California landscapes are about as diverse as they come. This state has everything, from mountains and beaches to rainforests and deserts. We knew coming out here that we would be taking advantage of places like Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, but I had no idea until we moved that California actually has 9 National parks!
This year we were a bit stretched with Riley’s PTO days and a lot of travel to friends/family’s weddings. So instead of trying to plan a vacation, Riley suggested that we just use our weekends to see all of the parks. We had already been to a few of them but there was something about saying “hey let’s do all 9 this year” that had us excited to cross places off of a list.
After camping at all of them we decided to put them through the official Chapdelaine rating system ;) Just for fun. Some of the parks are incredible but packed with people so that’s why it would get a lesser place on the list. I’ll explain more below. I don’t know what was harder: ranking them or trying to choose one photo for each one. I am so glad that we decided to do this in 2018, now that the year is coming to an end we have all of these amazing memories to look back on.
You can click on the highlighted titles to see my full blog posts about these beautiful places.
Let’s start this countdown off with..
What we loved: The marine life and kayak tour! We had an incredible day on the water with an amazing guide who taught us about all of the sea life. That was my favorite part. We also had the cutest foxes running around the campground, we would just sit in our chairs and watch them!
What we didn’t love: The cost to get there (ferry tickets were pricey), the kayak tour was similar to other tour companies, not cheap. When we were inland we found a few hikes, one up to a bluff to see an incredible sunset but besides that the land was pretty barren.
What we loved: Less crowded than other parks. Amazing landscapes for photography. A sunrise on the dunes is a must! The off roading was an adventure that Riley enjoyed a bit more than I did haha
What we didn’t love: Death Valley is a different type of beauty, desolate in some areas, very large, and hot! The hottest place in the US to be exact..
What we loved: The small, manageable size of this park. Easy to get to and a hike or two will give you the feel for it very quickly. This one would be amazing for a picnic or a quick (2-4 hour) stop on a road trip.
What we didn’t love: Nothing bad to say! Pinnacles doesn’t have the crazy wow factor like the others, that’s all.
What we loved: The different landscapes that volcanic land creates! This park has incredible hiking, mountains, forests, lakes and streams, what’s not to love?!
What we didn’t love: Having to rate all of these, seriously so hard!
What we loved: Our incredible hike along a rushing river! The views were incredible! This one had a lot of “Yosemite feels” without the crowds.
What we didn’t love: n/a :)
What we loved: The rock formations and the photography opportunities! This was a rock climber’s paradise and a photographer’s dream!
What we didn’t love: The best campsites were first come first serve, more difficult to get the ones that we wanted.
What we loved: Exploring this grove early morning with our coffee. We were stunned by the giant trees, some of the forests truly do take your breath away. The largest tree (by mass) is in this park.
What we didn’t love: n/a
*This one does not have a linked blog post
What we loved: The views! The granite walls are unbelievable. Every hike is just gorgeous and worth the switchbacks! The waterfalls in the Spring are an absolute joy to witness. We love visiting Yosemite.
What we didn’t love: The crowds. If it wasn’t for the amount of visitors Yosemite gets, this would be #1 in my book. We love to go when the weather is not so desirable to get more of the land to ourselves.
What we loved: A temperate rainforest, beaches, and wildlife everywhere. This was one of the most peaceful trips we have ever been on. We were rained on several times but just bundled up and went out to explore. We still talk so fondly of all of our hikes, and can’t wait to go back someday.
What we didn’t love: n/a
And there you have it! California’s 9 national parks. This was our subjective review, and even though it was tough (because every experience was incredible), we had a fun time putting it together. I would like to hear which ones you have been to and what your favorite was in the comments below!