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There are many beautiful national parks spanning the United States with a handful being in Southern California. Joshua Tree and the Channel Islands are each two hours from Long Beach, while Death Valley, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, and Pinnacles are closer to four hours away.

No matter which national park you choose, we recommend taking an annual pass, plenty of water and an adventure-ready attitude with you!

Our favorite and closest recommendation is Joshua Tree National Park. It is a great place to hike, climb, explore, or just take in the views. Be sure to visit the Cholla Cactus Garden on the south side of the park and stay at one of the many campsites for some amazing stargazing opportunities. Also check in advance for reservations, or try your hand at a first-come, first-serve campsite.

Another great option is Channel Islands, but it takes the most planning as the only access is via boat. One of the only parks to not charge an entrance fee, however there is a fee to ride the boat and to camp. Once on the island, look out for bald eagles, elephant seals, and spotted skunks as you hike, kayak, or snorkel around the island(s).

We also recommend Death Valley, which is best in winter and early spring. Be sure to bring extra water for a trip to this beautiful desert. Hike through Mosaic Canyon, out and back to Darwin Falls, through Natural Bridge, or across Panamint Dunes. It is especially important in this park to be aware of the delicate ecosystems in an otherwise harsh environment.

If you are searching for tall trees and a scenic hike, try out Sequoia and Kings Canyon. They are famous for the giant sequoias that visitors can walk among, around, or even through. We recommend a visit to Stump Meadow, General Sherman and the two-mile Buena Vista Trail.

Finally, Pinnacles is a rock-lovers dream, known for its recognizable talus caves and rocky spires. If you choose to hike, make sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight for any caves or tunnels you may find along the way. Watch out for red-legged frogs, an endangered species, when walking through the caves.

We hope you take the time to discover some of these beautiful locales!

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