California’s National Parks: Scenery for Every Season

by | 28 Mar 2024

In spring, you're treated to the spectacle of blooming Joshua trees and colorful carpets of wildflowers

California: The Golden State. So-named, in part, for the discovery of gold deposits in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1848, and the subsequent Gold Rush it sparked.

But California could plausibly have taken other monikers: The Silver Screen State, perhaps, for Hollywood’s influence over the movie-making industry. The Fruit n’ Nut State would, admittedly, have been a less glamorous title, but justified for the fact that the state produces almost 75% of the US’s fruits and nuts. Or, for the fact that California is home to more National Parks than any other US state with a total of 9, it could have adopted The Scenic State, The Great Outdoor State, or perhaps even The Year-Round State.

From ancient sequoia forests, to sun-baked deserts and epic glacial valleys, California’s National Parks cover the full spectrum of Mother Nature’s creativity. And, depending on which park you go and when, you can comfortably immerse yourself in California’s gold-tier scenery all year-round.

Photo of Maritza sitting on a low wall overlooking Yosemite Valley atYosemite National Park

To help you decide where to pencil in to your travel calendar for summer, fall, winter and spring, we spoke with California resident, National Park lover, and Insight Vacations’ Senior Travel Experiences Manager for the Americas, Maritza Lopez.


Sequoia National Park

Sunlight filtering through densely-planted trees in a redwood forest

“When I think of summer my mind drifts to sun-drenched days, balmy evenings, and Sequoia National Park. While summer offers the maximum daylight hours for exploration, it’s also a time when nature comes alive in a riot of colors and activity.

Looking up at a giant redwood tree, with blue sky above a green canopy

“Reflecting on my own summer experiences in Sequoia, two moments stand out as truly unforgettable. The first was my encounter with General Sherman, the world’s largest living tree. Standing in its presence, I couldn’t help but feel a profound sense of awe for these ancient giants that have withstood the test of time. And then, there was the unexpected thrill of encountering wildlife on the Big Trees Trail. Spotting a bear amidst the beauty of the forest was a moment of pure magic. It was a gentle reminder of the untamed wilderness that thrives within the park’s borders.”

Further reading: The Best National Parks in Eastern USA


Yosemite National Park

Valley view of Yosemite National Park, looking down the valley, over the tree line - a blend of green and gold, flanked by steep-sided granite cliffs

“As an avid explorer of America’s natural wonders, I can confidently say Yosemite National Park holds a special place in my heart. When it comes to experiencing Yosemite at its finest, I highly recommend visiting during the fall season. The mild temperatures and reduced crowds create an atmosphere of tranquility and serenity, allowing visitors to truly connect with the park’s awe-inspiring beauty.

Photo taken off a Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite National Park, looking across a calm lake, with the park's peaks reflected in the water

“If visiting mid- to late-October, the valley transforms into a kaleidoscope of colors, with vibrant tones of red, orange and gold painting the landscape. Fall hiking is also a truly remarkable experience – whether you’re a seasoned hiker or prefer a leisurely stroll, the cool fall air invites you to explore at your own place.” 

Experience it on: Best of California



Death Valley National Park

Photo taken looking down a highway towards a desert landscape in Death Valley National Park

“Exploring Death Valley National Park in the winter is a delight, especially amidst the cold, crisp air. With fewer crowds (and tolerable temperatures) compared to peak season, it’s as if you have the entire park to yourself. Zabriskie Point has a different charm as you see the snow-capped peaks in the distance in contrast to the desert terrain below you.” 

Off-season inspiration: Almond Blossom and Crowd-Free Bazaars: This is Off-Season in Morocco 


Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua trees silhouetted against a starry sky

“As a longtime Southern California resident, I’ve come to regard Joshua Tree National Park as a part of my natural backyard. In contrast to the scorching heat that defines the summer months and the bitter cold of the winter months, spring is the ideal time to explore the park’s unassuming beauty.

“Of all the many treasured experiences I’ve had within Joshua Tree, none rival the thrill of dark-sky stargazing. As someone who’s deeply fascinated by celestial events and a pursuer of the Milky Way, I often find solace under the star-sprinkled night skies of Joshua Tree. Renowned for its distinction as one of Southern California’s darkest night sky locations, the park presents the perfect setting for a night of sky-watching.

Blooming wildflowers, joshua trees and sculptural rocks, photographed in the orange-tinted light of sunset in Joshua Tree National Park

“It’s equally beautiful in the daytime, when you’re treated to the breathtaking spectacle of blooming Joshua trees and colorful carpets of wildflowers, transforming the desert landscape into a vibrant natural tapestry. Of course, one of my most common experiences within the park is enjoying a trailside lunch while observing the world-class climbers that flock to the park. It’s a remarkable sight to witness these skilled athletes scale the park’s iconic formations.”

Experience it on: Desert Escapes of California & Arizona

California: a true all-rounder

California is a true all-rounder, when it comes to exploring the great outdoors in every season. From the sun-soaked beaches of Southern California to the majestic redwoods of the north, California boasts a wealth of natural wonders that enchant visitors all year-round.

A carpet of orange poppies covers an open landscape, stretching towards mountains in the distance

In winter, travelers can hit the slopes of Lake Tahoe or explore the vibrant culture scene of San Francisco. Spring brings colorful wildflower blooms in places like Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the iconic beauty of the California poppies in Antelope Valley.

Summer invites beachgoers to Malibu and Monterey, while fall offers the chance to witness the stunning fall foliage in regions like Sonoma County and the Eastern Sierra. With it’s diverse climate zones and endless array of activities, California truly has something for everyone.  


National Parks with Insight Vacations: a superior experience

“Insight Vacations offers an unparalleled experience for lovers of the National Parks, seamlessly covering all aspects of your journey – accommodation, transport, experiences, and dining. With us, there’s no need to compromise because we believe you deserve the best.  

“One of the standout features of our tours is our commitment to staying within the National Parks themselves – which means you get to experience those unforgettable moments others may miss out on. Picture yourself witnessing the sunrise over the majestic Grand Canyon – it’s an experience like no other!  

Group of mature travelers looking over Grand Canyon at sunrise

“Traveling with us means enjoying twice the legroom and personal space compared to regular coaches, thanks to our customized 40-seater coaches. And when it comes to dining, prepare to be amazed. From exclusive rim side dinners overlooking Bryce Canyon to indulgent lunches in the Members Only Lounge of the National Museum of Wildlife Art just outside Grand Teton National Park.  

But what truly sets us Insight Vacations apart are our Insightful Encounters and MAKE TAVEL MATTER® Experiences. We go beyond the ordinary to provide our guests with diverse and immersive experiences that truly capture the essence of the national parks.

Close up of American bison looking into the camera against a snowy backdrop

“For example, in our Yellowstone Discovery Tour, guests engage in a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience with John Potter, offering insight into a way of life that thrived long before the park’s creation. Within that same tour guests will meet Adam Brubaker, Owner Operator of Tied to Nature, as he delves into the parks fascinating history including it’s waterfalls, canyon, wildlife and geological wonders.  

“And that’s just scratching the surface! The same insightful experiences await in other iconic National Parks like Yosemite, Glacier, Shenandoah and more, ensuring that your journey not only leaves you with unforgettable memories but also a deeper appreciation for the natural world.”

Interesting in experiencing California’s National Parks with us? Join us on a ‘Business Class’ Tour and see how we bring you the full story behind each destination.

I'm Alex, Editor of Insightful. I have over 10 years' experience as a travel writer and editor, and have been lucky enough to visit some incredible destinations in that time. Canada, Italy and Iceland are (so far) my favorite places on Earth, but at the top of my wish list for future adventures is India. I'm fascinated by indigenous cultures and traditions, have a hearty appetite for history (but a poor memory for dates), and feel most at home in wild, unpopulated landscapes.