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36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites – A comprehensive guide!

California is home to some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring national parks and monuments in the country. It is no wonder California boasts the most national parks of any US state. It has nine national parks, but the number climbs to 36 when we include the National Monuments and National Historic Sites, National Historical Parks, preserves, and National Recreation Areas. From the majestic redwoods of Redwood National Park and the awe-inspiring granite peaks of Yosemite National Park to the desert landscapes of Death Valley National Park, there is a diverse range of natural beauty to explore. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll provide a list of all the top California National Parks, monuments, and historic sites. I’ll also include information on what each park is known for, so you can decide which ones are right for you. Whether you’re an out-of-town visitor with a couple of hours to spare or a nearby resident with a lifetime to explore, these places will surely delight and inspire!

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites – A comprehensive guide! #Travel #California #FindYourPark #PlanLikeAParkRanger Click To Tweet

The National Park logo – What does it represent?

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
  • Arrowhead form – The nation’s diverse peoples and the richness of shared experience.
  • Mountains, Trees, and Lakes – The complexity and beauty of the natural landscape.
  • Bison – The animals that share and enrich the environment and help to connect the NPS logo to the department of the interior’s seal.

California’s National Parks

There are few things in this world as majestic as California’s national parks. They are home to many beautiful places on Earth, places that astonish us and inspire us. Each one is a treasure trove of untouched wilderness, and they are all worth exploring.

There are few things in this world as majestic as California's national parks. Each one is a treasure trove of untouched wilderness, and they are all worth exploring. #Travel #California #FindYourPark #PlanLikeAParkRanger Click To Tweet

1. Redwood National and State Parks

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Redwood National and State Parks

Nearest City/Town – Klamath, CA

Redwood National Park, located on the coast of northern California, is home to some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world and is a world heritage site. These magnificent trees can grow up to 300 feet tall and live for thousands of years. The ancient coast redwood ecosystem preserved in the parks contains some of the planet’s most majestic forests. Whether hiking through the woods or simply marveling at them from a distance, these massive trees are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Redwood National Park is also a bit unusual because, unlike any park, it is a combination of three California State Parks and one national park. This joint park is a unique partnership between the four parks.

  • Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
  • Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park
  • Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
  • Redwood National Park

This partnership allows visitors to enjoy the best of both worlds: the vast wilderness of a national park with the well-maintained facilities of a state park. Whether you are hiking through an old-growth forest or driving along the coast, Redwood National Park is sure to leave you amazed.

Best things to do in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

  • Go for a scenic drive on Howland Hill Road
  • Walk the Stout Memorial Grove Trail
  • Hike the Boy Scout Tree Trail
  • Hike to the Grove Of Titans
  • Relax on the banks of the Smith River

Best things to do in Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

  • Hike Damnation Creek Trail
  • Hike or bike the Coastal Trail
  • Go Tidepooling at Endert’s Beach and False Klamath Cove

Best things to do in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

  • Drive the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway
  • Hike the James Irvine Trail to Fern Canyon Loop
  • Camping at Gold Bluff Beach (Permit required from May 1st – September 30th).
  • Hike to Trillium Falls
  • Walk the Fern Canyon Loop Trail
  • Go on a scenic drive on Coastal Drive Loop to Klamath Beach and High Bluff Overlook.

Best things to do in Redwood National Park

  • Drive Bald Hills Road
  • Hike Lady Bird Johnson Grove
  • Hike Tall Trees Grove (by permit only)

2. Lassen Volcanic National Park

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Lassen Volcanic National Park

Nearest City/Town – Redding, CA

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a place of dramatic landscapes and natural beauty. The Park is home to Mount Lassen, an active volcano that last erupted in 1915, as well as numerous other peaks, steaming fumaroles, meadows, and forests. Visitors can explore the Park by hiking, biking, camping, backpacking, and driving. There are also many opportunities for wildlife watching, including bird watching, as the Park is home to over 200 species of birds.

Best things to do in Lassen Volcanic National Park

  • Drive the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway
  • Hike the Bumpass Hell Trail
  • Visit Sulphur Works
  • Visit the Kohm Yah-Mah-Nee Visitor Center
  • Explore the Lassen Peak Trail
  • Camp at Manzanita Lake Campground

3. Yosemite National Park

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Yosemite National Park

Nearest City/Town – Lee Vining, CA 

In Yosemite National Park, visitors can witness the stunningly powerful Yosemite Falls, hike through vast meadows and valleys, and marvel at the ancient sequoia trees. The Park is home to some of the most iconic landscapes in the country, including Half Dome and El Capitan. The park’s preservation as a protected area allows for the continuation of its diverse wildlife and natural beauty. The rugged terrain of the High Sierra offers opportunities for both peaceful reflection and thrilling adventure. Yosemite is a great place to hike, camp, backpack, rock climb, and photograph. In addition to its natural beauty, the Park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, coyotes, and bobcats. Whether one seeks solitude in the wilderness or a family-friendly experience, Yosemite truly has something for everyone to enjoy.

Best things to do in Yosemite National Park

  • Hike to Vernal Fall
  • Hike Half Dome (Permit required)
  • Explore Tuolumne Meadows
  • Spend time by Tenaya Lake (One of the beautiful Alpine Lakes in Northern California)
  • Drive the Glacier Point Road
  • Visit Mariposa Grove

4. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Sequoia National Park

Nearest City/Town – Fresno, CA

In Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park, visitors can marvel at the world’s largest trees, the giant sequoias. These ancient giants tower above the rugged foothills and deep canyons of the park, their massive trunks a testament to their endurance. 

But these incredible trees may seem invincible, but they, too, are vulnerable. Climate change, air pollution, and wildfires pose threats to the sequoias and other diverse plant and animal life in the park. Visitors have a role to play in protecting this natural wonder by practicing responsible recreation and supporting conservation efforts. By preserving these majestic giants for future generations, we ensure that the beauty of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park will endure.

The park offers numerous opportunities for outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, and horseback riding. So if you’re looking for a place to get away from it all and connect with nature, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park is the place for you.

Best things to do in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
  • Visit General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park
  • Hike Moro Rock Trail
  • Explore Crystal Cave
  • Drive Generals Highway from the Sequoia Park Entrance to Lodgepole

5. Pinnacles National Park

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Pinnacles National Park

Nearest City/Town – Monterey, CA

Pinnacles National Park is a unique and beautiful place. The landscape was formed by volcanoes 23 million years ago, and today it is home to a variety of plant and animal life. Hikers can explore rare talus caves and see the towering rock spires, which are home to prairie and peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and the California condor. The chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon bottom provide a wilderness experience that is unlike any other.

Best things to do in Pinnacles National Park

  • Hike the Bear Gulch Trail
  • Hike the High Peaks Trail and look for endangered California Condor
  • Explore the Balconies Cave

6. Death Valley National Park

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations

Nearest City/Town – Pahrump, CA

Death Valley National Park is a vast and varied landscape. From the soaring peaks of the Panamint Range to the sandy, dry floors of the valley below, the park is home to a variety of plant and animal life. The extreme conditions of the desert environment provide a challenge for even the most experienced hikers and campers. But those who brave the elements are rewarded with some of the most stunning scenery in the country. Death Valley National Park is a place of extremes, but it is also a place of immense beauty. I would highly encourage anyone who has the chance to visit this amazing place.

Best things to do in Death Valley National Park

  • Hike Zabriskie Point
  • Explore Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
  • Visit Badwater Basin
  • Drive Artists Drive

7. Channel Islands National Park

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Photo credit: Tim Hauf, timhaufphotography.com

Nearest City/Town – Ventura, CA

The Channel Islands National Park is one of the most unique and beautiful places on Earth. You can explore miles of pristine coastline, hike through lush forests, and observe a variety of wildlife. The park protects five islands and the one mile of ocean surrounding them. The five islands are Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, San Miguel Island, Santa Barbara Island, and Santa Rosa island. The islands have been isolated for thousands of years, and as a result, they are home to many species that can be found nowhere else on the planet. In addition, the islands are a haven for wilderness lovers, offering a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and experience the beauty of nature. Whether you’re looking for an adventure or want to relax in scenic surroundings, the Channel Islands National Park is sure to exceed your expectations.

Best things to do in Channel Islands National Park

  • Visit the Channel Islands Visitor Center
  • Explore Anacapa Island
  • Paddle around Santa Cruz Island

8. Joshua Tree National Park

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Joshua Tree National Park by Gareth Peries

Nearest City/Town – Palm Springs, CA

Joshua Tree National Park is a truly unique place. Nestled in the southern California desert, it is home to two distinct desert ecosystems – the Mojave desert and the Colorado desert. This diverse landscape is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life, as well as some fascinating geological features. The night skies are especially dark and clear, making it a perfect place to stargaze. And the park has a rich cultural history, with many different Native American tribes calling it home. Whether you’re hiking through the majestic forests of Joshua trees or climbing the towering cliffs of hidden canyons, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in this beautiful wilderness.

Best things to do in Joshua Tree National Park

  • Hike Hidden Valley Nature Trail and Discovery Trail
  • Climb Quail Springs Picnic Area
  • Explore Barker Dam Nature Trail and watch for bighorn sheep
  • Drive Park Boulevard through the park

California’s National Monuments

In addition to the national parks, California is also home to 20 national monuments. These protected areas range from the giant sequoias of the Giant Sequoia National Monument to the volcanic landscapes of the Lava Beds National Monument. There are also a number of marine national monuments which protect underwater ecosystems. Here is a complete list of all the top California National Monuments.

A comprehensive guide to all the top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites. These places will delight and inspire you to explore the Golden State!#California #Nature #FindYourPark Click To Tweet

9. Muir Woods National Monument

Nearest City/Town – San Francisco, CA

Muir Woods National Monument is a protected area that is home to some of the tallest trees on Earth. The monument is named after John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist who was instrumental in the creation of the national park system. Muir Woods is one of the few remaining old-growth forests in the United States, and it is truly a sight to behold. The towering trees, some of which are over 300 feet tall, provide a canopy that filters out the harsh sunlight. This allows for a unique ecosystem to flourish, with a wide variety of plant and animal life. The forest floor is also home to giant sequoias, which are among the largest and oldest trees in the world.

Best things to do in Muir Woods National Monument

  • Hike the Muir Woods loop trail
  • Explore the Dutch Joe Creek Trail

10. Fort Ord National Monument

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Fort Ord National Monument

Nearest City/Town – Monterey, CA

Fort Ord National Monument is a protected area that was once used as a military base. Fort Ord was a leading training center and deployment staging ground during the Vietnam War. It is estimated that 1.5 million American troops trained at Fort Ord. The base was established in 1917 and was used by the United States Army until it was decommissioned in 1994. The area is also notable for its historical significance, including its role in the Spanish settlement of California. The area was first discovered by explorers from Spain, and it played an important role in the establishment of early California settlements. The base covers 14,651 acres of land, and it is now home to a variety of different habitats, including grasslands, chaparral, and oak woodlands. The monument is also home to a number of endangered species, including the Smith’s blue butterfly and the California red-legged frog. Fort Ord National Monument is a great place to explore the diverse landscapes of California.

Best things to do in Fort Ord National Monument

  • Explore the Fort Ord Dunes State Park

11. Cabrillo National Monument

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Cabrillo National Monument

Nearest City/Town – San Diego, CA

Cabrillo National Monument is a protected area that commemorates the life of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Cabrillo was a Spanish explorer who was the first European to set foot on what is now the West Coast of the United States. The monument is located on the site of Cabrillo’s landing, and it offers stunning views of San Diego Bay. The monument also has a museum that chronicles the life and times of Cabrillo. Visitors can also take a boat ride to see the statue of Cabrillo that stands at the entrance to the harbor. Cabrillo National Monument is a great place to learn about the history of California and the exploration of the West Coast.

Best things to do in Cabrillo National Monument

  • Visit the Cabrillo National Monument Visitor Center
  • Take a boat ride to see the Cabrillo statue
  • Explore the tide pools at low tide

12. Castle Mountains National Monument

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Castle Mountains National Monument

Nearest City/Town – Twentynine Palms, CA

Nestled between the Nevada state line and Mojave National Preserve, Castle Mountains National Monument is a protected area that is home to a variety of different ecosystems. The monument is located in the Mojave Desert, and it includes Joshua tree forests, desert grasslands, and alpine peaks. The area is also home to a number of historical and cultural sites, including the ghost town of Hart, which was once a mining town. The monument covers 21,120 acres of land, and it is a great place to explore the desert landscape.

Best things to do in Castle Mountains National Monument

  • Visit Hart ghost town
  • Hike to Castle Peak
  • Explore the Mojave Desert Visitor Center

13. Lava Beds National Monument

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Garden Bridge in Lava Beds National Monument by Chaz K. Shand Source: Facebook

Nearest City/Town – Tulelake, CA

Lava Beds National Monument is a protected area in northeastern California. The monument is home to a variety of different landscapes, including lava flows, cinder cones, and almost 700 caves. The area is also home to a number of historical and cultural sites, including the site of the Modoc War. The war was fought between the United States Army and a Native American tribe known as the Modoc. The monument covers 46,000 acres of land, and it is a great place to explore the natural and cultural history of California.

Best things to do in Lava Beds National Monument

  • Visit the Lava Beds Visitor Center
  • Explore the lava tube caves
  • Hike to the top of Schonchin Butte

14. Giant Sequoia National Monument

Nearest City/Town – Porterville, CA

In California, Giant Sequoia National Monument protects 38 groves of the massive Sequoiadendron giganteum trees, including the largest and most well-known in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The monument, covering over 300,000 acres on the western slopes of the southern Sierra Nevada, was created in 2000 by President Bill Clinton to provide extra protection for these ancient giants. Despite their size and age, many of the sequoias within the monument are relatively inaccessible, allowing for a more pristine and wild experience for those lucky enough to visit them.

Best things to do in Giant Sequoia National Monument

  • Visit the General Grant Tree
  • Hike to the Muir Grove of sequoias
  • Explore the Giant Forest Museum

15. Tule Lake National Monument

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Tule Lake National Monument

Nearest City/Town – Redding, CA.

Tule Lake National Monument is located in northeastern California, and it commemorates the site of a World War II internment camp. The camp was used to imprison Japanese Americans during the war. The monument covers 4,600 acres of land, and it includes the remains of the internment camp as well as a museum that chronicles the history of the camp. The monument is a great place to learn about this dark period in American history.

Best things to do in Tule Lake National Monument

  • Visit the Tule Lake Visitor Center
  • Explore the remains of the internment camp
  • Learn about the history of the camp at the museum

16. Carrizo Plain National Monument

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Carrizo Plain National Monument by Carol Quina

Nearest City/Town – Los Angeles, CA

A few hours from Los Angeles, Carrizo Plain National Monument is one of the best-kept secrets in California. This remote monument is traversed by the San Andreas Fault. A few prominent features on the monument include the white alkali flats of Soda Lake, Painted Rock, vast open grasslands, and a broad plain rimmed by mountains. When conditions are favorable, many wildflowers can bloom and carpet the valley floor; it is a sight to behold, even though it does not last long.

Refer to the travel guide to Carrizo Plain National Monument and download the map before your visit.

Best things to do in Carrizo Plain National Monument

  • Visit the Painted Rock
  • Hike through the grasslands
  • Explore Soda Lake

17. Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

Nearest City/Town – Palm Springs, CA

The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument is a majestic sight, rising sharply from the desert floor to a height of 10,834 feet. There are many beautiful places to see in the area, including palm oases, snow-capped mountains, a national scenic trail, and wilderness areas.  There are many trails to access its extensive backcountry, both from the Coachella Valley and the alpine village of Idyllwild. The Monument covers about 280,000 acres of land and includes two Federal wilderness areas – the Santa Rosa and the San Jacinto.

Best things to do in Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument

  • Visit the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
  • Hike to the peak of San Jacinto Mountain
  • Explore the wilderness areas

18. California Coastal National Monument

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Trinidad’s majestic sea stacks are part of the California Coastal National Monument.

Nearest City/Town – Trinidad, CA

The California Coastal National Monument is a collection of small islands, rocks, and reefs that extend along the coast of California for over 1,000 miles. The monument is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including some that are unique to the area. The monument is also a popular destination for recreation, including fishing, kayaking, and bird watching.

Best things to do in California Coastal National Monument

  • Explore the Lost Coast Headlands
  • Visit Piedras Blancas

19. César E. Chávez National Monument

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
César E. Chávez National Monument

Nearest City/Town – Bakersfield, CA

Cesar Chavez National Monument commemorates the life and work of civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. He is commonly accepted as the most influential Latino leader in America during the past century. The monument, located in Keene, California, includes Chavez’s home, office, and the headquarters of the United Farm Workers. The monument is a great place to learn about Chavez’s work in organizing farm workers and fighting for their rights.

Best things to do at Cesar Chavez National Monument

  • Visit the Cesar Chavez Visitor Center
  • Tour the Cesar Chavez Home and Office

20. Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument

Nearest City/Town – Clearlake, CA

Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is a large and diverse area that includes parts of the Mendocino National Forest, Snow Mountain Wilderness, and Lake Berryessa. The new national monument is conveniently located for residents of the San Francisco Bay Area. The monument covers over 330,000 acres of land and includes a variety of ecosystems, from oak woodlands to alpine meadows. There are many opportunities for recreation in the monument, including hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting.

Tip: Clear Lake in Lake County is a perfect place for a weekend getaway from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Best things to do in Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument

  • Visit the Snow Mountain Visitor Center
  • Hike to the summit of Snow Mountain
  • Explore the wilderness areas

21. Mojave Trails National Monument 

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Mojave Trails National Monument 

Nearest City/Town – Needles, CA

Mojave Trails National Monument connects Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve. It includes a variety of landscapes, from sand dunes to Joshua tree forests. The monument also includes undeveloped stretches of Route 66 and is home to a popular crater from California’s geological past.

Best things to do in Mojave Trails National Monument

  • Visit the Amboy Crater
  • Hike through the sand dunes
  • Explore the Joshua tree forests

22. Sand to Snow National Monument

Nearest City/Town – Angelus Oaks,

The Sand to Snow National Monument is located in Southern California and includes a variety of landscapes, from the desert floor to the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain. The Monument encompasses 154,000 acres of land. It is an ecological and cultural treasure and is one of the most biodiverse areas in southern California. The monument is also a popular destination for recreation, including hiking, camping, and bird watching.

Best things to do in Sand to Snow National Monument

  • Visit the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve
  • Hike to the summit of San Gorgonio Mountain
  • Explore the desert landscape

23. San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Nearest City/Town – Santa Barbara, CA

The San Gabriel Mountains National Monument is located in the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County. The monument includes over 346,000 acres of land, making it one of the largest urban national monuments in the country. The monument is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including some that are unique to the area. The monument is also a popular destination for recreation, including hiking, camping, and fishing.

Best things to do in San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

  • Visit the Mt. Wilson Observatory
  • Hike to the summit of Mt. Baldy
  • Explore the Angeles National Forest

24. Devil’s Postpile National Monument 

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Devil’s Postpile National Monument 

Nearest City/Town – Mammoth Lakes, CA

Devil’s Postpile National Monument is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The monument includes Devil’s Postpile, a columnar basalt formation that is one of the best examples of its kind in the world. The monument also includes the 101-foot-tall Rainbow Falls. Devil’s Postpile is a popular destination for hiking, camping, and rock climbing.

Best things to do at Devil’s Postpile National Monument

  • Hike to the top of Devil’s Postpile
  • Explore the surrounding wilderness area
  • Visit Rainbow Falls

California’s National Historic Sites

California has several National Historic Sites, and each of these sites offers unique insights into California’s history and culture.

A comprehensive guide to all the top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites. These places will delight and inspire you to explore the Golden State!#California #Nature #FindYourPark #Explore Click To Tweet

25. Alcatraz Island National Historic Site

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Alcatraz Island – National Historic Site

Nearest City/Town – San Francisco, CA

Alcatraz Island is best known as the site of the former federal prison. The island is located in San Francisco Bay and is now a popular tourist destination. Visitors can tour the former prison, visit the museum, and explore the island.

26. Fort Point National Historic Site

Nearest City/Town – San Francisco, CA

Fort Point is located at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The fort was built to protect the city from naval attacks. The Fort has been called “the pride of the Pacific” and “the Gibraltor of the West Coast.” The fort is now a popular tourist destination, and visitors can explore the barracks, officers’ quarters, and artillery rooms. From its third floor, visitors can get an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. The fort is a fascinating piece of California’s history and is worth a visit.

P.S: Snap a selfie with the Golden Gate Bridge!

27. Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site

Nearest City/Town – Danville, CA

Eugene O’Neill was a playwright and one of the most influential American dramatists of the 20th century. He is best known for his plays, including Long Day’s Journey Into Night and The Iceman Cometh. O’Neill was born in Connecticut in 1888 and grew up in California. He attended school at Stanford University and later settled in Tao House, a property he purchased in California. O’Neill spent the last years of his life at Tao House, working on his plays and receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936.

The Eugene O’Neill Historic Site is located in Danville, California, and is open to visitors. The site includes the house where O’Neill lived, as well as a museum with exhibits about his life and work. Visitors can also explore the property’s gardens and hiking trails. The Eugene O’Neill Historic Site is a fascinating look at one of America’s most important playwrights. If you are visiting San Ramon or Danville, add this to your day trip.

28. John Muir National Historic Site

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
John Muir National Historic Site

Nearest City/Town – Martinez, CA

John Muir National Historic Site is located in Martinez, California. The site preserves the home of John Muir, an environmentalist, and naturalist who helped to establish the National Park System. The site includes the house where Muir lived, as well as a museum with exhibits about his life and work. Visitors can also explore the property’s gardens and hiking trails.

John Muir was born in Scotland in 1838 and emigrated to the United States in 1849. He settled in California and became a naturalist and environmentalist. Muir was instrumental in establishing the National Park System and is considered one of the founders of the American conservation movement. The John Muir National Historic Site is a fascinating look at the life of an important American thinker and activist. It is worth a visit for anyone interested in California history or environmentalism.

29. Manzanar National Historic Site

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
Manzanar National Historic Site. Photo by Stan Angel

Nearest City/Town – Independence, CA

Manzanar National Historic Site is located in Inyo County, California. The site preserves the remains of the Manzanar War Relocation Center, an internment camp where Japanese-Americans were held during World War II. The site includes the remains of the camp’s buildings, as well as a museum with exhibits about the camp’s history. Visitors can also explore the site’s hiking trails. The Manzanar War Relocation Center was opened in 1942 and was used to detain Japanese-Americans who were suspected of being loyal to Japan. The camp was closed in 1945, and its inhabitants were relocated to other internment camps. The Manzanar War Relocation Center is a sobering reminder of America’s mistreatment of Japanese Americans during World War II. It is worth a visit for anyone interested in American history or civil rights.

California’s National Historical Parks

There are several National Historical Parks in California, each commemorating a different aspect of the state’s history. These parks are a must-visit for anyone interested in California’s past.

30. Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front

Nearest City/Town – Richmond, CA

The Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park was established in 2000 to commemorate the women who worked in America’s factories during World War II. The park is located in Richmond, California, and includes the remains of the district’s buildings and museum. The park is open to visitors and offers exhibits about the women who worked at America’s factories during World War II. The Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park is an important reminder of America’s history and is worth a visit for anyone interested in Women’s History or WWII history.

31. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park 

Nearest City/Town – San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is located in San Francisco, California, and is the perfect place to experience maritime history on the Pacific Coast. The Park includes a beautiful fleet of antique ships, a Visitor Center with an excellent view,  a Maritime Museum displaying intriguing exhibits,  a fascinating Maritime Research Center, and an Aquatic Park Historic District that is perfect for picnicking. The park is open to visitors and offers exhibits about the history of maritime trade in San Francisco. The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is a fascinating look at the history of San Francisco and is worth a visit for anyone interested in maritime history or California history.

California’s National Recreation Areas

There are several National Recreation Areas in California, each with its own unique features.

A comprehensive guide to all the top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites. These places will delight and inspire you to explore the Golden State!#California #Nature #FindYourPark #Explore Click To Tweet

32. Golden Gate National Recreation Area

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations

Nearest City/Town – San Francisco, CA

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the most beautiful and popular National Recreation Areas in California. The park includes a variety of different landscapes, including beaches, forests, and hills, as well as a variety of different activities, including hiking, biking, fishing, and windsurfing. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is open to visitors and offers a variety of different activities for visitors to enjoy. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a beautiful park with something for everyone and is worth a visit for anyone interested in nature or outdoor activities.

33. The Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
The Whiskeytown National Recreation Area by Cory Poole

Nearest City/Town – Redding, CA

Whiskeytown Lake is a must-see destination in Northern California. Situated in between a bunch of mountains, the blue water of the lake is simply begging to be explored. With 42,000 acres of land to explore, there is something for everyone at this beautiful park. The recreation area is home to many historical landmarks, including the Whiskeytown Dam and the Brandy Creek Pioneer Cemetery. There are hundreds of opportunities for fun and adventure in the area, including swimming, boating, fishing, and hiking. And don’t forget to check out Whiskeytown Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area. Whether you’re looking for a day trip or a week-long vacation, Whiskeytown Lake is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. There is also a visitor center on-site, which offers educational programs and exhibits about the area’s history.

34. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Nearest City/Town – Los Angeles, CA

The Santa Monica Mountains are one of the largest protected areas of the Mediterranean-type ecosystem in North America, situated near Los Angeles. The area includes Malibu beaches, hiking trails, and cultural Native American sites. 

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a stunning park that offers visitors a variety of different activities to enjoy. The park is located in the Santa Monica Mountains and includes a variety of different landscapes, including beaches, forests, and hills. The park is open to visitors and offers a variety of different activities, including hiking, biking, fishing, and horseback riding. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a beautiful park with something for everyone and is worth a visit for anyone interested in nature or outdoor activities.

California’s National Preserves

There are two National Preserves in California, each with its own unique features.

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35. The Point Reyes National Seashore

Nearest City/Town – San Francisco, CA

36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites - A comprehensive guide, Travel Realizations
The Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes boasts a plethora of natural beauty, from crashing waves and sandy beaches to open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges. With over 1500 species of plants and animals, visitors are sure to find something new at Point Reyes. Point Reyes has been home to several cultures over thousands of years, and it now preserves a tapestry of stories from those people.

A trip to Point Reyes National Seashore has many layers of beauty. When I saw large herds of tule elk, native to California, basking in the sun on a green valley, it gave me a bucolic feeling. While walking through the Cypress tree tunnel, a must-see place, on the way to Point Reyes Lighthouse, I felt that I have left the cacophony of the modern world somewhere afar. I loved the wildness of the Pacific when I spent a day at Drakes Beach. With a beautiful view of the vast expanse of the Pacific ocean from above, Point Reyes National Seashore is a gem. While walking to Point Reyes Lighthouse, I got to see a gorgeous sunset. The white visitor center sparkled along the way ❤️. I greeted the twilight with the symphony of the evening wind. This natural sanctuary is a refuge for us mortal souls. I would highly recommend savoring all the attractions slowly while exploring the bucolic and the wild. 

 36. The Mojave National Preserve

Nearest City/Town – Barstow, CA

Mojave protects an intricate mixture of ecosystems and 10,000 years’ worth of human connection to the desert. The Mojave Desert Preserve allows many chances to explore desert landscapes and appreciate the resources of the Mojave Desert, which are becoming more threatened. This nature preserve is the perfect place to feel away from it all and connect with nature.

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By now, I am sure you are convinced about the diversity of National Parks, National Recreation Areas, National Historic Sites, and National Historical Parks and Preserves in California that offer visitors a variety of activities to enjoy. Each park in California is unique and has its own set of features that make it worth visiting. Whether you’re interested in nature, history, or outdoor activities, California’s outdoors are treasures to be explored and cherished. I hope this article has helped you learn more about these amazing parks and has inspired you to visit them soon!

Leave a comment below if you have any questions, or DM me on Instagram @travelrealizations

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to 36 Top California National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites. You may also enjoy these California and Bay Area travel guides.

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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.

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5 Comments

  1. Excellent post and so well researched. I’m keeping it for future reference. thanks for doing the work for me! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m really glad that you found the post useful, and I’m glad to know that you plan to keep it for future reference.

  2. I thought we had seen a lot on our many visits to California. But this list of 36 National Parks, Monuments and Historic Sites has added many things for our return visits. Some like the Lava Beds and Carrizo Plain National Monuments I have never even heard of! I love the variety in the sites and the different things that there are to do. It is time we head back to California.

  3. I had no idea there were so many parks in California. I regret not spending more time exploring this natural beauty when I was there in 2019. Oh well, there is always next time.

  4. That is such an extensive post, Chirasree.
    Is the National Park logo the same in most parts of America?

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