Ask any Californian for advice when planning your trip to the Golden State and they are likely to point you away from the well-trodden circuit around the famous cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Nobody should come to California, they will tell you, without visiting at least one of the state’s incredible national parks to experience the spectacular scenery of the last frontier before the landmass gives way to the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. When you have made sure that you meet the requirements to qualify for the ESTA visa you need to enter the United States, start thinking about how you are going to fit a trip to at least one of California’s must-visit national parks described below.

1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is easily one of the most famous national parks in the whole of the United States, and for good reason. Located in a valley that stretches for over 1,000 square miles along the eastern part of the state, its enormous granite formations have made the park popular with some of the best rock climbers on the planet. Rising out of the verdant pine forests that carpet the valley floor, formations with names like El Capitan and Half Dome provide awe-inspiring vistas to the landscape from wherever you stand. The park is perfect for walking, and for the more intrepid visitors, the world-famous two-week long John Muir Trail is a hike you will never forget.

2. Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Part of what makes Humboldt Redwoods State Park possibly California’s best-kept secret is its remote location in the north-west of the state. If you can find a way to get there, however, you are in for a treat. The park is home to the largest collection of majestic redwoods in the world. The redwoods are the tallest trees in the whole world and can grow to up to 370 feet, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty. 

3. Joshua Tree National Park

They may not be as tall as the great redwoods, but the desert-dwelling Joshua tree is equally iconic. The Joshua Tree National Park is found where the low Colorado Desert meets the high Mojave Desert in the southern part of California. The park is characterised by jagged mountains, boulders, and plains speckled with the strangely-shaped trees. It is home to a wide array of wildlife, much of which is endemic to the region.

4. Pinnacles National Park

The Salinas Valley region in central California is the site of the state’s newest national park. Pinnacles National Park is full of cliffs, canyons and cave complexes that were formed a volcano that erupted millions of years ago. For anyone who loves nature, a trek through the forests and grassland that cloak the jagged peaks in the park offers the chance to catch a glimpse of coyotes, deer, foxes, raccoon and an incredible variety of birds. If you are lucky, you might even sight a giant California condor with its wingspan of over 10 feet.

5. Death Valley

Known as “The Word’s Hottest Desert,” Death Valley occupies a special space in the national imagination of American society. The scenery is that of an archetypal wild-west film, and it is easy to imagine bandits hiding out in the rugged desert terrain. As well as being unbearably hot, at 282 feet below sea level, it is also the lowest point in North America. Death Valley is known for its gorgeous desert flower blooms and the fantastical rock formations of the Badlands. If you are going to visit the park, make sure you avoid going in the summertime due to the heat!

6. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Often missed out of a trip in favour of Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are stunning in their own right and more than worth a visit. The high mountains and deep canyons through which flow roaring rivers of both parks provide the perfect habitat for the massive sequoia trees to thrive. The parks see far fewer visitors than other more famous parks in the areas, and if you are lucky, you could find yourself with a solo view of Mount Witney, the highest point in the United States.

Do not miss out on the incredible natural landscapes on offer to visitors to California. Make sure you avoid potential paperwork disasters ensure that your holiday goes off without any serious hitches by organising your ESTA visa before you fly with a reputable ESTA guide.