Pinnacles National Park--located 1 hour east of Carmel, California (and only 20 minutes east, off the main route 101 between northern and southern California), has just been named the newest of America's now 59 national parks. This is the first new national park since 2004 when Great Sandy Dunes in Colorado was designated a national park.
Pinnacles, formerly designated a national monument, becomes California's ninth national park, putting it one national park ahead of Alaska--and therefore the leader in national parks across the country. It should be noted, however, that one of the California's national parks (Channel Islands) is located offshore, and can only be seen via boat tours, which coincidentally, are not actually allowed to stop off on the islands.
Other California national parks (besides Pinnacles) are Channel Islands, Lassen Volcanic, Sequoia, King's Canyon, Redwood, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and its most famous--Yosemite. While local officials expect some increase in tourism from its 175,000 visitors in 2011, they are not expecting anything like the 3.4 million tourists that visit Yosemite on a yearly basis.
Pinnacles, a fairly small park at only 26,000 acres, is mostly known for its majestic spires, but also has caves, wildflowers, camping, hiking, and one of the only wild condor (largest bird in the US) communities in the US. It joins other much better known national parks such as Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Denali (home of Mt. McKinley--the tallest mountain in the US), Mesa Verde, and the Everglades on this distinguished list.
Note: While some describe the park as a "gem", others claim that it will now be declared "the most boring" of the national parks. Everyone agrees, however, that the best time to visit the park is in the springtime when the wildflowers are in full bloom and the camping and hiking opportunities are best. On a personal note, it is also located very close to most of the Monterey wineries, which are on the River Road, just 4 miles west of Highway 101--so combining trips to both areas is very easy--especially if one lives only 1 hour away, as I do.