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MOST (& Least) VISITED National Parks In California – RANKED šŸ†

Serene lakes, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, and the tallest trees on earth.

California’s national parks really do have EVERYTHING.

But which of the national parks gets the MOST love?

And which can you visit to escape the crowds? šŸ§

Well, we’re about to reveal the least and most visited national parks in California.

I think you might be surprised at some of the findings. šŸ¤Æ

The stats in this post are based on official statistics from the National Parks Service. We are specifically looking at recreational visits in the most recent year that we have data for (2022).

We’re starting from the least visited and working our way up to the most visited national park in California…

1. Pinnacles National Park

pinnacles national park with condor (1)

First up is Pinnacles National Park, a unique and lesser-known gem in California.

In fact, it’s the LEAST visited national park in California, and it receives only about 7% of the visitors of the MOST visited national park on this list!

Key Info

In 2022, Pinnacles National Park welcomed 275,023 visitors. 

It’s located near the cities of Soledad and Hollister in Central California.

Best Times to Visit

The best time to visit Pinnacles National Park is during spring and fall. 

During these seasons, the weather is mild, and the park’s beauty is at its peak.

Winter is also fine but in summer it can get uncomfortably hot.

What the Park is Known For

Pinnacles is famous for its dramatic landscape. 

This includes towering rock spires and remnants of an ancient volcanic field.

It’s also a haven for hikers and rock climbers and the cave systems like Bear Gulch Cave and Balconies Cave are popular for visitors.

Interesting Fact šŸ’”

An intriguing fact about Pinnacles is that it’s home to the California Condor. 

This park plays a vital role in the recovery program for these magnificent, endangered birds.

To get the best chance of seeing the condors, try the High Peak area in the early morning or early evening.

Pinnacles National Park offers a unique blend of adventure, natural beauty, and conservation efforts.

2. Channel Islands National Park

channel islands national park california

Channel Islands National Park is a breathtaking and isolated retreat off the coast of California.

Key Info

In 2022, the park saw 323,245 visitors.

It’s situated off the Southern California coast, accessible via boat or plane from Ventura or Santa Barbara.

Best Times to Visit

The ideal time to visit Channel Islands National Park is from May to November. 

During these months, the weather is more stable, and the island’s unique flora and fauna are most active.

What the Park is Known For

This park is renowned for its pristine wilderness, unique wildlife, and archaeological resources. 

It offers exceptional opportunities for hiking, snorkeling, and wildlife watching.

Interesting Fact šŸ’”

A unique aspect of Channel Islands is its isolation has led to the development of over 145 unique species of plants and animals found nowhere else on earth.

Channel Islands National Park serves as a spectacular showcase of natural beauty and biodiversity, offering a unique escape into nature.

It’s actually so biodiverse that it’s been dubbed the Galapagos of North America!

3. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Peak and Manzanita Lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park is a stunning testament to Earth’s fiery power.

Key Info

In 2022, this park attracted 446,291 visitors.

It’s located in Northeastern California, near the towns of Redding and Susanville.

Best Times to Visit

The best time to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park is from late June to September. 

During these months, the snow has typically melted, giving better access to the park’s features.

However, if you specifically want to do snow activities then it’s best to visit between November and May.

What the Park is Known For

Lassen Volcanic is famous for its breathtaking volcanic landscapes. 

This includes bubbling mud pots, steaming vents, and the picturesque Lassen Peak. 

It’s a hub for those interested in geology and natural hot springs.

lake helen and lassen peak

Interesting Fact šŸ’”

An interesting fact about Lassen Volcanic National Park is that it’s one of the few places in the world where all four types of volcanoes can be found. 

That’s shield, plug dome, cinder cone and composite.

This makes it a unique geological playground.

Visitors to Lassen Volcanic National Park are treated to a rare and educational experience, surrounded by the stunning beauty of volcanic activity.

4. Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks are a majestic and serene expanse of nature.

Key Info

In 2022, these parks welcomed 458,400 visitors. 

Located in Northern California, near the towns of Orick and Crescent City, these parks are easily accessible for nature enthusiasts.

Best Times to Visit

The optimal time to visit Redwood National and State Parks is from May to September. 

During these months, visitors can enjoy mild weather and the lush, vibrant scenery of the forests.

What the Park is Known For

These parks are most famous for their towering redwoods, some of the tallest and oldest trees on Earth. 

The parks also offer a diverse range of ecosystems, including prairies, oak woodlands, wild riverways, and nearly 40 miles of rugged coastline.

Interesting Fact šŸ’”

A fascinating fact about Redwood National and State Parks is that they are home to the tallest tree in the world, named Hyperion. 

Its exact location is kept secret to protect the tree and its surroundings.

Redwood National and State Parks offer an unparalleled opportunity to immerse oneself in ancient, awe-inspiring forests and diverse natural habitats.

5. Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park is a hidden gem in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Key Info

In 2022, it saw 640,986 visitors. 

The park is located in central California, near the cities of Fresno and Visalia.

Best Times to Visit

The ideal time to visit Kings Canyon National Park is from May to October. 

During these months, the weather is pleasant, and most of the park’s areas, including its namesake canyon, are accessible.

What the Park is Known For

Kings Canyon is renowned for its dramatic landscapes, including deep valleys, skyscraping trees, and rugged terrain. 

It’s a paradise for hikers and nature lovers, offering a quieter alternative to some of the more frequented national parks.

Interesting Fact šŸ’”

An intriguing aspect of Kings Canyon is that it houses one of the deepest canyons in the United States. 

Its depth is comparable to the Grand Canyon, making it a spectacular site for visitors.

Kings Canyon National Park offers a blend of tranquility and majestic natural beauty, perfect for those seeking both adventure and solitude in nature.

6. Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is known for its extreme landscapes and climates.

Key Info

In 2022, the park attracted 1,128,862 visitors. 

It’s located in Eastern California, near the Nevada border, and is accessible from cities like Bishop (CA) and Las Vegas (NV).

Best Times to Visit

The best time to visit Death Valley National Park is from November to March. 

During these cooler months, the harsh temperatures of the valley become more bearable for exploration.

What the Park is Known For

Death Valley is famous for being the hottest and driest national park in the United States. 

It’s renowned for its diverse landscapes, from salt flats and sand dunes to badlands and valleys.

Interesting Fact šŸ’”

An interesting fact about Death Valley is that it contains the lowest point in North America, Badwater Basin, which sits 282 feet below sea level. 

As well as this it’s known for having recorded the hottest temperature in the whole world!

This makes it a unique destination for tourists.

Death Valley National Park offers an extraordinary experience of some of the most extreme and intriguing natural phenomena on the planet.

7. Sequoia National Park šŸ„‰

Sequoia National Park

Coming in as the 3rd most visited national park in California is Sequoia National Park, a realm of giants and natural wonders that you’ll struggle to find in other places.

Key Info

In 2022, this park welcomed 1,153,198 visitors. 

It’s situated in the southern Sierra Nevada region of California, near towns like Visalia and Three Rivers.

Best Times to Visit

The ideal time to visit Sequoia National Park is from June to August. 

During these summer months, the weather is warm, and the park’s roads, trails, and facilities are fully accessible.

What the Park is Known For

Sequoia National Park is famous for its giant sequoia trees, including the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on Earth by volume

The park’s dramatic mountainous landscape also offers stunning vistas, deep canyons, and rugged wilderness.

Interesting Fact šŸ’”

A fascinating detail about Sequoia National Park is that it was established in 1890, making it America’s second national park. 

Its creation was instrumental in the conservation of the giant sequoias and the natural environment.

Visitors to Sequoia National Park are treated to an awe-inspiring journey through ancient forests and mountainous terrain, showcasing some of nature’s most impressive creations.

8. Joshua Tree National Park šŸ„ˆ

Joshua Tree National Park

Coming in as the 2nd most visited national park is Joshua Tree National Park, a captivating desert oasis full of unique landscapes and natural wonders.

Key Info

In 2022, the park drew in 3,058,294 visitors.

It is located in Southern California, near the towns of Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree, and Indio.

Best Times to Visit

The optimal time to visit Joshua Tree National Park is from October to May.

During these cooler months, the desert climate becomes more comfortable for exploring the park’s attractions.

What the Park is Known For

Joshua Tree is renowned for its namesake Joshua Trees, rugged rock formations, and star-filled night skies.

The park is a popular destination for hiking, rock climbing, and enjoying the serene beauty of the desert.

Interesting Fact šŸ’”

A unique aspect of Joshua Tree National Park is the convergence of two distinct desert ecosystems: the Mojave and the Colorado deserts.

This creates a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the fascinating Joshua Trees, which are actually a type of yucca that has only a single pollinator (the yucca moth).

Joshua Tree National Park offers a blend of tranquility and adventure, inviting visitors to experience the enchanting beauty of the California desert.

9. Yosemite National Park šŸ†

Yosemite National Park

Taking the title of the most visited national park in California is Yosemite National Park, a symbol of natural grandeur and wilderness.

Let’s be honest, are you really surprised by this?

Key Info

In 2022, Yosemite saw 3,667,550 visitors. 

This is more visitors than the 6 least visited national parks combined, meaning Yosemite attracts more visitors than all of the following national parks added together!

  • Pinnacles National Park
  • Channel Islands National Park
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Redwood National and State Parks
  • Kings Canyon National Park
  • Death Valley National Park

The park is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Central California, near towns like Mariposa. Bigger cities nearby include Modesto and Fresno

Best Times to Visit

The best time to visit Yosemite National Park is from May to September. 

These months offer warm weather and access to the park’s high country, including its famous waterfalls and hiking trails.

What the Park is Known For

Yosemite is renowned for its stunning granite cliffs, waterfalls, giant sequoias, and diverse wildlife. 

The most famous spots include Glacier Point, Half Dome and El Capitan.

It’s a haven for nature lovers, offering unparalleled opportunities for hiking, climbing, and exploring its vast wilderness.

Interesting Fact šŸ’”

One intriguing fact about Yosemite is the presence of El Capitan, a vertical rock formation that’s one of the world’s most famous climbing destinations. 

It rises about 3,000 feet from the valley floor and is a mecca for climbers.

Yosemite National Park captures the essence of the American wilderness, providing a breathtaking and unforgettable experience for all who visit.

And that’s the list!

Here’s a quick round-up of the parks along with their visitor numbers…

  1. Pinnacles National Park – 275,023
  2. Channel Islands National Park – 323,245
  3. Lassen Volcanic National Park – 446,291
  4. Redwood National and State Parks – 458,400
  5. Kings Canyon National Park – 640,986
  6. Death Valley National Park – 1,128,862
  7. Sequoia National Park – 1,153,198
  8. Joshua Tree National Park – 3,058,294
  9. Yosemite National Park – 3,667,550 ā€‹ā€‹

Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

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