Hiking is always a fun and productive pastime. And great for your health. We’ve featured spectacular National Parks to hike on the East Coast.
Our national parks on the West Coast are just as spectacular. The Mediterranean climate (characterized by dry summers and mild winters) ensures ideal conditions for yearlong hiking enthusiasts. Here are places to explore what the other side of the country has to offer.
Is the West Coast truly the best coast? We’ll let you be the judge of that. Time for a virtual road trip, round two!
Olympic National Park
Established in 1938, Olympic National Park is unique because it is composed of dynamic regions and ecosystems. The four regions include the Pacific coastline, alpine areas, the west-side temperate rainforest, and the east-side drier forests — with interconnected ecosystems to match, like glaciated mountains and foggy sea stacks. The available activities reflect the immense diversity in nature – from tide pool explorations to downhill skiing. That’s why you’ll never get bored of visiting the Olympic peninsula!
Mount Rainier National Park
Founded in 1899 and built to surround the eponymous Mt. Rainier, an active stratovolcano, Mount Rainier National Park sits at the highest point in the Cascade Range. Mt. Rainier contains plentiful valleys, waterfalls, subalpine meadows, and over 25 flanking glaciers. Be sure to pre-plan your visit because the snowy Wonderland Trail encircles the mountain and may take up to two weeks to complete! Other fun facts include ::
- The Paradise area is the snowiest place on Earth (where snow is measured regularly)
- Carbon Glacier is the largest glacier by volume in the U.S.
- Emmons Glacier is the largest glacier by area in the U.S.
Crater Lake National Park
Formally established in 1902, Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s only national park. Crater Lake lies in the caldera of an ancient volcano called Mount Mazama that collapsed 7,700 years ago. Meanwhile, the local Native American Klamath tribe tells the legend of two chiefs who battled for territory and destroyed the other’s home (the other being Mt. Mazama). The lake — replenished only by precipitation — is the deepest in the United States, is remarkable for its cerulean hues, and contains two volcanic formations :: Wizard Island and Phantom Ship. Visit for some fishing, scenic rim drives, village walks, camping, and more!
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park needs no formal introduction. Established in 1890 in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, this internationally recognized World Heritage Site features granite cliffs, giant sequoia groves, waterfalls, glaciers, meadows, and biological diversity. Ansel Adams began taking photographs of this park in the 1920s to capture the beauty and majesty in dramatic contrasts of shadows and light. But to see in person and take in the beautiful cascades at Yosemite Falls, one of North America’s tallest waterfalls, is something else. Plus, Yosemite’s scenic U-shaped glacial valley attracts about 4 million visitors each year, with activities that almost anyone can partake in: art classes, birdwatching, horseback riding, and picnicking (in addition to the typical hiking, boating, and camping).
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Here’s a two-in-one bonus for you: Sequoia National Park (est. 1890) and Kings Canyon National Park (est. 1940) are two separate but jointly managed parks in eastern California. Besides the natural diversity that the two parks provide, there is also a unique cultural history here that involves the Monache tribe and trade routes with other settler groups. Highlights among both parks include ::
- General Sherman, the largest currently living tree on Earth
- Crystal Cave, a marble cavern
- Moro Rock & other climbable granite domes
- Pearl Lake Winter hut for ski lodging
- Annual Dark Sky Festival for astronomy lovers!
The best part? It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park (est. 1933) earns its name due to being the hottest, lowest, and driest place in the entire United States, with temperatures that exceed 130 °F (54 °C). It is also the largest national park in the whole country, making it home to species of plants and animals that have adapted to its harsh environment, like coyotes, pupfish, and bighorn sheep. Must-see features include ::
- Badwater Basin, the lowest elevation point in North America that holds the famous polygon salt formations; and
- Devils Golf Course, whose serrated jagged spires and bursting crystals make playing golf possible only to the devil himself.
Joshua Tree National Park
Situated near Palm Springs, CA, is the Joshua Tree National Park (founded in 1936 as a national monument). The park extends over both the Colorado and Mojave Deserts, and the eponymous Joshua trees abound. The scenery is reminiscent of the Wild West, with over 400,000 acres of flat and sandy wilderness, rocky outcrops, and cacti gardens. Visit one of the nine established campgrounds, hike and climb across valleys, and join the growing number of amateur astronomists who stargaze at the clear, dark nights.
Bonus :: Grand Staircase-Escalante
Although not a national park and not situated in the immediate West Coast, the Grand Staircase-Escalante warrants acknowledgment and appreciation. This Utah territory was designated as a national monument in 1996 and includes three central regions: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante. Aside from the beautiful views, which encompasses iconic sedimentary cliffs and sandstone monoliths, there exists a curious reason to visit the territory: uncovering dinosaur fossils (with the latest discovery back in 2013).
Explore the West from Amangiri
In Utah, Amangiri is a spectacular property of our preferred partner Aman Resorts. The Colorado Plateau is home to the highest concentration of national parks in the US, giving Amangiri guests an extraordinary array of places to explore and wonders to discover. You can explore Bryce Canyon, defined by hundreds of sandstone pillars – hoodoos – and other otherworldly mazes of gorges and grottos. Or see the Great White Throne in Zion National Park. And of course the Grand Canyon.
Aman’s wellness programs excel like no others. First, the design of their hotels are peaceful. This is a line of resorts that is keenly aware of the effects of interior design and many of their destinations feel like museums, including Amangiri.
The spa at Amangiri especially impresses – in design and in offerings. You can try a Shirodhara scalp treatment, yoga on the rocks with heart-stirring 360º views of the Navajo National Park, or Hózhó healing, inspired by the holistic wellbeing traditions of the Navajo. The concept of hózhó describes the state of being in tune with the self and in harmony with the world.
If you’d like to book a wellness escape in the United States, I highly recommend Amangiri and can pass along to you all the Virtuoso amenities to you for your stay.
Although there are many more national parks not listed here (even more so than the East Coast), this list represents the most popular ones situated along the Golden Coast. As you can see, the parks here have less forestry and more volcanoes and deserts — and a whole bunch of heat. And so much sun and nature to enjoy!
Let us be your gateway to this breathtaking realm, where nature’s grandeur unfolds at every turn.