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11 Best National Parks on The West Coast (USA)

The national parks on the west coast of the USA are some of the most famous and impressive in the whole country and, while there are many to choose from, these can be considered as the 10 best and most famous ones to visit.

Note that this article is dealing with the national parks on the west coast that are in the states that actually border the coastline, so California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.

Yosemite National Park (California)

Best National Parks on The West Coast - Yosemite.
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We’ll start with one of the most famous of all the national parks on the west coast, Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains and is one of the best places to go hiking in California as well as river rafting. It’s here that you can also see some of the huge redwood trees the state is known for.

As well as hiking and river rafting Yosemite is also a climber’s paradise if you’re into rock climbing.

It’s possible to do a very long day trip from say, San Francisco.

Olympic National Park (Washington)

The great thing about Olympic National Park is that you get to enjoy mountains along with 70 miles of coastline as well.

The glacier topped mountains give way to old growth rain forests and in turn, descend down to a wild coast. With such a range of different ecosystems, there is plenty of outdoor activities to do, with the main one, of course, being hiking in nature.

But with the rivers, coastline, and lakes that are also in the park there are plenty of boating opportunities as well such as kayaking. If you enjoy fishing it’s also a great place for recreational fishing in a sustainable, managed, way. Be sure to check the fishing regulations beforehand.

Redwood National Park (California)

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Redwood National Park is where you can see the tallest trees on Earth. I’ll never forget the first time I saw giant redwood trees on my travels in California, they are easily the most impressive trees as far as size goes that I have seen on all my travels around the world.

The absolute best way to get out and enjoy being among the trees is to go on a hike through them, although cycling is also a good option if that appeals to you more.

Apart from the trees, there are also 40 miles of wild coastline to explore and rivers that run through the area. But the giant trees are definitely the main reason to visit.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (California)

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Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Parks are, along with Redwood National Park mentioned above, one of the best places in California to see the largest trees in the world. The two parks are right next to each other which is why they are included together here.

The ancient sequoia trees truly are epic to see and apart from the trees, there are also mountains, huge deep canyons, rock climbing, and more.

Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

Mount Rainier National Park is where you can get into an area with an active volcano, Mount Rainier, which stands at  14,410 feet above sea level.

The Mrytle Falls is the most beautiful waterfall in the park to visit so make sure to take a look and it’s a good hike up there. The Narada Falls is also great to see and also a short walk to do to get there.

There is some truly epic hiking to be had there and if you go higher up you can hike on snow, but be prepared with the right equipment to go hiking on snow, for safety reasons.

Death Valley National Park (California)

Death Valley National Park is the ultimate place to get your heat on, being one of the hottest places in the world and definitely the hottest and driest place in the United States.

Interesting fact: Death Valley got its name after a group of people got lost there in 1849-1850 and they all thought they would perish, although only one person did actually die. Hence they gave it the name, Death Valley.

There are plenty of short hikes to do with one must-see area being the Zabriskie Point, and also get up to Dante’s View for epic views across the heart of Death Valley. There are plenty of other places to explore in the park as well.

Joshua Tree National Park (California)

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Joshua tree National Park is another hot and dry national park in California where two different desert ecosystems collide. It’s a bizarre landscape that sometimes feels as if it came from a dream, with giant boulders spread around in parts.

One of the best walks in the park is the Indian Cove Nature Trail where you can see Joshua Trees. The Arch Rock Trail is also a short walk that takes you to the 30-foot Arch Rock and is also great to do.

It’s a famous national park for rock climbing as well, and if you’re into that, then definitely head to Echo Cove. If you camp overnight in the park you will get some absolutely stunning star views in the night sky.

Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)

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One of the best national parks on the west coast is Crater Lake National Park and it’s where you can see the deepest lake in the United States surrounded by almost 2000 feet high cliffs. It’s set above the Cascade Mountain Range and they call this one of the “Seven Wonders of Oregon.”

Whereas the best thing to do in most national parks is to get out hiking, at Crater Lake taking a boat tour out onto the epic lake is a must-do. Having said that, going out hiking is still the best to enjoy nature at its finest.

The view onto Wizard Island is truly magical and if you want to go there in winter it will be like another planet as you go ski-touring through the area.

North Cascades National Park (Washington)

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North Cascades National Park is an epic alpine area in Washington state and makes up the northern part of the epic Cascade Mountains.

There are excellent hiking trails here and you’ll have the snow-capped mountains that are covered in glaciers for your view. There is also plenty of forest area to hike through where the melting water from the mountains cascades down through the valleys.

You can also go boating on some of the lakes there but the main activity is to get out hiking amongst those stunning jagged peaks.

Kenai Fjords National Park (Alaska)

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The Kenai Fjords National Park holds a soft spot for me as it was my favourite national park in Alaska.

The glaciers there that you can hike up to are some of the best out of any hiking in the world and it’s all easily accessible from the town on the Kenai Peninsula. There are almost 40 glaciers that come down from the massive Harding Icefield there.

The hike up to the Harding Icefield by the side of Exit Glacier is one of the best hikes in the United States, although can be strenuous.

Read my Kenai Peninsula travel guide.

Denali National Park (Alaska)

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Denali National Park is one of the most well-known names in national parks in the United States, and for very good reason. It’s famous for its wild brown bear population as well as other animals. Mount Denali is the tallest mountain in the country and is an epic sight that looms over the park.

You will definitely feel out in the wild here and the park is well managed so that it doesn’t get overrun and feel crowded. They do this by having a reservation system for different parts of the park which you will have to reserve ahead for a designated area and there is a limited number of places. Don’t just show up and go, you can’t!

To be honest there were so many natural places in Alaska that I loved that I haven’t included here, including Wrangell-St Elias National Park and also the great forest trails of Baranof Island.

National Parks on The West Coast

Those are just 11 of the best west coast national parks out of many to choose from that represent so many different landscapes and outdoor activity choices.

If in California definitely make sure that you go to at least one national park to see the giant trees, that’s a sight you will never forget. Likewise, all the mountain areas of the west coast national parks are truly magical, especially Crater Lake, while the desert options take you into a surreal alien landscape.

Enjoy getting out into nature on the west coast and hopefully this post has helped you in choosing a destination to go to. The sister post to this one is the 10 best national parks on the east coast to visit, go take a look.

For more guides on the country check out my destinations guide to the United States.

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2 thoughts on “11 Best National Parks on The West Coast (USA)”

  1. This is a great list! One of my favorite places in California was the Lost Coast, an area north of San Francisco. It’s small, but it was really beautiful. The Lost Coast is a great option for anyone looking for something wild but further off the beaten path 🙂

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