6 National Parks Perfect for a Day Trip from Los Angeles

Los Angeles is located within a driving distance to 6 national parks, allowing you to explore these parts of California even during a day trip.

Last updated: April 24, 2024

Things to do in Yosemite with kids | Roads and Destinations
6 national parks near Los Angeles, perfect for a day trip

6 National Parks Near Los Angeles to Visit on a Day Trip

Somebody once said that national parks are the most beautiful parts of the USA. Some people might take time to think about it, but I wholeheartedly agree with it. These incredible locations with breathtaking vistas, towering mountains, and splendid lakes attract millions of people from all corners of the world. And while you may not have time to see all of the national parks in the country, exploring the closest ones to you should not present any problems.

For those who live in or near Los Angeles, there is not one, but six national parks you can visit during a day trip. Considering that there are nine major government-protected areas in California, you can call yourself lucky living in such a convenient location. So, next time you find yourself pondering over what to do on your day off, jump in the car and drive to one of these national parks, perfect for a day trip or short weekend escape from Los Angeles.


1. Joshua Tree National Park

2 hours 30 minutes from Los Angeles

Joshua Tree National Park is one of the most popular national parks for a day trip from Los Angeles. Such popularity may be due to a relatively short driving distance. I’d like to believe, though, that strange-looking trees that remind of biblical Joshua draw the majority of the visitors.

And why not? Aren’t they a good reason to escape bustling Los Angeles and spend a day hiking in the deserts of Joshua Tree National Park? Where else can you see thousands of bizarre trees, climb massive boulders, and conquer mountainous rock formations, all of these in one place? You got my point.

Indeed, Joshua Tree National Park is a perfect place for any day-trip adventures for visitors from all over the world, not only the Greater Los Angeles Area. It offers plenty of activities for people from all walks of life and of all ages. You can put your athleticism to the test and climb Arch Rock or Skull Rock.

An abundance of hiking trails, including the 49 Palms Oasis Trail, Barker Dam Trail, Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail, and Ryan Mountain Trail, invites you to get deeper into the national park and see how its terrain changes the farther you go.

TIP: If you plan to spend more than one day in Joshua Tree National Park, check out our Joshua Tree Weekend Itinerary from Los Angeles.

National parks near Los Angeles: Joshua Tree | Roads and Destinations
Joshua Tree National Park | National Parks near Los Angeles to visit in one day

2. Channel Islands National Park

  • Drive from Los Angeles: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Boat ride from Ventura Harbor: 1-4 hours depending on the island

Of all national parks perfect for a day trip from Los Angeles, Channel Islands National Park is the only place you can’t reach by car. Instead, you need to get on a helicopter or a boat to spend one or a few days on the island of your choice.

The park consists of five islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz) and their ocean environment. The chain of islands is home to more than 2,000 species of plants and animals, 145 of which are unique to the park. The diversity on the land expands to the diversity in the ocean. Different species of seals, sea lions, and other marine mammals that swim along the California coast on the way to warmer waters near Baja California and back to Alaska can be spotted near the Channel Islands.

With that said, Channel Islands National Park is a perfect place whether you plan a day trip from Los Angeles or a longer weekend getaway along the coast.

Tips on How to Prepare for a Day Trip from Los Angeles to Channel Islands National Park

The boats that take day visitors from Los Angeles to the national park are rather small. When the weather is not particularly cooperative, you may feel every “bump” in the ocean. To prevent motion sickness, try to stay on deck. Avoid caffeine, drink a lot of water, and don’t skip meals.

If you are not quite sure if a day trip from Los Angeles to Channel Islands National Park is right for you, scroll through some of our Santa Cruz photos that we took in August a few years ago for inspiration and a clearer idea of what to expect.

Day trips from Los Angeles to national parks | Roads and Destinations
Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park | Day trips from Los Angeles to national parks

3. Sequoia National Park

3 hours 40 minutes from Los Angeles

Sequoia National Park is one of the most interesting national parks that even your kids will approve as a perfect day trip from Los Angeles. The park is located in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains and has some of the biggest trees in the world. The main attractions among them are the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest tree by volume, and Tunnel Log, a dead tree that the visitors can drive under.

Sequoia National Park is a beautiful destination for a day trip from Los Angeles to escape the oppressive heat in summer and play in snow in winter. Up in the mountains, you can comfortably explore more than 200 caves, view a wide range of wildlife, bike, and hike the Moro Rock Trail throughout the year.

My favorite thing to do in Sequoia National Park is to watch how the sun slowly sets behind the mountains, painting the sky in golden and pink shades along the way, before heading back to Los Angeles.

Sequoia National Park | Roads and Destinations
Sunset in Sequoia National Park | Day trips from Los Angeles to national parks

4. Kings Canyon National Park

4 hours 15 minutes from Los Angeles

Kings Canyon National Park is adjacent to Sequoia National Park. Similar to the latter, it boasts giant sequoia trees, deep canyons, gushing waterfalls, and granite canyon walls on the east side. Furthermore, it’s home to rattlesnakes, bears, and cougars. So make sure to stay safe when exploring this national park during your day trip from Los Angeles.

TIP: Driving along General Highway that connects Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is the fastest way to visit both parks during a day trip from Los Angeles. A part of the highway is closed in winter. During this time, you can enter Kings Canyon through Highway 180, known as Big Stump Entrance.

5. Death Valley National Park

3 hours 40 minutes from Los Angeles

The name of this national park can put you on guard. And there is a reason for it. One of the most intriguing national parks you can visit on a day trip from Los Angeles, Death Valley National Park is the hottest and driest place in the USA.

Park’s famous Badwater Basin is also the lowest elevation in North America. During our latest 2-day trip from Los Angeles to Death Valley National Park, the area was filled with a temporary lake, Lake Manly, that covers the basin after heavy rainfalls.

Apart from it, the park is home to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, various canyons, spectacular overlooks, salt flats, a few waterfalls, and painted hills such as Artists Palette. It’s certainly more than you can see in one day. Thus, you may want to explore Death Valley National Park over the course of a few day trips from Los Angeles or longer excursions.

Zabriskie Point | Roads and Destinations
Death Valley | Day trips from Los Angeles to national parks

6. Yosemite National Park

4 hours 45 minutes from Los Angeles

It may be a little bit challenging to visit Yosemite National Park during a day trip from Los Ageless. Yet it’s not impossible. So what draws people to Yosemite? As one of the favorite national parks in California, the area entices with its iconic vistas, dramatic waterfalls, and towering granite cliffs.

This place is perfect for a one-day or a few-day adventures from both Southern California, including Los Angeles, and Northern California. You can take a leisurely walk in the Yosemite Valley or hike to the picturesque waterfalls. Experienced hikers tend to test their strengths by climbing Half Dome.

National Parks Perfect for a Day Trip from Los Angeles | Roads and Destinations
Favorite national parks for a long day trip from Los Angeles: Yosemite

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.