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Kim Merryman

California features nine National Parks spread across the state that offer a myriad of climates, wildlife, and natural features. From Yosemite’s Half Dome to Joshua Tree’s Cholla Garden to the world’s tallest trees in Redwood, California’s National Parks hold something special for everyone. But the varied elevations and climates of these giant state parks mean that the time of year you go really matters. 

Here are the best California National Parks to visit during a summer road trip, while in an a California camper van rental from Escape.

Campervan in the Sierras

Lassen Volcanic National Park

This northern California park is open year-round, but late summer is the best time to go if you want access to all areas of the park. Hiking to the summit of Lassen Peak is best done in summer, as snow and avalanche danger often persists throughout the spring, and trails often stay muddy into July. Catch the high-elevation wildflower season from July through September and then take a dip in a cool mountain lake. 

Redwood National Park

If you are hoping to stay out of the heat this summer, Redwood National Park is the northern California park for you. On the redwood coast, summer daytime temperatures hover in the mid-to-upper-60s and rarely get up to 70℉. The world’s three tallest trees call this park home, as do the many sea creatures you can find in the park’s coastal tide pools. In the summer months, you can join a ranger-led kayak tour down the Smith River. 

ITINERARY TIP: If you have a couple of weeks or more in northern California, pick up your Escape Campervan in either of their locations in San Francisco or Portland, spend some time in both Lassen and Redwood, then get off the beaten path of National Parks. Not far from these parks are wildly beautiful and less crowded hikes and lakes in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Trinity Alps Wilderness, Castle Crags Wilderness, and sections of the famous Pacific Crest Trail. You can find some tips for this route on our blog

Hiking in Sequoia

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

These connected central California parks are also at high elevations, making them most accessible in the summer. Among several ancient sequoia groves, you can find the largest living sequoia and bask in the shade these majestic giants offer. These parks also offer a variety of hikes, mountain lakes, and river activities. 

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite’s huge granite formations and mountain lakes are spectacular any time of year, but like the other parks mentioned here, more accessible in the summer. Large swaths of the park are closed in winter, so summer is the time to get into the higher elevations and less populated parts of the park. Yosemite is vast and beautiful but sometimes crowded. In fact, during the summer months, you now need a permit to enter the park, so check the Yosemite website to plan far ahead of your trip.

ITINERARY TIP:  Pick up your Escape Campervan in either Los Angeles or San Francisco for a road trip through Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks. If you want to add a few extras to the trip, exit Yosemite heading east on Tioga Road, and experience California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and the funky towns along Highway 395. 

Redwood in Sequoia National Park

Book A Campervan And See California’s National Parks Today

Book your Escape Campervan today and start planning your summer road trip to California’s National Parks and more!

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