California Wines and National and State Parks Make a Perfect Summer Pairing

Butterfly Creek Winery in Mariposa, California near Yosemite National Park

Like the iconic California lifestyle, the ideal vacation balances active adventures with relaxing wine experiences

May 30, 2022 – SAN FRANCISCO – As Memorial Day kicks off the summer travel season, California wine lovers don’t have to choose between visiting the Golden State’s majestic parks and touring its diverse wine regions. Indeed, many of California’s national and state parks are located in or near some of the world’s most famous wine regions. What could be better after a morning hike in the woods than a relaxing afternoon among the vineyards with a delicious glass of Californian wine?

To help you plan your summer trips, the Wine Institute has organized associations of California wine regions with nearby national and state parks. With 144 AVAs (American Winelands) across the state, travelers won’t have to go out of their way to find incredible wine-tasting opportunities close to their park adventures. In addition to inviting visitors to rejuvenate while sipping the latest vintages, many wineries offer activities such as vineyard hikes and biking. In California wine country, it’s all about a balanced lifestyle.

To find California wineries near a park destination and information on summer winery events, visit

Travelers can get information about visiting California parks, including current COVID-19 guidelines, on the National Park Service and California Department of Parks and Recreation websites. Some of the more popular parks require visitors to pre-book day passes and/or camping during the busy summer season. Multi-day events such as Inaugural California State Parks Week June 14-18 offer a variety of events to choose from.


Sonoma County and Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Ancient Coast Redwoods, the tallest trees in the world, are the main attraction at this 800-acre park and nature preserve. Located a few miles north of the town of Guerneville, Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve is in the Russian River Valley AVA in Sonoma County. After hiking and picnicking among the towering trees of the reserve, take some time to explore the local vineyards. Home to over 90 producers, the region is famous for pinot noir and chardonnay. The charming, rustic town of Guerneville, with its riverside huts and lodges, is the perfect place to spend the night and enjoy river activities like canoeing and swimming. On June 25, the Taste of Sonoma is a showcase for Sonoma County wine and food.

Napa Valley/Lake County and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

This 5,000-acre park offers sweeping views of Napa, Sonoma, and Lake counties from atop Mount St. Helena, the highest peak in California wine country. Robert Louis Stevenson State Park’s location near Calistoga, at the northern end of the Napa Valley, also provides the perfect opportunity to visit the region’s wineries, world famous for their impressive and affordable Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The town of Calistoga, with its famous mud baths, boutique hotels and restaurants, is an ideal base for visiting the local park and vineyards. On July 26, Napa Valley hosts Taste of Napa, a celebration of the region’s wine, food and music. On September 17, travelers can taste and bid on Lake County wines at the Lake County Wine Auction.


Sierra Foothills and Calaveras Tall Trees State Park

Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Gold Country features a wealth of natural wonders, from groves of giant redwoods to ancient volcanic formations to the Stanislaus River. The park is just north of Arnold in scenic Calaveras County wine country, a haven for Spanish, Italian and French varieties. Also within the larger Sierra Foothills AVA are Zinfandel specialists Amador County and El Dorado County, which produce everything from Bordeaux varietals to wines made from Rhone, German, Italian and Spanish varietals. Camping is popular at Big Trees, so summer reservations are quick. Don’t worry, though; the park is less than an hour from the old mining town of Murphys, home to hotels, inns, restaurants and more than 25 winery tasting rooms along Main Street.

yosemite sierra sun times tunnel view
Yosemite National Park
Sierra Sun Times file photo

Madera Wine Country and Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, a rock climbing mecca, is world famous for its soaring granite walls and cascading waterfalls. Just south of the park is Madera County, one of California’s oldest appellations. The area is known for its dessert wines and port-style wines, and there’s plenty to taste along the Madera Wine Trail. Summer camping reservations in Yosemite sell out quickly and visitors should also book in advance for day passes, but there are a variety of alternative accommodations in the nearby town of Mariposa, from rooms from hosts to campgrounds and the rental of chalets.


Monterey Wine Country and Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park in Soledad impresses thousands of visitors every year with its unique volcanic landscape of monoliths, canyons, oak forests and towering rocky spires frequented by golden eagles and California condors. Within an hour’s drive is the Cienega Valley Loop in San Benito County, as well as the River Road Wine Trail, which winds through the county’s Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. from Monterey, famous for pinot noir and chardonnay. Because summer temperatures at Pinnacles tend to be high — ideal for early morning hikes — the park is most popular during the cooler months. This means that reservations for Pinnacles Campground are fairly easy to come by for summer visits. There are also plenty of lodging and tasting room options in Monterey Wine Country, in the quaint storybook town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Ventura/Santa Barbara Wine Country & Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Island chain is known as the “Galapagos of North America” ​​due to its natural beauty and richness in rare plant and animal species. Boats to the Channel Islands National Park depart from Ventura and Oxnard. From here, it’s an easy drive to the Ventura County Wine Trail, which features a dozen wineries in a relaxed coastal setting. In the Santa Barbara wine country, the Sta. Rita Hills AVA is known for pinot noir and chardonnay, while wineries along the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Route excel in pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. If you’re short on time, many of these wineries offer tasting rooms in the Funk Urban area of ​​Santa Barbara. The National Park Service operates primitive but beautiful campgrounds on each of the five Channel Islands, but if that’s too much camping, book a stay in Ventura or Santa Barbara.


San Diego Wine Country and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve is home to the country’s rarest pine, the Torrey pine, as well as one of the last salt marshes and waterfowl sanctuaries in Southern California. After exploring the reserve’s 1,500 acres of maritime chaparral and miles of beautiful beaches, visit the wineries of San Diego County. The region has more than 100 wine estates, best known for Merlot and Chardonnay, and cultivates 60 different grape varieties. Torrey Pines is located within the city limits of San Diego, so lodging, dining, and other travel amenities abound.

About the Wine Institute
Created in 1934, Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group of 1,000 California wineries and affiliated companies that initiates and advocates national, federal and international public policy aimed at improving the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine. The organization strives to improve the economic and environmental health of the state through its leadership in sustainable viticulture and by showcasing California’s wine regions as ideal destinations for food and wine travelers in the state. To learn more about California wines, visit DiscoverCaliforniaWines.
Source: Wine Institute

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