RV Adventure: National and State Parks of Southern California

Think about taking time away from it all, seeing a panoply of varied geography like ocean, desert, and mountains with national and state parks abounding, all within a few hours’ drive and you’ve described Southern California.

California National Parks

Within just a few hours’ drive of Los Angeles, you can find Pinnacles National Park, the Channel Islands National Park, Cabrillo National Monument and Joshua Tree National Park. Named for its founder, Juan Rodgriguez Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on what is now the west coast of the United States, Cabrillo National Park is home to a wealth of cultural and natural resources. The Channel Islands are off the coast of Ventura and the park encompasses five remarkable islands and their ocean environment, preserving and protecting a wealth of natural and cultural resources. Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants, and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth. This park has helped preserve a place where visitors can experience coastal southern California as it once was.

Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. About 3 hours east of Los Angeles, Joshua Tree displays a fascinating variety of plants and animals that make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional

RV camping at Joshua Tree National Park

RV camping at Joshua Tree National Park

torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California. Joshua Tree is located in southern California between I-10 and Hwy 62; its headquarters is in Twenty nine Palms, CA.

Pinnacles National Park was formed about 23 million years ago from the eruption of various volcanoes. What remains is a unique landscape. Travelers journey through chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon bottoms. Hikers enter rare talus caves and emerge to towering rock spires teeming with life including prairie and peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and the inspiring California condor. Bird watchers and hikers alike will delight in the treasures of Pinnacles National Park.

And the hottest, driest and lowest National Park is Death Valley National Park, bordering Nevada and California. Here you will see a below-sea-level basin, which steady drought and record summer heat have made this park a land of extremes. These extremes make Death Valley a rare picture of contrasts: towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite the name, there is a great diversity of life surviving in Death Valley.

State Parks of Southern California

You can also find lots of beautiful state parks in California. In Los Angeles County alone, there are more than 30 state parks to choose from. Orange County offers visitors another 6 state parks and San Diego County has about 15 more state parks to visit. Visitors can choose to visit the Tijuana Estuary, the largest coastal wetland in Southern California, located on the international border between the US and Mexico. The estuary is primarily a shallow water habitat, though often termed an “intermittent estuary,” as it is subject to extreme changes in stream flow at different times of the year. Extended periods of drought leave parts of the estuary dry during some periods, while flooding inundates the same areas during others. For this reason, the Tijuana Estuary is considered to be a very unique part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System.

Another spectacular view in a state natural reserve is located in Los Angeles County at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. As of April 13th, the blooming poppies were still blanketing the reserve with their magnificent orange color. Every flower and other plants that exist at the Poppy Reserve are currently blooming. This month is a great time to visit. Officials expect the bloom to last through April, but the peak of the bloom may have already been reached. The bloom continues to be amazing, with a few flowers that have started to wilt while there are still some plants that have buds. If you are looking to find the exact location of a particular flower or plant, the park staff can point you to the right trails when you arrive.

Check each of the California State Parks for camping availability before you go as some allow RV camping and others do not.

RV Rental

If you’d like to rent an RV for your southern California adventure, start by checking our California El Monte RV Rental locations. This page also contains much more information about traveling by RV in California so be sure to check it out when planning your RV adventure.

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