1. Yosemite National Park
Set in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite National Park is famed for its ancient giant sequoias and fantastic views of Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. Go camping here for a few days and marvel at the spectacular granite cliffs and waterfalls, grab a rubber tube and float down the Merced river, or just picnic in the stunning valley. Either way you will not be disappointed! Yosemite National Park is not just a must see in California but one of America's top attractions! See our guide to visiting Yosemite National Park.
2. Big Sur
Big Sur is the rugged stretch of coastline between Carmel and San Simeon which is traversed by the Pacific Coast Highway. This scenic drive is known for its winding turns, seaside cliffs and views of the mist-shrouded coastline. Beautiful surprises await around every corner! Watch the elephant seals basking on the rocks, visit the many beautiful state parks and just take in the stunning coastal views. Big Sur is one of California's biggest draw cards and it's not hard to see why!
3. Joshua Tree National Park
Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. These unique trees were given their names by Mormon settlers who thought their branches resembled the biblical Joshua with his arms reaching out to the skies. Go for a leisurely stroll, attempt to rock-climb or just star gaze. This place is great for the kids to as they have ranger led programs at certain times of the year and nightly talks. Joshua Tree is easy to get to from Los Angeles and only take about three hours.
4. Avenue of the Giants
Although there are a few places to see the legendary tallest trees in the world, this is the most outstanding. This place has the largest remaining virgin stand of redwoods left in the world. These trees are so old they were around in the age of dinosaurs. Look, marvel and be humbled by their giant, silent stature. Take an auto tour of this magical byway but to truly appreciate the area you must get out and hike the many trails located roadside. Make sure you stop by the Visitor's Center to learn about the history of the park and pick up some cool souvenirs. Check out this Northern California Driving Itinerary that includes Avenue of the Giants.
5. Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is a land of extremes. It has the driest and hottest climate in North America and the lowest elevation. The park contains, charcoal kilns, ghost towns and other ruins. Take a trip to Badwater, the Devils Golf Course or see the Artists Palette. Another major attraction of the park is the springtime wildflower blooms. You would never imagine a desert could be so beautiful! A word of warning, it can get extremely hot! The best time to visit the park is winter and spring. See the Top 10 places in Death Valley National Park you must see.