Where to Celebrate National Park Week in California

If you happen to be in Southern California this Saturday and Sunday, make sure to save some time to explore the region's natural beauty. As Marianna Jamadi (@nomadic_habit) showed us in a previous post featuring two of Utah's national parks, the NPS is offering free admissions to all of America's 400 national parks in honor of the 2016 National Park Week, making now the perfect time to experience the country's great outdoors. 

To inspire you to celebrate National Park Week in Southern California, Marianna Jamadi is taking us on another photo tour featuring some of the state's finest national parks. Ditch your weekend plans and strap up your trekking boots to visit Channel Islands National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, home to some serious wanderlust-inducing photography opportunities.

Read below to discover why you should celebrate National Park Week in Southern California.

01 of 08

Island Hop the Channel Islands

Birds perched on a cliff in Channel Island National Park

TripSavvy / Alisha McDarris

Channel Islands National Park is home to five islands: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. All islands encompass a one-mile stretch of California's coastline, and just under two hours from Los Angeles, this park is the perfect location to escape the city for the fresh, open air of the coast. The national park is comprised of a diverse environment, home to two biogeographical provinces, each containing many natural and cultural experiences. You can find over 2,000 varieties of plant and animal species in the park, like the sea lion, pictured here.

02 of 08

Admire the Marine Life of the Channel Islands

Marianna Jamadi

It's easy to spend an afternoon admiring the marine life in the Channel Islands. Just like the Galapagos, the Channel Islands are home to several microclimates, each containing varying species of plants and animals. Marine life can range from large sea lions and whales, to small plankton, invisible to the eye. 

03 of 08

Channel Islands Backcountry Camping

Marianna Jamadi

If you prefer to stay in the Channel Islands for more than one day, you can opt to camp in the park's backcountry, which is available all year-round. The Del Norte campsite, located near Prisoners Harbor on Canta Cruz Island, is open all year, while certain times of the year, the park opens up camping opportunities on Santa Rosa Island. Whatever island you choose, make sure to hike the surrounding landscape and dip into the ocean for an afternoon kayaking session.

04 of 08

Water Activities in the Channel Islands

Marianna Jamadi

In order to make the most of your time on the Channel Islands, make sure you get out and explore on water. Activities like kayaking, boating, diving, snorkeling and surfing are abundantly available. The park even offers a "From Shore to Sea" lecture series, where you can learn about research currently being conducted around the park. Topics include conservation efforts, forest ecosystem health and survival strategies of open water fish.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

A Desert Oasis in Joshua Tree

Marianna Jamadi

Just over two hours east of Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park is the perfect place to visit for a desert oasis experience. The Mojave and Colorado ecosystems join here, creating distinct mix of plants an animals.  

06 of 08

Plant Species in Joshua Tree

Marianna Jamadi

Joshua Tree is home to a variety of plant species, including the park's namesake, the Joshua Tree. Other species include the Mojave yucca, which are often mistaken for the former. Spring rains bring a colorful array of wildflowers to the vast desert landscape, offering a bright reprieve from the sandy color often seen. The desert's animals rely on Joshua Tree's plants to survive, as they often use them as a source for both food and shelter. 

07 of 08

Photograph Joshua Tree's Night Sky

Marianna Jamadi

The extreme night skies in Joshua Tree offer the perfect opportunity to photograph the stars. With little to no artificial light, the wonders of the sky are unveiled. With one of the darkest night skies in all of Southern California, you may even be lucky enough to enjoy an unobstructed view of the Milky Way.

08 of 08

Joshua Tree's Mountain Views

Marianna Jamadi

No trip to Joshua Tree is complete without first admiring the park's extreme mountain and desert views. The park is home to six different mountain ranges, with the majority of the park's elevation rising above 4,000 feet. The mountains erupt from the surrounding desert, offering a tremendous contrast to the landscape. 

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