California's Great Parks

Where to spend your free time, when you've got it.

15 photos
Step outside your comfort zone and outside the office to enjoy just some of what California has to offer.
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When you think national parks in California you instantly think of Yosemite. But there are many other spots that may not be as crowded in the summer months.
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A giant sequoia tree dwarfs the surrounding forest along the Trail of the 100 Giants in the Sequoia National Monument north of Kernville, California. Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks are just west of Yosemite and can offer "first-come-first-served" camping spots for the quick weekend getaway.
National Park Service
Summer at Lassen Volcanic National Park is full of warm dry days, blue skies and cool nights. This is an image of Upper Twin Lake taken during September.
National Park Service
One of the more breathtaking views in Lassen Volcanic National Park can be found at Kings Creek Falls. Hikers have two options - a very steep rocky way along the creek or a horse trail route that's easier on the knees. The trip - three miles there and back - will make you grateful you stayed in California for your vacation.
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What's unique about this park is the number of boiling pools and other steam/volcanic-gas vents. Here at Cold Boiling Lake, you'll find bubbles continually rising at some points near the lake's shore.
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Right in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains lies Topanga State Park - 36 miles of trails which include these sandstone caves.
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These caves can be found in the Santa Inez Canyon, a six mile round hike that may show you some tiny cliff gardens or lead to a waterfall. Get more information here.
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More sandstone formations stand out in the landscape of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, part of a nearly 40,000-acre swath of Orange County open space that was designated as the first California Natural Landmark.
The parklands stretch from the Pacific coast to the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, were once part of the historic Irvine Ranch.
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Joshua Tree National Park will commemorate its 75th anniversary as a unit of the National Park System throughout 2011. You can stay in Desert Hot Springs - just a two hour drive from Los Angeles or San Diego.
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California's 4 million acres of roadless forests represent about 4 percent of the state's land.
The beautiful view from the Cabrillo National Monument taken by the National Park Service.
Along with its extreme sunsets and vistas, Joshua Tree also offers enough trails to keep you interested. Look for the Keys View or Hidden valley for great views without going too far into the rugged wilderness. For those wanting more of a challenge, try one of the 400 climbing formations inside park grounds. We recommend this as a fall or winter activity.
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If you're looking to stick with tradition, you can't beat Yosemite no matter the season. El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls visible in wide angle view of Yosemite National Park (Photo by Ralph Crane//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
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