Covering up to 25,000 square miles of Californian terrain, the Mojave and the Colorado deserts present a rich diversity in landscape, ecology, and climate, and provide an important preservation of natural and human history. The following are some of the most spectacular of the national and state parks.

Joshua Tree National Park

Popular for its Joshua tree forests and climbable hills of bare boulders, Joshua Tree National Park has a uniquely alien and prehistoric landscape.

Death Valley National Park

Its rich geologic and cultural history, and extreme environment and isolation (having some of the clearest skies in North America for stargazing) make Death Valley an attractive destination for nature lovers.

Death Valley National Park, California

Photo: Chao Yen

Low and hot, Death Valley is home to both the lowest elevations and hottest temperatures in the US. But the landscape in this part of California is actually incredibly diverse, ranging from saltpans like the Devil’s Racetrack, pictured above, to snow-capped mountains reaching 11,000ft.

Death Valley National Park

Photo: via

Red Rock Canyon State Park

The result of erosion exposing the colorful sandstone stratas and creating hoodoos and other dramatic rock formations, Red Rock Canyon State Park has served as the backdrop of many films, including Jurassic Park.

Red Rock Canyon State Park

Photo: Jim Staley

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

The largest state park in California and the second largest in the continental United States, the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park offers a varied sample of the Colorado Desert with broad vistas, dry river beds, and diverse ecology, such as palm groves, iguanas, foxes, golden eagles, roadrunners, and rattlesnakes.

Mojave National Preserve

Seemingly barren compared to other Californian deserts, many make their way to this newly designated park for its booming sand dunes, volcanic formations, and Joshua tree forests.

Mojave National Preserve

Photo: Ron Kroetz