One hot summer day in Yosemite National Park in Northern California, I sat under a tree along a lazy river in awe of the natural beauty around me. I looked out at the majestic granite mountains, the chirping birds and the rustling leaves, and thought about how they were the same that day as they had been thousands of years ago.
People around the world can now appreciate the beauty and timelessness of the wilderness through Street View. We've recently added 360-degree panoramic imagery for five of California’s national parks—including Yosemite—to Google Maps. In addition, we've refreshed Street View imagery across most of the state. You can now take a virtual road trip practically the entire stretch of California from north to south.
Redwood National Park sits near the California-Oregon border and hugs the Pacific Ocean. It’s most famous for its giant redwood trees—the tallest trees on Earth. With Street View, you can now stare up at them without straining your neck:
Inland, at Yosemite National Park, you can visit historic Inspiration Point, the site famously photographed by Ansel Adams in “Clearing Winter Storm”. Panning right from the same vantage point, you can see the cliffs of El Capitan and the picturesque Bridalveil Fall waterfall flanking iconic Half Dome, a granite rock formation almost 5,000 feet tall. You can also use Street View to venture into the valley, overlook Glacier Point (visited by John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903), explore the more remote upcountry along Tioga Pass road and see the Giant Sequoias in Mariposa Grove.
You’ve seen the redwoods, now see more enormous trees with a visit to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, whose namesake trees are the most massive in the world. It would take almost 30 adults linking their outstretched arms to wrap all the way around the largest sequoias. These parks also offer rich and varied landscapes featuring everything from mountains to canyons to caverns.
The name may be foreboding, but Death Valley National Park, which lies along the California-Nevada border and has the lowest elevation of any spot in North America, is home to a variety of flora and fauna and well worth a visit. With average summer temperatures in this desert environment soaring above 110 degrees Fahrenheit, most people visit in the winter, but Street View lets you check it out any time of year—no sunblock required.
Slightly north of the U.S.-Mexico border is the fifth and final national park recently added to Street View: Joshua Tree National Park. The gnarly, twisted trees here seem like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Plan your escapades ahead of time from your browser, then pack up your hiking shoes or your mountain bike and hit the trails in this one-of-a-kind desert landscape.
This only scratches the surface of what California parks have to offer travelers looking to explore the great outdoors. We hope a virtual trip through Street View inspires you to visit these places in person as well. If you need some additional inspiration, I’ll leave you with a quote from naturalist and author John Muir:
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn. Driving down Highway 1 through Big Sur is the ultimate road trip in California.