The 8 Best National Parks to Visit in the Summer

The 8 Best National Parks to Visit in the Summer

Whether you pick one based on location, sceneries, recreational opportunities, and maybe even zodiac sign, this is what you need to know.


6 min read

June 25, 2021

California is home to nine beautiful national parks, each uniquely different from one another. And rumor has it that the best national parks to visit in summer are absolutely all of them. But don’t worry if you can’t make the rounds to experience all of the parks in one season, here’s everything you need to make your choice and get going. 

These are the Best National Parks in Summer

While all nine parks should be visited at least once and be discovered in person, it doesn’t hurt to read up a little on them before hitting the road. Whether you pick one based on its location, sceneries, recreational opportunities, and maybe even zodiac sign, this is what you need to know to have the best experience you can.

Southern California's Best National Parks to Visit in the Summer

Joshua Tree National Park is characterized by rugged rock formations and stark desert landscapes that take everyone's breath away.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park doesn’t need an introduction, but we’ll give you a brief one regardless. As the meeting point of the Mojave and Colorado Desert ecosystems, Joshua Tree boasts a fascinating variety of flora and fauna, grand geological formations, and a rich cultural history you’ll love to discover.

While Joshua Tree is one of the best national parks in the summer, it can also get pretty hot. If you can withstand crowds, it’s better to organize your trip closer to spring and autumn—unless of course, you’re like us and love the free sauna.

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When you’re there, make sure to check out the best hikes in the park such as Arch Rock Nature, Skull Rock, and Cholla Cactus Garden Trails. You’ll love camping overnight at this desert locale, but if the weather is too hot to sleep al fresco, the nearby hotels are no less fun or Instagrammable.

Channel Islands National Park is home to significant natural and cultural resources, resulting in several designations.

Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands offers a completely different experience in comparison to Joshua Tree National Park, but it’s still one of the top national parks to visit in summer. Located between 22 and 75 miles from the shores of California, these beautiful islands are surprisingly spread out and stretch all the way from Santa Barbara to Ventura County. 

What makes summertime the perfect opportunity to visit the Channel Islands is the variety of water sports to enjoy. From sailing and snorkeling to kayaking and diving, there are endless ways to beat the heat at one of the best national parks to visit in June. 

The warmer temperatures are also perfect for wildlife sightings. Look out for different species of migrating birds, whales, and sea lion pups as you travel to and in-between the islands. Other things to enjoy at the Channel Islands include surfing, hiking, camping, and more fun activities found on every national park bucket list.

The second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, Badwater Basin is located in Death Valley National Park. Dare to visit?

Death Valley National Park

As the hottest, driest, and lowest point in the continental United States, Death Valley is quite dangerous to visit during peak summer months. However, you shouldn’t cross this astonishing national park off your bucket list—plan your trip and proceed with caution. Make sure to stay along paved roads and carry plenty of water, sports drinks, and salty foods to ensure your electrolyte levels are balanced.

While the park offers endless hiking and camping possibilities in desert terrains, unique and adrenaline-pumping adventures are also available here. Don’t miss out on going off-roading, and do put aside enough time to check out the interesting towns near Death Valley. While the park itself is fascinating enough on its own, the towns nearby will add cool stories and memories to your experience you’ll cherish forever.

The short interesting hike to Bear Gulch Reservoir ascends a beautiful boulder-filled gorge on the east side of Pinnacles National Park.

Northern California's Top National Parks to Visit in Summer

Pinnacles National Park

The otherworldly rock formations at Pinnacles National Park are a sight to behold. A mountainous region once gushing with magma, the park today consists of moss-covered rocks which have been shaped and altered by seismic activity, wind, and water erosion over several millions of years.

Are you an avid bird watcher? Bring along your binoculars and one of the best national parks to visit in summer won’t disappoint you with sightings. Don’t forget to bring your sturdy shoes either—you’re going to want to hike the Moses Springs and Bear Gulch Cave Trails. Climbing enthusiasts should definitely pack their gear. If you’re just starting out, try climbing the Discovery Wall. But if you have a bit of experience under your belt, Machete Ridge will be a blast for you.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are a land of giants. Huge mountains, deep canyons, and the world's largest trees are found here.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are technically two separate parks, but since they’re adjacent to one another, people end up visiting both on the same trip. Tucked between the counties of Tulare and Fresno, these national parks have a lot to offer.

The General Sherman Tree, Cedar Grove, Redwood Canyon, Crystal Cave, and Giant Forest Museum are must-sees here. If you’re an adventurous spirit, you’ll also be glad to know that Sequoia and Kings National Parks are one of the best places to go backpacking in the summer. It goes without saying that you have miles of incredible hiking trails and numerous campsites at your disposal—pack your getaway guide and get going!

Yosemite is one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and the park supports a diversity of plants and animals.

Yosemite National Park

Anyone in California who’s interested in any sort of outdoor adventure will tell you Yosemite National Park is unparalleled in its offerings. Cascading waterfalls, giant sequoias, geological wonders, endless vistas, and hiking trails for days, what’s there not to love about this must-visit California destination?

While it’s definitely not one of the least crowded national parks in summer, visiting Yosemite is something you shouldn’t miss out on. Hike to Yosemite Falls, climb El Capitan, admire the Tunnel View, and spend the night camping at Upper Pines, Lower Pines, or North Pines. As one of the best national parks in the state, Yosemite is a treasure trove of activities you won’t ever get bored of.

The source of heat for the volcanism in the Lassen area is subduction of the Gorda Plate diving below the North American Plate off the NorCal coast.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

A stark contrast to the national parks of Southern California, Lassen Volcanic National Park is all about rugged mountain peaks, clear lakes, and colorful wildflowers. But the most interesting fact about this national park is that it features every type of volcano there is in the world. How cool is that?

Lassen has its very own Cinder Cone, hydrothermal areas, and volcanic gas vents. Camp at Manzanita Lake, soak in the hot springs, and prepare to be blown away by the mesmerizing views on every hike. As you grill s’mores around the campfire at night, don’t forget to look up and admire the stars—you’ll see a lot of them at one of the top national parks to visit in summer.

Home of the world’s tallest trees, Redwood National Park protects nearly half of the world’s old growth redwoods,.

Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park is where you need to go to beat the heat in July. The majestical, towering redwoods filter the scorching sun and leave you exploring the lush forests through glistening rays peeking through leaves and branches. Fair warning—if you’re greeted with fog and rain at one of the best national parks in summer, don’t be surprised.

Explore Fern Canyon, drive down Howland Hill Road, and meet the Trees of Mystery. If you’re planning on staying the night, make Elk Prairie or Mill Creek Campground your accommodation of choice—you'll have the redwoods and twinkling stars keeping you company at dawn.

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