Even though they are not all in the Bay Area, we thought we would also make a post for the national parks we visited in California from 2014-2015 (in alphabetical order). I had been to some of these before this and also visited the Redwood National Park(s) with my family when I was younger and lived in California. The parks that we particularly wanted to visit but did not get a chance to were Lassen and Lava Beds but we predict that we will make our way back there sometime. You can find a list of all the National Parks in California here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:National_parks_in_California
1. Joshua Tree National Park. We have only technically visited this park. On our way over to California, we drove into the park, stopped and walked a trail. It was a nice break after driving and we enjoyed it, but only saw a very small portion of the park. We were there in the summer but read that it looks particularly nice in the spring when everything is blooming.
2. Muir Woods National Monument. I think most people who visit the San Francisco bay area make a stop here. It is beautiful and there are lots of redwoods. According to John Muir, “This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.” When we visited, we hiked through Muir Woods and then out of the monument over to Steep Ravine to the coast and back. It was a long day but one with great views.
3. Pinnacles National Park was another one of our favorites. As you would expect by the name, there are some cool rock structures. Only recently designated as a national park, Pinnacles contains caves, stairs, great views, streams and more. One of the highlights of this hike was getting caught in a hail storm for a little bit (I really enjoy precipitation.) Check out a more recent and in depth article about Pinnacles here.
4. Point Reyes National Seashore. Many people visit Point Reyes for the lighthouse and to see the whales and elk. We were interested in the elk but visited at a time the elephant seals were active and got a little distracted by them. We bought a bus ticket to an area where we would be able to see a bunch but prior to the bus leaving accidentally got pretty close to the seals by walking down the beach. Once we stumbled upon them Kyle chose to inform me that they are actually very dangerous. We took a couple pictures and left. We also visited another beach and the lighthouse and did see some whales!
5. Sequoia National Park was another adventure. We woke up early, drove there and began a hike to Tokopah Falls. I was tired, had a headache and allergies, and got a bite from an unknown bug which was painful for nearly the whole day. Heads up: there are many bugs on this trail, at least in the summer. We made it up and it was beautiful though. We saw wildlife including marmots and black lizards up close and on our way back also saw a bear just across the stream from us.
Next, we drove to a different section and made our way to the General Sherman tree (the biggest tree in the world) and other trees and explore that part of the park. On our way out of the park, the car broke down. We had no service and had to walk a mile to the nearest hotel, then back then back, etc. Eventually, a tow truck towed us to the nearest town where the car could be fixed the next day. We stayed in a motel and by the next afternoon were heading home.
6. Yosemite National Park. I think Yosemite is one of the most popular places to visit in California and in the United States. Even many international travelers want to check it out. The original plan was to go to Yosemite for my birthday (I had been before with my family but wanted to see the park during the winter) but then opted to wait because there would likely be snowfall if we waited. It was a good choice because we got our winter wonderland.
We were the first people to arrive in Mariposa Grove early in the morning. The road was closed because of the snow so it was a little bit of a walk (especially in the cold) to get to the grove. It was a magical experience knowing only we were there and making the first prints on the snow (that is, aside from some animal prints!) It was silent except for the occasional sound of snow falling off of a tree branch. Eventually, a British family arrived and caught up to us and on our way back we encountered more international people. It is actually common to encounter people from all over the world on all of our hikes. For whatever reason (perhaps laziness) I think Americans are not as interested in hiking as people from other countries. After we were done here we drove further. We passed Bridalveil Falls and saw El Capitan and Half Dome. We also took a trail up to Yosemite Falls and got pretty close to the falls (close enough to get sprayed by them).