Are you planning to visit some of the west coast national parks?

Awesome, this is a great list that will help you know which parks you want to visit.  The term “west coast” is used more as a geographic region to describe the western United States.  This post does not include the amazing Alaska national parks. 

There are so many amazing National Parks in the USA that offer unbelievable landscapes, hiking, camping, and outdoor adventures.  If you want to plan a West Coast national park road trip this will get you off to a great start! 

Let’s explore all of the different West Coast national parks!

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National Park Pass

Utah National Park road trip - National Park Pass

As you plan your West Coast National Park road trip or vacation consider buying a National Park Pass.  

Annual Pass 

The annual pass is $80 and covers entrance to all 63 parks in the USA.  If you are planning on visiting at least 3 parks in a year it is worth it.  

Senior Pass

The senior pass is $80 but is a lifetime pass. As long as you do not lose it!   

Every Kid Outdoor Pass

If you have a 4th grader you can get a free annual pass for your family.  Also, because of the pandemic 5th graders can get a pass for this year since last year they were not able to use it.  

Plan A West Coast National Park Road Trip

Utah National Park Road Trip- The Mighty 5

There are a lot of things to consider when planning a West Coast national park road trip.  Here are a few points to be aware of.

Distance Between Parks

The distance between parks and states are a lot longer than you might think.  The Western United States is huge! Don’t be surprised to travel 3-10 hours to get to your destinations.

Should I Rent A Car?

I don’t know about you but I hate putting miles on my car!  Sometimes, I will rent a car when we go on long road trips as long as the price is good. I always check Priceline and see if that is a good option.

Should I Rent an RV? 

I would consider renting an RVBeing outdoors and enjoying nature is part of the experience. Camping in an RV allows you to explore at your own pace without worrying about check and check out times at a hotel. 

Bring The Right Supplies

Water is essential!  Make sure to have plenty of water in your car before you start your West Coast national park road trip.  If you are planning a camping trip, make sure you have everything you need.  Some national parks are in very remote areas 

Plan Your West Coast National Park Route

Planning is important.  Once you decide which parks you want to visit, map out your route.  Jump on Google Maps and start planning! You probably won’t have time to conquer all the parks in one trip, unless you have a few months to spare!  It is all good, find the parks that are interesting to you and go for it! 

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is located in Montana’s Rocky Mountains.  Glacier National Park extends all the way to the Canadian border.  The glacier topped peaks are breathtaking and well worth a visit.

Where to Stay Near Glacier National Park

There are many campsites around Glacier National Park. Just remember that temperatures drop to around 40 degrees at night in the summer.  Kalispell is another great option for lodging.  There are Marriott and other hotel chains.

Things to Do at Glacier National Park

There are over 700 miles of hiking trails to explore at the park.  Depending on what part of the year you visit some may be closed.  It is best to visit from July – August when the temperature is around 70 degrees during the day.

How Many Days Should I Spend At Glacier National Park?

1-3 days is a good amount of time to be able to participate in a few hikes and enjoy the scenic drives.

Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Yellowstone with kids

Yellowstone National Park is one of the most “unearthly” amazing places ever! It is located in three states: Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. It is huge!  Everyone should visit at least once in their lives.

Where to Stay Near Yellowstone

There are amazing campsites within Yellowstone as well as just outside the park. Reservations are essential sometimes up to a year in advance.  There are also some local hotels near the entrances.  On the Montana side there is even a Spring Hills Suites.

Things to Do at Yellowstone National Park

As you enter the park, grab a map!  This will direct you to some of the best stops throughout the park.  If Old Faithful is your number one destination, go directly there.  Be aware that geysers set off at different times.  Despite its name, Old Faithful is no exception.  Luckily, every time we have been we were able to see the show without waiting too long.  

The visitor center is located by Old Faithful and is very impressive.  If you are at Yellowstone with kids you can grab a Junior Ranger Program or even a scientific program.   The scientific program allows you to rent a thermometer and measure the water temperature at the trails near the visitor center. 

Thermal Pools and Paint Pots

As you drive through the park there are wooden pathways.  These pathways are over thermal pools and paint pots that bubble up. The temperatures are between 200 – 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  It is amazing to see! 


If you would like to see wildlife, the Lamar Valley is where you will want to go.  There are bison, bears, moose, and many more animals to check out. Try to go in the early morning or as the sun sets to have a better chance to see more.  


Yellowstone has some of the most beautiful hikes.  The landscape is unbelievable.  There are over 45 waterfalls at Yellowstone!   There are also other geysers besides Old Faithful to hike to. 

How Much Time Should I Spend at Yellowstone National Park

Spending 2-5 days at Yellowstone is my recommendation.  Yellowstone is huge!  There are so many stops to explore! 


Grand Teton National Park

West Coast National Parks Grand Teton

Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) is a fantastic place to bring the whole family for a wide range of adventure opportunities. While the views you see just driving around are certainly breathtaking, making some time to get out of the car and experience the park is well worth the effort.

Things to Do at Teton National Park

I recommend hiking in the Jenny Lake area or doing a guided raft trip down the Snake River. The park can be very busy during the peak months, so it’s best to start hikes very early in the day, plan float trips ahead of time and be as flexible as you can with your schedule. Afternoon storms usually push visitors out of the mountains into town in the late afternoon.

Pack rain gear and a picnic dinner so you can wait them out and enjoy less crowds. Storms generally pass quickly and can be waited out. Remember that Grand Teton National Park sits at a higher elevation so if you are used to sea level, go slow and drink tons of water.

Hot Tip

Carry bear spray when hiking. Bears are prevalent in the area and precautions should be taken. Canisters are available for rent at many locations in the Jackson, WY area.

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Arches National Park

Mighty five road trip Utah National parks

If you plan to do a Utah National Park tour, Arches National Park needs to be at the top of the list.  

Where to Stay Near Arches National Park?

Moab, Utah is the closest town to Arches National Park.  There are plenty of accommodations: hotels, glamping, and camping.   

How Much Time Should I Spend at Arches?

1-3 days is plenty of time to hike and explore Arches but you may want to stay longer in the area because Canyonlands National Park is within 30 minutes. There are also so many fun things to do in Moab

Things to Do at Arches National Park 

There are some amazing hikes at Arches National Park. The most famous hike is Delicate Arch.  (It is actually on the back of the Utah license plates.) This hike will take about three hours and is difficult, but so worth it!  Double Arch is also another impressive hike.  

Driving through Arches is another way to explore the park.  It is beautiful.  There are plenty of pull off areas where you can take in the beauty of the natural rock formations.  

Arches National Park is definitely worth visiting!

Arches Itinerary


Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch Hike at Canyonlands

Canyonlands is located near Arches National Park and offers a totally different experience.  

There are two areas of Canyonlands: Needles and Island in the Sky.  The Island in the Sky is the most popular area because it has many viewpoints and short hikes.

How Much Time Should I Spend at Canyonlands National Park?

You can easily do the Islands in the Sky in one day, maybe even less depending on how much hiking you want to do.  You could dedicate another day for the Needles area.  

Things to Do at Canyonlands National Park

Scenic drives and overlooks are the best way to see the enormous canyons within Canyonlands.  There are some great hikes but you do not have to hike to have a good experience.  Many of the overlooks are short walks with great rewards.  

Canyonlands Itinerary


Capitol Reef National Park

Best hikes in Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef National Park is located in Utah.  It is not as popular as some of the other Utah national parks which makes it a hidden gem.  

How Much Time Should I Spend at Capitol Reef?

1-2 days is perfect

Things to Do at Capitol Reef National Park

Capitol Reef has some incredible hikes.  You can walk in the deep canyons and hear yourself echo off the walls as you talk.  It is amazing.  

Capitol Reef is actually a historic site as well. You can learn all about the early settlers.  There is a fruit orchard in the middle of the park.  As well as a bakery with fresh pies. (they use the fruit from the orchard)

Capitol Reef is worth a visit! 

Capitol Reef Itinerary

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park Utah Spring Break

Bryce Canyon located in southern Utah is known for its hoodoo’s.  What is a hoodoo?  It is a rock formation that is tall and thin.  These formations are incredible to explore.

Where to Stay Near Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is pretty remote.  Camping is a great option.  If you do want to camp, you can find hotel accommodations near Cedar City.  

Things to Do at Bryce Canyon National Park

Driving in Bryce Canyon is a great experience. The 38 mile drive is full of scenic viewpoints to observe.  You can also get out and hikeHorseback riding is also a highlight near Bryce Canyon. 

How Much Time Should I Spend at Bryce Canyon National Park?

3 hours is enough time to take a scenic drive. If you want to get out and explore, plan for a day trip.  

Hot Tip

The temperatures at Bryce Canyon are about 20-25 degrees cooler because of its elevation than nearby parks such as Zion.  This is amazing during the summer! 


Zion National Park

Utah National Park Road Trip- The Mighty 5

Zion National Park is breathtaking!  It is located in southern Utah and may win the award of the “best of the mighty five!”

Where to Stay Near Zion National Park

There are plenty of accommodations near Zion.  There are hotels at the park entrance as well as campsites.  Planning ahead is important, so make sure to reserve your accommodations months in advance.  If you can’t find anything near Zion, St. George is the closest town and should have some more options.

Things to Do at Zion National Park

Hiking and climbing are the two most popular things to do at Zion National Park.  There are two famous hikes: Angels Landing and the Narrows.  You must get a permit to hike the Narrows.  There are many more hikes that are incredible within Zion National Park.  

Zion has some of the best climbing areas in the world.  People from all over the world come to climb at Zion. Don’t be surprised if you hear more foreign languages than English. 

How Much Time Should I Spend at Zion National Park

2-3 days is a recommended amount of time to spend.  

Zion is one of the best West Coast national parks hands down! 


Grand Canyon National Park

Best West Coast National Park Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best West Coast national parks.  It is a great park for people of all ages and abilities.

How Much Time Should I Spend at the Grand Canyon?

You need at least 1 full day to explore the Grand Canyon and see many of the viewpoints and  perhaps hike part of the Rim Trail which in total is 13 miles.  There is so much more to see and do that you could spend a few days or even a week there.

Where to Stay Near the Grand Canyon

There are many campsites within the park.  You can even camp in the backcountry, if you have a permit.  It is also best to book any accommodations in advance.

Things to Do at the Grand Canyon National Park

If you love hiking, there are amazing hikes along the rim.  Driving is also an option to see the park. The Desert View Trial is a beautiful drive. Another option is getting the shuttle bus along Hermit  Road.

If adventure is your thing then consider hiking the Rim to Rim Trail which is 24 miles and takes you down to the bottom of the Canyon, this can take anywhere from 2-4 days.

Also popular are rafting trips through the canyon which you can do for the day or up to 15 days!!

Another great way to see the Canyon up close is to do a helicopter ride over the canyon, this is certainly a once in a lifetime experience.

Hot Tip

Try to avoid visiting the park between July and August as the temperatures can be very high making any hiking difficult.



Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest is known for its fossilized trees from 225 million years ago. There are a number of short paths where you can walk among these fallen trees. You are allowed to touch them but you are not permitted to leave with any. (There are local shops that sell them if you’re interested).

The Painted Desert is another part of this park. It’s an area of badlands etched smooth by millions of years of erosion. Though the colors appear fairly subtle during the day, the rocks have some interesting shapes and striations of color. And they are quite stunning at sunrise and sunset. 

Hiking at Petrified Forest National Park

There are a number of trails through the Painted Desert ranging from less than a mile up to seven miles. Some even have Native American ruins and petroglyphs. Learn more about the area and the people who once lived there at the visitor centers. 

How Much Time Should I Spend at Petrified Forest National Park?

Plan to spend half a day to a full day. It’s around three hours from Phoenix, and Flagstaff, the nearest city, is just under 2 hours away. You can only camp with a permit in the designated section by hiking to it so you may want to stay in nearby Holbrook. 

The area can get quite hot in the summer and shade is limited, so be sure to bring plenty of water. In the winter, it gets cold and snowy so plan accordingly.

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Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is an often-overlooked national park but is extremely easy to visit since it’s right on the outskirts of Tucson.  There are two sides to the park, east and west, giving you twice as many exploring opportunities.

How Much Time Should I Spend at Saguaro National Park?

The west side of the park is better to visit if you just have one day.  If you have two days, you can spend one day on each side.  There is no camping in the park except for six backcountry sites.  While multiple days in any park is best, you can still see the highlights in one day.  

Things to Do at Saguaro National Park

While you’re there, make sure to drive Cactus Loop Road and Bajada Loop Road, hike to the Valley View Overlook, hike the nature trail on both sides, and hike the Sandero Esperanza Trail to get away from some of the already pretty low crowds.  

Best Time to Visit Saguaro National Park

The best time to visit will be winter since it gets so hot in the summer.  The end of May and the beginning of June is another great time to visit if you want to see the cactus blooming.  
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Mt. Rainier National Park

Best West Coast National Parks Rainier National Park

Mt. Rainier National Park, located in central Washington state, has something for any outdoor enthusiast. In summer, there are plenty of wildflowers, waterfalls, mountains, and wildlife to gawk at while you hike or bike around the park. In winter, the deep white snow makes it perfect for skiing and snowshoeing. 

What is the Best Time of Year to go to Mt. Rainier National Park?

One of the best times to visit is between the months of June and September. In June and July the wildflowers are blooming, the weather is warm, and there’s not too much rain. It is the Pacific Northwest, though, so it’s best to dress in layers and be prepared for rain. 

However, winter brings deep snows and mild temperatures, so it’s perfect for spending the day outside snowboarding or sledding. In the winter, it’s important to bring the correct gear and keep your core warm.

Things To Do at Mt. Rainier National Park

With over 377 square miles of rugged wilderness, there are plenty of scenic drives, hiking trails, lakes and ponds, and of course mountains to explore in Rainier National Park. So, when you come, plan to spend a minimum of three days and don’t forget your sense of adventure.

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North Cascade National Park

North Cascade National Park-West Coast Parks

North Cascades National Park is located in the Northern part of Washington State, about 3.5 hours from Seattle.  This park is rugged, mostly undeveloped, and incredibly beautiful. 

What is the Best Time to Go to North Cascades National Park?

You’ll want to time your visit to North Cascades National Park just right, as it is closed for a good portion of the year.  

The North Cascades are actually one of the snowiest places on earth, and this forces the roads and trails to close.   Every year is different, so be sure and check ahead, but normally late October – early May the roads will be closed.  Even after the roads are open, some hiking trails may be covered In snow until mid-summer, so be sure and check-in with the NPS website before you go! 

Things to Do at North Cascade National Park

The best things to do at North Cascades National Park are hike, backpack, camp, and kayak! There are endless trails, the most popular being Cascade Pass and Maple Pass Loop.  There are beautiful lakes such as Ross Lake and Diablo Lake that you can enjoy as well! 

Highway 20 is the only road that runs through the park and is part of the Cascade Loop.  The Cascade Loop is Washington’s most beautiful road trip, and is a must-do for any visit! By driving Hwy 20 you will pass by all of the most scenic parts of the park.  You’ll want to allow plenty of time for pulling over and picture taking. 

How Much Time Should I Spend At North Cascade National Park?

If you aren’t hiking you can drive through in one day.  If you plan on hiking one or more trails or using the lakes, you’ll need 2-3 days as everything is very spread out.  

Hot Tip

You won’t have cell service, and there are no gas stations or food inside the park, so plan ahead! 

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Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park

Olympic National Park is one of the most interesting and beautiful parks in the West. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in part, because of the extraordinary diversity of ecosystems within the park.

How Much Time Should I Spend at Olympic National Park

The National Park is so large that visitors should plan a minimum of three days to visit and an entire week if they are driving around the whole Olympic Peninsula. 

Things to Explore at Olympic National Park

It boasts the largest undeveloped coast in the contiguous United States. Visitors enjoy tide pooling, unparalleled views of protected coastline, and beach hiking.

The park also includes some of the largest trees in the world in one of the planet’s most expansive virgin temperate rainforests. There are abundant hiking and camping options for visitors to explore the forests. The gem of the park is the Hoh Rainforest, an otherworldly woodland laced with a collection of easy trails through massive trees hanging with mosses and lichens. 

Visitors also marvel at the glaciated peaks and alpine meadows that create the inner spine of the park. The areas are perfect for picnicking and hiking in the summer. Winter brings skiing and snowshoeing options at Hurricane Ridge. 

Other highlights include swimming and boating in pristine lakes, soaking in hot springs, world class visitor centers, and a wide range of interesting lodging options. There is something for everyone in Olympic National Park and memories of your trip will stay with you for a lifetime.

Contributed By: Erica at Trip Scholars

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake is a National Park in Southern Oregon that receives over 700,000 visitors each year. The eponymous lake is its main attraction and it is most well-known for the intense blueness of its water – something you have to see in person to believe! 

At first sight of Crater Lake, you will find that you cannot help but be overwhelmed by this feat of nature and humbled by the breathtaking views.

Crater Lake formed over 7,700 years ago after a volcanic eruption collapsed the peak of Mount Mazama, a 12,000-foot volcano. When the hole cooled, it filled with rainwater and snowmelt over the next 600-800 years, creating the beauty you find today. Outside streams are not able to access the lake, keeping the water pure and a gorgeous bold blue.

How Much Time to Spend at Crater Lake National Park

You should spend one perfect day soaking in Crater Lake’s beauty from different vantage points in the park. From the scenic drive around the rim, there are various overlooks for you to admire the vastness of Crater Lake’s caldera. There are also a few hikes along the way, one of which leads you to the water, where you can take a boat tour and swim in its frigid waters. 

Best Time of the Year to Visit Crater Lake National Park

Most people time their visit during the summer months, as Crater Lake is one of the snowiest places in the U.S. However, even as most of the roads close in the winter, the park stays open for you to perhaps do the most scenic snow-shoe or cross-country ski of your life!

Things To Do at Crater Lake National Park

One of the best things to do at Crater Lake is to drive the 33-mile Rim Road. There are several pullouts where you can see different perspectives of the lake.

For viewpoints that you cannot get at road level, several hikes can take you to some elevated scenery of the lake. One of the easiest hikes with a great scenic reward is the flat one-mile trail to the Discovery Point viewpoint.

Camping at Crater Lake National Park

There is camping available at Crater Lake so you can take the time to get to know the park.

Hot Tip

The park is open year-round, but some roads close with the winter weather conditions.

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Redwoods National Park

West Coast National Park -Redwoods

Redwoods National Park entrance is free.  So why is this California national park still a secret?

It’s location is in northern California on the border of Oregon.  This tends to keep it off the radar for many people but taking a road trip to Redwoods National Park is well worth the drive! 

Where To Stay Near Redwoods National Park?

The Holiday Inn Express in McKinleyville is just 30 miles from key sites and is a great accommodation. You can also rent an entire vacation home for less than $500 for a weekend.

If camping out is more your style reserve a space at Clam Beach and try out clamming with your crew!

Things to Do at Redwood National Park

To enjoy the best of the park, initiate yourself with a drive along Bald Hills Road to Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Because Redwood National Park partners with state park systems your America the Beautiful pass will get you in to Prairie Creek State Park for free.

You can walk Prairie Creek trail or loop by joining Foothill Trail for a beautiful 2.6 mile dive into nature. As you continue north, don’t miss the Gold Bluffs/Fern Canyon Loop trail.

You’ll enjoy the Redwood Forest and coastal views! If you’d like to extend your stay, Gold Bluffs Beach and Elk Prairie Campgrounds are available.

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Lassen-Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park in northeastern California is known not only for its spectacular scenery but also for its exciting hydrothermal features.

Its location means that it is free of snow only for a few months in the summer each year, but visitors that make the effort to visit Lassen when the park road is fully open can enjoy a variety of outdoor pursuits.

Things to Do at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Hiking is the best way to discover the park’s mud pots, fumaroles, boiling pools, and other hydrothermal features. Bumpass Hell has a boardwalk trail you can walk. You can also hike to the top of volcanic peaks in the park, including Lassen Peak.

Driving the scenic road through the park is a must: the Lassen Park Highway is one of the most scenic drives in California. You will see many alpine lakes en route! You can go boating at some of the lakes. Keep your eyes peeled for birds and wildlife as you drive or hike in the park.

Winter brings snowy landscapes, and the opportunity to snowshoe or go cross country skiing.

How Much Time Should I Spend at Lassen Volcanic National Park

A weekend is adequate time to cover the major sights in Lassen, but you may want to allow more time to stay and enjoy its quiet beauty. You can camp by Manzanita Lake in the northwest part of the park, or at the campground by the southwest entrance.

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Yosemite National Park

Best West Coast National parks Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is a must see gem of the West Coast! Yosemite is the perfect park to visit for majestic views, hiking, rock climbing, waterfalls and camping.

How Long Should I Spend At Yosemite?

You will need to spend at least a couple days here, but a week would be much better to fully experience the park. To avoid the busy summer crowds, plan your visit during the shoulder seasons (May/June or September/October). May is the best month to see the waterfalls.

Where Should I Stay While Visiting Yosemite National Park?

There are many accommodation options available at Yosemite including camping, cabins and hotels. Camping reservations are available up to five months ahead of time on the 15th of each month and book up very quickly.

Check the park website well ahead of your visit for up to date entrance requirements; reservations are required for park entrance in 2021.

Things To Do at Yosemite National Park

Places you must experience in Yosemite National Park include Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, Tunnel View, Glacier Point, Vernal & Nevada Falls and Mariposa Grove.

For an exceptionally adventurous hike, enter the permit lottery to hike to the top of Half Dome. Don’t worry if you can’t fit everything in on your first trip to Yosemite, this is a park you will want to visit again!

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Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park is not as well known as its neighbor, Yosemite National Park, but it’s one of the most stunning national parks in California.

Not only is it the only place to see the giant sequoia trees, which are the widest trees in the world! But 84% of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is designated wilderness, which means the best way to explore this park is through hiking and backpacking.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Sequoia National Park?

The best time to visit is during the summer and early fall months when the weather is warm and mild, the entire park and all of the trails are open, and there is no snow on the ground. 

Things to Do at Sequoia National Park

Hiking and backpacking are the best things to do in the park, and you can spend a weekend or a week exploring the various trails.

There are a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels. Tokopah Falls is a roughly 3 mile round trip hike that features a waterfall and is perfect for beginners and families. If you’re looking for a more challenging trail, you can day hike to Alta Peak which is 14 miles round trip and gives you beautiful views of the Great Western Divide. 

Or if you’re looking for a backpacking trip, you can choose from Jennie Lakes Loop which is around 17 miles, Rae Lakes Loop which is around 42 miles, or the High Sierra Trail which is around 72 miles. And these are just a fraction of the trails in this national park.

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Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park in California

Kings Canyon National Park is the lesser known National Park next to Sequoia. This 460,000 acre park offers gorgeous viewpoints, great hikes, and horseback riding. Spend at least a day, two if you have it at Kings Canyon, especially during the summertime. 

The park is divided into two sections: Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. Grant Grove is the most visited portion as Cedar Grove is about an hour’s drive into the valley. 

Hiking at Kings Canyon National Park

The most popular trail in the park is the Grant Tree Trail. Here you get to view General Grant, the world’s second largest living tree. If up for a longer hike, add in the North Grove loop to take you past a ton of sequoias. 

Another can’t miss trail is Panoramic Point. This viewpoint offers you amazing views of the park and the valley. It is only a short walk from the parking lot. Make sure to also hunt for old sequoia stumps along the Big Stump Basin trail. 

Hop Tip

Remember to drink lots of water as this park is at a higher elevation that you might be used to. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you do not mind getting dirty as many of the trails are dusty.

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Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park
If you want to travel to a West Coast national park that isn’t on the beaten path, skip the well-known California national parks like Yosemite and Sequoia and instead visit Pinnacles National Park in Central California. It’s actually the least-visited of California’s 9 national parks!
Pinnacles National Park is a unique chaparral landscape full of rock formations left over from volcanic activity, giving the park its name.

Things to Do at Pinnacles National Park

The best things to do in Pinnacles National Park include hiking, caving, wildlife spotting, and birdwatching. 
There are a ton of fantastic hiking trails in Pinnacles that are relatively sedate with not a lot of foot traffic. However, be sure to get an early start when you hike if visiting in summer or early fall, because Central California’s temperatures soar during the daytime!
It’s also a great place for wildlife spotting as there are several endangered species that call the landscape home, including the California condor (once extinct in the wild and now surviving well in Pinnacles) and several species of bats.

Where to Stay Near Pinnacles National Park

Camping at Pinnacles Campground is fairly easy to secure due to the fact that it is less popular than other US national parks; however, it is recommended to reserve in advance on
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Joshua Tree National Park

Best West Coast National Parks - Joshua Tree

When considering which West Coast National Parks to visit, Joshua Tree National Park definitely needs to be on your list! This is the perfect place to explore on a day trip or even visit for a whole weekend.

Things To Do At Joshua Tree National Park

There are plenty of incredible things to do in this park, but one thing you won’t want to miss is taking the time to appreciate the park’s namesake—Joshua trees! These unique plants only grow in the Mojave Desert, so this is one of the only places in the world where you can see them.

Other activities you won’t want to miss include rock climbing or bouldering in the park, hiking on trails like Hidden Valley, and seeing iconic features like Skull Rock and Arch Rock.

When is the Best Time to go to Joshua Tree National Park?

While this park is fun year-round, spring is one of the best times to visit for nice weather and to see the desert in bloom. But no matter when you go, be sure to bring food and plenty of water as there’s nowhere to get food in the park and there are very few places to fill up water bottles. So come prepared, and you’re sure to have an unforgettable adventure!

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Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is the largest National Park outside Alaska. It covers over 3.4 million acres. 93% of which is protected wilderness. 

Things to Do in Death Valley

Hiking, scenic driving, birdwatching, guided tours, off-roading, and camping are great options for things to do in Death Valley.

How Much Time Should I Spend at Death Valley?

If you’d like to see all the major sites in Death Valley, plan on spending three days there. Start at Furnace Creek Visitors Center. Explore Badwater Salt Flats, the lowest elevation in North America. Tour Artists Drive, a stunning geographical rainbow composed of eroded desert hills.

Check out Devil’s Golf Course, a massive sprawl of jagged spire rock salt. Hike Golden Canyon where options range from easy walks to more strenuous 180-minute hikes. Finally, check out Zabriskie Point, the most famous view in the park.

Hot Tip

Weather in Death Valley can reach over 120 degrees in summer and drops below freezing in winter months. The most popular time to visit Death Valley is spring, due to mild weather.

For a  one-of-a-kind off-roading experience, drive to Barker Ranch, the spot where Manson and his family were apprehended. Get an early start and navigate the treacherous Mengel Pass to set up camp at Barker Ranch. Warning, the ranch is completely off the grid, so you will need to bring an emergency GPS locator.

For off-roading, check out Farabee’s Jeep Rentals.

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Channel Islands

Best West Coast National Parks Channel Islands

Channel Islands National Park is comprised of five of the eight Channel Islands off the coast of southern California.  The islands are small, wild and incredibly beautiful. 

Most people visit as a day boat trip from Ventura or Oxnard Harbors, but there is a primitive campground on each of the islands where you can stay for one or more nights.  Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands also have tiny airstrips that you fly into.  The seas surrounding the islands are home to giant kelp forests, which are popular dive sites, and you can take a dive trip from Ventura or Santa Barbara as an alternative to the island passenger boats. 

Things to Do at Channel Islands

In addition to diving, popular activities include snorkeling, picnicking, hiking, kayaking, and boating.  The rocky shoreline is fun to explore either in a kayak (there are even sea caves you can paddle into) or on foot.  Kids will love discovering life in the tide pools that form around the bottom of the cliffs. For hiking, Anacapa has the easier, flatter trails, while Santa Rosa has more rugged, primitive trails.

Channel Islands National Park is a great day out or, if you like primitive camping, a wonderful way to get back to nature and really soak in this rugged, off-the-beaten-path coastal environment.

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the most incredible places in the world where fire meets sea. With two of the world’s most active volcanoes in its borders, you’ll see firsthand that the earth is truly alive.

Hiking at Volcanoes National Park

Enjoy hiking across Keanakāko’i Crater, one of Kilauea’s collapsed peaks, a flat hike that can easily be done in an hour. If you’re into history and culture, the Pu’uloa Trail is a must where you can spot thousands of petroglyphs dating back over 500 years.

Best Time to Visit Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is worth visiting any time of the year, though you’ll want to keep a close eye on rain forecasts as the park really stands out in the sunshine.

Most of the major highlights of the park can be done in a day, especially if you go on a road trip along the Chain of Craters Road which passes along multiple craters, a cinder cone, lava fields, the Pu’uloa petroglyphs, and ends at the Hōlei Sea Arch, a lava formation that juts into the ocean.

If you want to have enough time to see Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at a leisurely pace, stopping at whatever spot that looks interesting, plan to stay three days. An hour away by car, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can also be done as a day trip if you choose Hilo as a home base.

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Are you Ready to Explore the West Coast National Parks?

Hiking Delicate Arch At Arches National Park

I hope this post gave you some great ideas of the best west coast national parks!  There are so many to choose from!  I have a goal to visit all the national parks including the east coast national parks

Facebook Community

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