California is a favorite retirement destination for baby boomers because of its cultural institutions, climate, landscape, and vibrant atmosphere. Retirees flock to the Golden State to enjoy its scenic coastline and majestic mountain views as well as its famous national parks. With so many national parks located in California, retirees can pursue an active and exciting lifestyle in every direction.
Outdoor enthusiasts can spend their golden years exploring these natural treasures and take advantage of the endless opportunities for outdoor recreation and activities like hiking, camping, fishing, rafting, and wildlife watching. And with so many active adult communities within close proximity to these national parks, retirees are never too far from their next outdoor adventure. Active adults who love to bask in nature and are seeking a retirement destination in California near national parks should check out these top spots.
Palm Springs Area (Joshua Tree National Park)
The Palm Springs Area is a Southern California hotspot for retirees seeking recreational activities, beautiful golf courses, world-class shopping and dining, and breathtaking views. The area is full of active adult communities like Sun City Palm Desert, Trilogy at The Polo Club, and Terra Lago offering resort-style amenities, a variety of home styles, and social environments that are ideal for retirees.
This desert oasis also attracts baby boomers who want to venture outside of their community’s gates to explore the surrounding area by visiting Joshua Tree National Park, which is about an hour’s drive or less from places like Indio, Palm Springs, Palm Desert, and La Quinta. Joshua Tree National Park consists of two distinct desert ecosystems and 800,000 acres of land. Active adults can hike through this rugged mountain terrain and check out the natural gardens as well as the tall species of yucca trees that dot the landscape. Other breathtaking sights include rock formations that shine like crystals in the sunlight and clear, dark skies illuminated by stars.
Bay Area (Yosemite National Park)
Located about 200 miles east of the Bay Area and tucked away in the Sierra Nevada mountain region, Yosemite National Park is one of America’s natural wonders. This national park, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, is famous for its jaw-dropping waterfalls, deep valleys, vast wilderness area, giant sequoias, and tall granite cliffs that attract millions of visitors each year.
Covering 1,200 square miles of mountainous landscape, Yosemite National Park offers 350 miles of roads, hiking trails, camping sites, rock climbing, rafting, fishing, skiing, and wildlife watching. Active adults can drive to Yosemite at different times of the year to experience the park’s beauty transform from summer to winter.
Retirees living in age-restricted communities near the Stockton-Modesto Area will also be about two hours away from the natural splendors of Yosemite National Park. Four Seasons at Los Banos is also a closeby community worth considering.
Central CA (Sequoia and Kings Canyon)
Not only is Central California home to a great selection of active adult communities, but it is also home to two distinct national parks operating as a single unit—Sequoia and Kings Canyon. These beautiful national parks, which lie side-by-side in the southern Sierra Nevada region just east of the San Joaquin Valley, offer a dramatic landscape consisting of rugged foothills, deep canyons, soaring mountains, huge caverns, pristine rivers, and some of the world’s largest trees.
Named after the massive sequoia trees that thrive in the area and grow 5,000 to 7,000 feet above the usual snowline, Sequoia National Park features 40 miles of trails that meander through the Giant Forest, which is home to five of the ten largest trees in the world, including the General Sherman Tree, which are best witnessed on a hike.
Kings Canyon National Park also offers superb views of some of the most scenic rivers in California – Kings River and San Joaquin River. Kings River Canyon is one of the deepest rivers in North America and was carved out of solid granite by glaciers in the last ice age.
Look to Bakersfield if you want to find a 55+ community close to either park. You've got six to choose from.
NorCal (Redwood National Park)
Boomers looking to settle down in Northern California will have just as many active adult communities located near national parks in their neck of the woods. Situated on the North Coast of California, Redwood National Park is popular for its towering redwood trees that will make you feel like the smallest person in the world. These redwoods are the tallest trees that can grow for over 2,000 years and can reach up to 367 feet high and 22 feet wide at the base. The park also hosts Hyperion, which is the world’s tallest living tree.
The park features plenty of trails for people of all hiking levels such as the one-mile path that winds beneath towering redwoods along Lady Bird Johnson Grove Loop. There are also plenty of overlook points along the coast that offers dramatic views of the crashing surf as well as prime spots for whale or bird watching.