Yosemite, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Redwood … California’s national and state parks are home to some of the most iconic views and landscapes on the planet. Here’s how to explore them
It sounds like a place to avoid, but don't let the ominous name scare you away. Most of the year, this vast and rugged expanse of east Californian desert is brutally hot, but visit in winter or early spring (though even in the dead of winter, midday temperatures can hit 30C) and you'll find a surprisingly beautiful and vibrant place. First-time visitors are often awestruck by the desert's vivid colours. For thousands of years, the people of the Timbisha tribe thrived here, migrating seasonally between the valley floor and more fertile mountains. The name Death Valley was bestowed in 1849 by a band of lost California-bound gold rushers, one of whom did actually die while trying to cross it. The legend doesn't seem to deter runners of the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race across the vast valley held in mid-July.