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National Parks Around Los Angeles

Nov 4th, 2020

There aren’t many places in the country where you can find landscapes so diverse as you can in California. From warm, sunny beaches to vast deserts to mountain peaks and jagged, snowy peaks, California’s natural landscape is a powerful reminder of the wild, wild world outside the hustle and bustle of the sprawling urban metropolises we spend our days navigating. 

One way that we can enjoy these wild places and protect them from the tidal wave of urbanization is through the work of the National Park Service. You’re undoubtedly familiar with how quickly towns and cities can spread over a landscape, especially in the jam-packed cities of California, so having land set aside for the preservation of both culture and nature is vital to protecting the world as we know it for future generations. 

If you live in our southern California apartments, then you may already be familiar with some of the national parks and preserved lands around Los Angeles. From meandering through giant forests to snowshoeing up mountains to dodging desert cacti, you can explore all the beautiful and terrifyingly wild landscapes that the Golden State has to offer. And it’s all within a few hours’ drive from your luxury apartments!

National parks near Los Angeles

Joshua Tree National Park

Drive time: 2 hours 16 minutes

This popular park has already been featured in our list of day trips from LA, but we’ll give you a little refresher anyway!

Joshua Tree National Park captures the unique geologic and environmental features that exist at the meeting point of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. See how the picturesque Joshua Trees of the Mojave slowly give way to the barren sand dunes and grasslands of the Colorado, and learn about the many animals and insects that share the unique desert ecosystem. 

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Congratulations to our top five submissions from the Joshua Tree Photo Contest of 2020! This photo is from one of our top five submissions. @petertellone describes their moment of peace below,⠀ ⠀ "As the sun begins to set in Joshua Tree National Park, everything becomes still and the light gets golden. It's that one moment when everything is good and alright in the world to me and ends another perfect day in the park"⠀ ⠀ Over the next week check out the other top five submissions on our Instagram and Facebook pages. The person who receives the most likes will win the contest! We need your help in determining who that will be. Thank you to all of our participants who submitted their photos for this year's contest.

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Channel Islands National Park

Drive time: accessible only via boat or plane

You may be able to see these islands from the mainland, but this offshore ecosystem couldn’t be further from the real world. The quiet coves and wildflower-filled meadows offer an indescribably peaceful camping, hiking and outdoor experience that feels worlds away from life on the mainland.

Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park

Drive time: 3 hours 24 minutes

Meandering through the forests of giant sequoias is both a magical and humbling experience that is unique to California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. These massive trees have called California home for longer than most humans have, with the oldest tree in the park (also the oldest single-stem tree in the world!) dating back to around 700 B.C! 

Sequoia National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the world, having been established in 1890. It’s connected to the more-recently established Kings Canyon National Park, which was established in 1940. 

Death Valley National Park

Drive time: 3 hours 24 minutes

This national park is aptly-named for its sweltering heat and dry air. However, this extreme environment is teeming with beauty and life. Hearty wildflowers carpet the valley floor in the spring and sprinkles of snow coat the barren slopes in the winter, and animals and insects of all kinds gather together around the drought-resistant oases that nurture life in this harsh land. 

Pinnacles National Park

Drive time: 4 hours 22 minutes

Named for the clustered spires of pointed rock formations rising from the sprawling mountains, Pinnacles National Park features a fascinating landscape of ancient geological features. Explore the caves and valleys formed by ancient volcanic eruptions, and see how the animals and birds have made these unique cracks and crevasses their home.

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Time for another visitor photo feature! We want to thank @heidi_went_hiking both for this great shot of the Steep and Narrow trail in the High Peaks, and for her time spent helping to keep our trails clean. Microtrash can be harmful to much of our wildlife, including California Condors, and is a bad look for the park - but litter often outpaces staff ability to pick it up. We appreciate everyone doing their part to keep our parks clean and our wildlife healthy! (Just remember to stay on trail, because that plastic bottle on the cliff's edge is NOT worth someone getting injured. Leave that to us!) Be sure to tag your Pinnacles photos with #PinnaclesMoments for a chance to be featured on our page! Photo: A visitor delicately steps down the narrow staircase that marks the south end of the Steep and Narrow trail, with some Pinnacles towers in the background. Photo credit to @heidi_went_hiking

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Yosemite National Park

Drive time: 4 hours 29 minutes

Although Yellowstone National Park (est. 1872) is considered to be the first national park in the United States, Yosemite was placed under federal protection eight years before in 1864, making it one of the oldest pieces of protected land in the country. The towering granite cliffs and plunging waterfalls are just some of the natural features that make Yosemite National Park one of the country’s most beloved parks. 

Meander through vast meadows circled by panoramic mountain peaks, or sit in the tranquility and otherworldliness of the ancient sequoia forests. 

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ℹ Day-Use Reservation Update ℹ Yosemite National Park is announcing modifications to operations to implement the latest guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and local and state public health authorities, as the park continues to increase public access and services. The NPS is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis. Yosemite National Park will be modifying park operations beginning on November 1, 2020, ending the day use reservation system that has been in place since the park reopened in June. Day use reservations will be in place through the month of October. To secure a day use reservation, please visit Day use passes will not be required for entrance into Yosemite National Park beginning on November 1, 2020. #Yosemite #NationalPark

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Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Drive time: 38 minutes

Located just a few miles outside Los Angeles and even closer to our apartments in Camarillo, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area provides a sprawling wilderness and blessed isolation right outside the city limits. Hike through 500 miles’ worth of trails that weave through valleys, up peaks and along rivers, or relax on the beach and soak up some of that famous California sunshine. 

There are many places to visit in the Santa Monica Mountains NRA, like Point Mugu State Park or Paramount Ranch, so be sure to check out all the options! 

Mojave National Preservation

Drive time: 2 hours 33 minutes

Dusk-purple wildflowers flowing over gentle sand dunes and silent desert canyons are just a few of the reasons you should definitely visit the sprawling 1.6 million-acre preserve. This high desert offers a cooler climate than the neighboring Colorado Desert to the east, and the fauna and flora that call the region home have been stewards of the ancient landscape for as long as the desert itself. You can also spot the abandoned mines, military encampments and homesteads that tell of both humanity’s past and the land’s extreme wilderness.

Next time you feel a little cabin-feverish and are craving some time soaking in California’s natural beauty, plan a trip to one these national parks around Los Angeles! You’ll learn something new, see something you’ve never seen before and come back feeling refreshed and renewed. After all, you live in one of the most beautiful places in the country, so why not take advantage of it?

Have fun!

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Featured photo courtesy Pixabay/Free-Photos

Author of Article

Colleen Ford is a South African who now lives in Spokane, Washington. She loves to travel, camp (in warm weather) and bake.

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