Bradley’s Summer Field Guide to California’s National Parks

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As term draws to a close and our summer vacation looms on the horizon, you may be thinking, “What am I going to do all summer?” Fear not, if you have a penchant for adventure, scenery or nature, I have the perfect guide to our nation’s greatest treasures. If city life in sunny San Diego has grown weary, learn about California’s three national parks to make your summer even more special.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is the closest national park to San Diego. Located just outside Palm Springs, it’s about a two hour drive on a good day with no traffic. Known for the iconic Joshua Trees (yucca brevifolia), this national park is a desert landscape with fantastic rock formations, looming mountains with deep canyons, and a diverse array of flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for lizards or rodents, the most common species found on popular hiking trails. You may also find patches of wildflowers or cacti, marvels of the kind that thrive in such harsh conditions. For those who prefer to drive and stop along the way, there are many small trails that will take you to fantastic sites. For the more adventurous, plan a hike in the park, a hike on the Boy Scout Trail, rock climbing or bouldering on sick rocks, and stargazing at night. With little or no light pollution, the stars are much brighter in the desert. Once you’ve joined civilization, Palm Springs is a beautiful place to relax. So if you’re in San Diego this summer, plan a trip to Joshua Tree! Discover fantastic natural phenomena just a short drive away.

sequoia national park

For those looking for a more traditional or stereotypical national park, but don’t feel like making the trek to Yosemite, Sequoia National Park is the perfect destination. With a doable six-hour drive, Sequoia is east of California’s Central Valley between Fresno and Bakersfield. The giant sequoias are what make this park iconic. Experience the forest with the tallest trees in the world dominating the landscape. With five-day hiking trails, you can walk among redwoods, climb hills and mountains, and wade through rivers and lakes. Many fish, birds, and squirrels can accompany you on your walk through the park, and if you’re lucky, you might spot some bighorn sheep. With many elevation changes, a complex diversity of flora will of course enhance your trip. If you have time, plan a trip to Sequoia National Park and enjoy the fresh air provided by the historic redwoods.

Yosemite National Park

Perhaps California’s greatest treasure, Yosemite National Park was our nation’s first national park, established on October 1, 1890. One of our college namesakes, John Muir, helped create our system of national parks after discovering the immense beauty of our country’s natural landscape, especially Yosemite National Park. Although it’s a seven-hour drive from San Diego, this park is a must-see. In Yosemite, there are a plethora of activities to do. With plenty of opportunities for camping, hiking, biking, bird watching, fishing, picnicking, rock climbing and stargazing, becoming one with nature here is a simple feat. . If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, a half dome hike/climb is incredibly educational and beautiful. The views of the entire park from the top are absolutely iconic and awe-inspiring. But, if you don’t have time for such incredible adventures, a simple drive through Yosemite Valley will take your breath away. With cascading waterfalls, beautiful wildflowers and hidden wildlife, this scenic drive is sure to blow your mind. All in all, Yosemite is the epitome of national parks and a worthwhile trip anytime. Why not discover this unmissable place this summer, it could change your life!

Photos Via Bradley Beggs and Recreation.gov

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