This month marks the 30th anniversary of July as Parks and Recreation Month. Established to celebrate the enduring power of parks and recreations in style, this year the National Recreation and Park Association is throwing it back old school with an stellar 80s theme, so channel your inner Jane Fonda and remember to pack your jazzercise gear for your next getaway.
It’s not just our pristine beaches, majestic mountains and desert terrains that have many praising California’s natural beauty but also our reputation for leading the outdoor lifestyle. With summer winding down (already?!), explore the Golden State with a weekend road trip to one of California’s best outdoor areas—just the place for a little R&R before we head into autumn and fall back into reality.
Affectionately referred to as the “Galapagos of North America” for its indigenous plants and wildlife, these five islands are just a short boat or plane ride away from the Southern California coast. Navigate the remote islands by foot and cool off with a refreshing kayak, snorkel or dive. Aside from the Visitor’s Center, there are no stores, lodging or restaurants providing the perfect opportunity to take in the solitude and completely disconnect from the rest of the world.
Golden Gate Park
With over 1,017 acres, Golden Gate Park has plenty to discover including lush gardens, iconic landmarks, picnic groves, hiking trails, plus an array of cultural venues, events and activities. Located right in San Francisco’s backyard, city dwellers flock to this picturesque park to enjoy the spectacular landscape, partake in some weekend socializing, or simply trade the hustle and bustle of the city for a leisurely lakeside run.
Where the Mojave Desert meets the Low Colorado Desert, lies the unique desert plain known as Joshua Tree Park. Named for the wacky tree-like species that inhabit the area, hike an ancient pathway, conquer the park’s signature boulders, pitch a tent amid the landscape, or visit an Old West town. Explore this surreal geological wonder for yourself.
Redwood National Park
Visit a place where the world’s tallest living things line the lush land like skyscrapers—even the tallest pro-basket player would feel small next to these natural marvels. Comprised of three state parks, this ancient redwood forest is home to variety of notable wildlife including the Roosevelt elk. Whether it’s taking a scenic drive through a majestic redwood, traversing Lady Bird Johnson Groove Trail, or hiking along the coastline, choose your own adventure at Redwood National Park.
Santa Monica Mountains
Hidden behind Los Angeles’s urban jungle, the Santa Monica Mountains offers a truly unique experience. Enjoy a mild Mediterranean climate and explore more than 500 miles of trails, witness Hollywood magic at the Paramount Ranch, or dip your toe in the water at one of the famous Malibu beaches. Just a couple minutes out of the city, but you’ll feel like you’re a world away.
Yosemite National Park
Best known for its waterfalls, find deep valleys, grand meadows, giant sequoias, massive granite faces, and powerful glaciers in this 1,200 square mile wilderness. Offering distinct adventures dependent on season, summer is the optimal time to see the park’s most famous landmark—Glacier Point. Whether it’s camping High Sierra backcountry, climbing El Captain or simply watching the sunset over Half Dome, awaken your spirit at Yosemite National Park.
Which of California’s parks will you discover this summer?