The 5 Best National Parks Near Los Angeles

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Despite being one of the nation’s top urban destinations, Los Angeles boasts stunning natural beauty. To the northeast, mountains border the city. To the south, travelers will spot palm-tree-fringed beaches. In LA, you’ll find no shortage of hiking trails, surf spots, and panoramic viewpoints. 

Craving an even larger dose of natural scenery? If so, travel to one of the many national parks that lie just a short drive outside the city. 

Go stargazing in Joshua Tree National Park or explore underground caves in Sequoia National Park or Kings Canyon National Park. Hop on a boat to see the Channel Islands, plan a day trip to Angeles National Forest, or check Yosemite off your bucket list. 

Here’s what you need to know about these top 6 national parks near LA (especially if you plan to travel by RV). 

Joshua Tree National Park

Courtesy of Back Road Ramblers

Located approximately 140 miles east of Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most unique desert landscapes in the world. The park is renowned for its Joshua trees and unique rock formations. The park’s surreal scenery makes it a favorite destination for photographers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. 

    Visitors can explore hiking trails, go rock climbing, or stargaze under some of the clearest night skies in the country. 

    Turn your visit into an overnight stay by camping in one of the on-site campgrounds. Here are some more helpful details about the park:

    • Distance from Los Angeles: 2.5 hour drive
    • Cost of entry: $30 per vehicle
    • Is the national park RV-friendly? Yes

    Channel Islands National Park

      Courtesy of Travel + Leisure

      Unspoiled natural beauty awaits at Channel Islands National Park. This park consists of five rugged islands, found just off the coast of Southern California. To get there, you’ll need to take a ferry from the mainland. The journey takes between one and four hours, depending on the island you plan to visit. 

      Each island brings its own charm. Santa Cruz Island is considered the most popular and most accessible, but all of them boast stunning beaches, striking cliffs, and fantastic wildlife-watching opportunities. Visitors can snorkel, kayak, or hike while observing the park’s biodiversity. 

      • Distance from Los Angeles: A 1-4 hour ferry ride, depending on the island
      • Cost of entry: No visitor’s fee, but the ferry costs $66+ depending on the island
      • Is the national park RV-friendly? No

      Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

        Courtesy of Local Adventurer

        Although Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are considered two separate parks, the National Park Services administers the two together. These parks are located about 200 miles north of LA and are renowned for their towering sequoia trees, rugged mountains, and stunning alpine scenery. 

        Visitors can marvel at some of the largest trees on Earth, including the famous General Sherman Tree. The are meandering hiking trails and underground caves, such as the Crystal Cave. With plenty of camping opportunities, there’s no reason not to stay the night. 

        • Distance from Los Angeles: A 4-hour drive
        • Cost of entry: $35 per vehicle or $20 per person
        • Is the national park RV-friendly? Yes

        Save up to $1,200/year on RV storage & parking

        Yosemite National Park

          Courtesy of yosemitethisyear.com

          Granite cliffs, majestic waterfalls, and lush forests are just some of the many awe-inspiring features that draw more than 3 million visitors to Yosemite National Park every year. Here, visitors can marvel at breathtaking sights such as Half Dome and El Capitan, hike along scenic trails, and explore the park’s diverse ecosystems. 

          Yosemite offers a range of recreational activities, including camping, rock climbing, wildlife viewing, rafting, and even skiing. Witness the majestic Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail or attempt the adventurous Half Dome Trail.  

          • Distance from Los Angeles: A 6-hour drive
          • Cost of entry: $35 per vehicle 
          • Is the national park RV-friendly? Yes

          Angeles National Forest

            Courtesy of National Forest Foundation

            Although not technically a national park, Angeles National Forest still earns its spot on our list. Spanning 700,000 acres, this national forest is located just north of Los Angeles and serves as the perfect escape from the city. The forest boasts more than 550 miles of hiking trails with elevations ranging from 1,200 to 10,064 feet. 

            Visit historic sites like the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, plan a picnic, go fishing, or see picturesque waterfalls, like Sturtevant Falls or Switzer Falls. Angeles National Forest is also a popular camping destination, with both tent and RV camping opportunities. 

            • Distance from Los Angeles: A 45-minute drive
            • Cost of entry: Free
            • Is the national park RV-friendly? Yes

            Getting There

            Unfortunately, Southern California is not known for its stellar public transportation, so you’ll need a car or an RV to visit these destinations. Equipped with a vehicle, you can easily explore the Angeles National Forest, Joshua Tree National Park, or the Channel Islands on a day trip from LA. Yosemite National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are better suited for a weekend adventure. 

            If you’re camping in a national park, consider making reservations well in advance, especially during peak seasons, as spots fill up quickly. For added comfort and convenience, you could also try RV camping. 

            Unless you’re renting an RV, you’ll need somewhere to store the vehicle when the trip comes to an end. Parking an RV in a driveway is not advisable, so you may need to rent a storage unit or a space available at a peer-to-peer storage marketplace, like Neighbor

            Looking for more RV tips? Check out the following links:

            Before You Head Out!

            There is nothing more reviving than a day spent outdoors. If you’re looking for natural beauty within Los Angeles city limits, explore Griffith Park, Runyon Canyon Park, or the Los Angeles River. For a beach experience, head to Santa Monica Beach or Venice Beach, where you can soak up the sun or watch the sunset. 

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