California has a number of beautiful state parks in addition to a number of national parks, national monuments, and other national nature reserves. These parks are not as well known as their national counterparts and are somewhat more off the beaten path.
California's diverse regional scenery is summarized by the national parks within the state: Death Valley National Park showcases the desert, Yosemite National Park the Sierra Nevada, and Kings Canyon/Sequoia the forest. There are other national parks that feature other parts of the state as well.
However, for the preservation of smaller ecological habitats, dozens of state parks have been created. These have been an ongoing development and particularly during the 20th century spread to every part of the state, as all natural ecosystems in the state are valued by tourists and locals for their natural beauty. These include coastal habitats, mountain ranges, the remnants of the Central Valley wetlands, and inland desert. Accessibility varies widely but topography and distance to cities play a role, with difficult topography (for transportation) along parts of the coast and the Sierra/Cascades making the challenge of forming parks in these areas evident. The region of California farthest from cities, the far north and particularly northeastern corner, remains remote and has few state parks. The coastal region, due to its natural beauty, small towns and proximity to the popular California Route 1, has abundant state parks despite the rugged terrain.
The regions north of L.A. to the Oregon border have the bulk of the state parks, as from Los Angeles south the coastline is more developed. Meanwhile, the higher Sierras have relatively few state parks as much of this land is protected in national parks and national forests. The East Bay contains relatively few state parks, although much of the region is protected land; it's instead part of the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD), which provides similar management to the state parks. While not considered state parks, EBRPD parks offer many of the same facilities and there are no obvious differences between the state parks and the East Bay Regional Parks.
Not all state parks have many facilities, and large parks such as Henry Coe, the size of national parks, have remote areas and tourists should only travel to these areas if they are experienced with safety precautions such as wildlife hazards. Bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and rattlesnakes are found across large portions of the state. Depending on elevation, severe heat and cold (or both) can be a major travel concern. Most mountain ranges in the state, with the exception of those immediately adjacent to the sea, receive snow in winter, and in the taller mountain ranges, the snow can get deep as to make hiking impossible.
The Shasta Cascades region is the northeast corner of the state. It is wild and remote, with forests, mountains, lakes, and even the occasional volcano.
- 1 Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park (PG&E boat launch called "Rat Farm" on Big Lake to cross to the park). The land was acquired in 1975 and its main points of interest are freshwater springs and ancient black basalt lava flows. Traces of historic Native American settlement within the park remain from the fishing of sucker and trout. The park is nearly 6000 acres, or 2400 hectacres, in all.
- 2 Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, 525 Esplanade, Chico, ☏ . This 26-room, three-story Italianate Victorian mansion was the first in the state to have indoor plumbing. Restroom, water fountain. Free tours involve climbing stairs. $6 adults, $3 age 5–17.
- 3 Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park.
- 4 Castle Crags State Park (I-5 near Castella and Dunsmuir). With a total elevation change of roughly 4,500 ft (1,400 m) throughout the crags, these rocky mountain peaks are near the Sacramento River and Mount Shasta in the Cascade Range. Name comes from the peaks' shape resembling that of a massive fort or castle.
- 5 Clay Pit State Vehicular Recreation Area.
- 6 Lake Oroville State Recreation Area.
- 7 McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park (north of Burney). The falls are 129 ft (39 m) high. There are a few miles of hiking trails in the park, including the Pacific Crest Trail and some short (1 mi (1.6 km)) hikes. Although Lake Britton is owned by PG&E, there is a public opening to this lake, although as the lake is near freezing temperature year-round the main activity here is boating.
- 8 Plumas-Eureka State Park. At the southern end of the Cascade Range and northern boundary of the Sierra Nevada. The park is open during summer months and includes a history museum documenting the Gold Rush period.
- 9 Shasta State Historic Park, 15312 Highway 299 West, Shasta (6 miles west of downtown Redding), ☏ . Sunrise–sunset for outdoor exhibits; limited hours for museum. The ruined buildings of the "Queen City" in the 19th-century mining days form the largest part of this historical park. The County Courthouse has been restored and turned into a museum that contain historical items as well as historical artwork. The open-air Coyle Foster Barn is filled with exhibits. A wheelchair-accessible restroom is near three old-fashioned stores.
- 10 Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park.
- 11 William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park.
- 12 Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area.
San Joaquin ValleyEdit
The San Joaquin Valley, also called the Central Valley, runs through the interior of California. Its fertile soil makes it an important area for agriculture.
- 13 Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park. The park features woodlands alongside the Sacramento River and Big Chico Creek, and fishing and boating are popular recreational activities. Several types of fruits occur including elderberry, blackberry, and grape. The park is divided into day use areas.
- 14 Caswell Memorial State Park. Forest near Ripon, in San Joaquin County. On the Stanislaus River.
- 15 Great Valley Grasslands State Park. Following the arrival of settlers, particularly in the 19th century, much of the Central Valley was converted to farmland, but one of the remaining grasslands was converted to this state park from existing parkland in 1982. It is roughly 2,800 acres.
The Sierra Nevada region is the place to go for sequoia trees and serious mountain sports.
- 16 Burton Creek State Park. The park, created in 1976, is under 2,000 acres and hosts cross-country skiing in Truckee area, famous for its skiing opportunities.
- 17 Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Some of the largest pine trees in the world, not only in height but also in circumference. At more than 6,000 acres and tourist appeal since the founding of the state, it is among the more famous of the state parks.
- 18 D. L. Bliss State Park. Just west of Lake Tahoe and north of Emerald Bay, this park is famous for the Rubicon Point Light and the park has a total area of approximately 2,000 acres.
- 19 Donner Memorial State Park. In the 1840s, the famous Donner party almost failed to cross the Sierra Nevada range, barely making it through the frontier into California. The pass, at several thousand feet, is today one of the most important crossings in the Range.
- 20 Ed Z'berg Sugar Pine Point State Park.
- 21 Emerald Bay State Park.
- 22 Grover Hot Springs State Park.
- 23 Red Rock Canyon State Park.
- 24 South Yuba River State Park.
- 25 Washoe Meadows State Park.
The North Coast is a great place for outdoor sports, including fishing. The vineyards are good but not as famous as Napa and Sonoma, and some areas are known for growing marijuana.
- 26 Clear Lake State Park.
- 27 Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park.
- 28 Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.
- 29 Hendy Woods State Park.
- 30 Humboldt Lagoons State Park.
- 31 Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
- 32 Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park.
- 33 MacKerricher State Park.
- 34 Manchester State Park.
- 35 Mendocino Headlands State Park.
- 36 Mendocino Woodlands State Park.
- 37 Morro Bay State Park.
- 38 .
- 39 Sue-meg State Park (formerly Patrick's Point State Park).
- 40 Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park.
- 41 Richardson Grove State Park.
- 42 Russian Gulch State Park.
- 43 Sinkyone Wilderness State Park.
- 44 Tolowa Dunes State Park.
- 45 Van Damme State Park.
Sacramento Valley is at the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley.
Gold Country is the best destination for history buffs interested in the California gold rush.
The San Francisco Bay Area is an urban area, but there are still plenty of parks, often on the smaller side.
- 46 Angel Island State Park. Large and historic island in the San Francisco Bay, reachable by boat from Tiburon or Fisherman's Wharf.
- 47 Bothe-Napa Valley State Park.
- 48 Castle Rock State Park.
- 49 China Camp State Park. Hiking trails, a beach, natural scenery, and the remains of a Chinese immigrant village in San Rafael.
- 50 Henry W. Coe State Park.
- 51 Mount Diablo State Park.
- 52 Mount Tamalpais State Park. Hiking near Mill Valley with beautiful views of the bay. On a clear day, you can see Marin, San Francisco, and the East Bay from the peak of Mount Tam.
- 53 Pacheco State Park.
- 54 Portola Redwoods State Park.
- 55 Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, 4824 Lake County Hwy #4774, Calistoga, ☏ . Sunrise to sunset. Although this is not normally considered a history-focused park, it is included in the Historian Passport program, and does have one historic spot: the site of a now-demolished cabin where Robert Louis Stevenson once stayed. The main reason to go to this park is to spend half the day hiking up the mountain (9 mi., 2000' elevation each way) to see the 360° panoramic view from the summit. This is not an easy trail, especially the last mile. Bring water, sunscreen (there is no shade after the first mile), good shoes, stout lungs, and warm clothes for the windy summit. Bikes permitted on some trails. No dogs permitted anywhere. Geocaching site. No restrooms, no drinking water, and limited parking.
- 56 Salt Point State Park.
- 57 Samuel P. Taylor State Park. Redwoods, hills, and grasslands in Marin County.
- 58 San Bruno Mountain State Park.
- 59 Sonoma Coast State Park.
- 60 Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.
- 61 Tomales Bay State Park.
- 62 Trione-Annadel State Park.
- 63 Wilder Ranch State Park.
The Central Coast runs along the ocean below the San Francisco Bay area.
- 64 Andrew Molera State Park.
- 65 Año Nuevo State Park.
- 66 Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Badly burned in 2020 wildfires.
- 67 Butano State Park. Frequently overlooked neighbor of Big Basin State Park.
- 68 Estero Bluffs State Park.
- 69 The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.
- 70 Fort Ord Dunes State Park.
- 71 Fremont Peak State Park.
- 72 Garrapata State Park.
- 73 Gaviota State Park.
- 74 Harmony Headlands State Park.
- 75 Hearst San Simeon State Park.
- 76 Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
- 77 Limekiln State Park.
- 78 Montaña de Oro State Park.
- 79 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Southern California is Hollywood and so much more.
- 80 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
- 81 Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park.
- 82 Border Field State Park.
- 83 Chino Hills State Park.
- 84 Crystal Cove State Park.
- 85 Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.
- 86 Leo Carrillo State Park.
- 87 Malibu Creek State Park.
- 88 Mount San Jacinto State Park.
- 89 Palomar Mountain State Park.
- 90 Placerita Canyon State Park.
- 91 Point Mugu State Park.
- 92 Saddleback Butte State Park.
- 93 Topanga State Park.
The Desert region of California is at the southern in, and inland.