Today, I will guide you about the best state parks in California. California’s state parks are fantastic places to experience the Golden State’s scenic beauty and heritage. If you are arranging a visit to the state, you’ll want to check into weaving in a few of the finest California state parks into your itinerary.
With ocean breezes, dramatic waterfalls, and prominent mountain peaks, state parks in California provide a lifetime of experience. California’s state parks are famous for activities including hiking, camping, fishing, and SCUBA diving–as well as just staring in wonder at the magnificent nature on screen. Whether for weekend adventures or extended California road excursions, California state parks offer a fantastic contrast to the busy cities surrounding them.
A few California state parks expose the nation’s history and culture. For instance, Bodie State Historic Park in the Eastern Sierra is an ode to the nation’s gold rush era.
California state parks make for great stops on road trips through the state. They are also perfect for day trips, weekend getaways, and even longer trips. If you pay a visit to the Big Sur Coast, for example, you can spend per week (or more!) Exploring the seven amazing Big Sur state parks.
With close to 109 state park units from which to select, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to researching California’s state parks. If you have enough time and the opportunity, by all means, visit as many of them as possible! We have seen many state parks throughout our period at the Golden State, and we’ve established this record based on our adventures so far.
Camping can be found at most state parks in California, allowing the multi-day experiences needed to determine these distinctive surroundings have to give. From fanning palaces and stunning stone qualities to elaborate castles and ghost towns in a state of”arrested decay,” a huge variety of treasures wait to be found in the country parks of California. For California state parks to See throughout the winter, areas like Grover Hot Springs and Castle Crags State Park supply yearlong attractions.
You will find more than 25 national park in California State as of 2021. Start preparing your outdoor experiences with our listing of the best state parks in California.
List of the Best State Parks in California
- South Yuba River State Park
- Crystal Cove State Park
- Humboldt Redwoods State Park
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
- Big Basin Redwoods State Park
- Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
- Columbia State Historic Park
- Castle Crags State Park
- Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
- Año Nuevo State Park
- Empire Mine State Historic Park
- Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
- Morro Bay State Park
- Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park
- Mcarthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
- Mendocino Headlands State Park
- Bodie State Historic Park
- Salt Point State Park
- Angel Island State Park
- Grover Hot Springs State Park
- Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
- Hearst San Simeon State Park
- Emerald Bay State Park
- Russian Gulch State Park
- Mount Diablo State Park
- Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
- Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve
- Calaveras Big Trees State Park
- Garrapata State Park
- Mount San Jacinto State Park
- Mount Tamalpais State Park
- Morro Bay State Park
- Red Rock Canyon State Park
1. South Yuba River State Park
A popular mining place through the Gold Rush, this 20-mile stretch of this majestic South Yuba River lures people with panoramic swimming holes. On hot summer days, dive into deep, crystalline waters at preferred places such as 49 Crossing and the more easily accessible bridge port, which also offers the world’s longest, single-span covered bridge. Subsequently, explore the park’s scenic wilderness across the Independence Trail that follows the route of prior Gold Rush-era flumes. Visitors can enjoy hiking and swimming, wildflowers and historic sites.
- Things to Do in South Yuba River State Park: Moi’s Thai Cafe, Tuscany Gardens Pizzeria & Cafe, Java DREAM Coffee & Gelato, Historic Bridgeport Covered Bridge, Independence Trail
- Location of South Yuba River State Park: Penn Valley, CA
- Contact of South Yuba River State Park: +1 916-432-2546
2. Crystal Cove State Park
The Crystal Cove Historic District is a 12.3-acre coastal portion of the 2,791-acre Crystal Cove State Park. The federally listed Historic District is the enclave of 46 classic rustic coastal cottages originally built in 1920? S nestled around the mouth of Los Trancos Creek. Among those last remaining examples of early 20th century Southern California coastal development.
California State Parks has completed phase 1 of the Crystal Cove State Park restoration, which provides cottages for visitor services, community and educational programs, a restaurant, and 13 cottages for overnight use by the general public. Costs for overnight rentals are kept as low as possible to provide this fabulous shore experience to as many Californians as possible.
Also open this summer at the Crystal Cove State Park is your Beachcomber Cafe, a renovated beachfront cabin offering a relaxed dining setting with spectacular sea views and a quality menu for breakfast, dinner and lunch. The Beachcomber Cafe will combine the Crystal Cove Shake Shack, located on Highway 1.
Crystal Cove State Park has 3.5 miles of beach and undeveloped woodland, popular for hiking and horseback riding. The beach is popular with surfers and swimmers. Visitors can explore tidepools and sandy coves. Crystal Cove offers surf and sand, rocky reefs, ridges and canyons, which appeal to everybody.
- Things to Do in Crystal Cove State Park: Selanne Steak Tavern, K’ya Bistro, Splashes Restaurant, Victoria Beach, Wood’s Cove, overnight cottages, beach, swimming, fishing, hiking trail, bike trails, camping
- Location of Crystal Cove State Park: 8471 Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
- Contact of Crystal Cove State Park: 949-494-3539
3. Humboldt Redwoods State Park
California’s largest redwood state park is a worthy introduction to coastal redwoods, the tallest and oldest living creatures on the planet. In the car that you can marvel at the region’s skyscraping trees across the famous avenue of the giants; however, don’t stay behind the wheel to get extended. Pullover at noteworthy stops like Founder’s Grove, in which a fast 1.3-mile loop course will lead you to the downed Dyerville Giant.
Humboldt Redwoods State Park encompasses almost 53,000 acres, of which over 17,000 are untouched old-growth coast redwoods. Created in 1921 with the little Bolling Memorial Grove, the playground has grown through the years to include a diverse ecosystem such as the entire Bull Creek watershed and the Rockefeller Forest, the largest remaining old-growth redwood forest in the world.
A wide variety of activities and facilities are readily available. You will find over 250 household campsites in three different campgrounds, plus environmental camps, group camps, trail camps, and a horse camp. Over 100 miles of trail await exploration by hikers, bikers, and horse riders. The South Fork Eel River provides fishing, boating, and swimming opportunities, and there are many day-use areas for picnicking, family activities, or just enjoying the pristine environment.
Some favorite places include the Founders Grove Nature Trail, the 32 mile Avenue of the Giants Auto Tour, and the Humboldt Redwoods Visitor Center. The Visitor Center offers various fun and educational exhibits and activities, including a theatre, displays, a publication, and the famed Kellogg Travel Log. Automobile Tour brochures are available at either end of the Avenue of the Giants and the Visitor Center. Throughout the summer season, interpretive activities, including nature walks, Junior Ranger programs, and campfire programs, are held daily.
Visitors should come prepared for any weather. Rain in the summertime is unusual but does happen.
- Things to Do in Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Hiking Trail, Bridle Trails, Riverbend Cellars, Daily Grind, Avenue of the Giants, Lost Coast Scenic Drive, Shrine Drive-Through Tree
- Location of Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Avenue of the Giants, Weott, CA 95571
- Contact of Humboldt Redwoods State Park: +1 707-946-2409
4. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
This state park is named after Julia Pfeiffer Burns, a well-respected pioneer girl from the Big Sur country. Among the most famous state parks in California, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is home to the impossibly picturesque McWay Falls. The 80-foot waterfall tumbles from the cliffs on a pristine beach below.
The park includes several hiking trails of varying length and difficulty, a number of them offering amazing coastal views. Look for California condors roosting from the eucalyptus trees, and then walk in the shade of tall redwoods.
Located along the Big Sur Coast, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park allows camping, but you will need to book well in advance. The park makes a great stop on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip or when doing the Big Sur Coast drive.
Check for road closures if you visit in a wet winter.
- Things to Do in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: McWay Falls, Partington Cove, The Esalen Institute, hiking, photography.
- Location of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: 52801 California State Route 1, Big Sur, CA 93920
- Contact of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: +1 831-667-2315
5. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
California’s oldest state park, Big Basin, is home to some of the greatest and oldest living things on the planet — trees taller than the Statue of Liberty and older than the Roman Empire. Discover how these ancient trees have persisted for millennia through a self-guided wander and accompanying brochure along the Redwood Loop Trail. Other notable features include Berry Creek Falls–attained via a profitable 9-mile trek–and Rancho del Oso, a coastal expanse known as the region’s former grizzly bear population.
Dogs are allowed in the campsites, picnic areas, and paved roads only. They must be on a leash and attended at all times. Dogs Aren’t allowed on any of the trails.
- Things to Do in Big Basin Redwoods State Park: Hiking Trail, Camping, Full Hookup Sites
- Location of Big Basin Redwoods State Park: 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006-9063
- Contact of Big Basin Redwoods State Park: N/A
6. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Way to many of the best hiking trails of Santa Cruz, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is located less than five miles from the city. With this proximity to Santa Cruz and the Pacific Ocean, Henry Cowell is an international destination thanks to the towering redwood trees within its borders. Encompassing over 4,600 acres, including the day-use Fall Creek Unit, Henry Cowell provides infinite ways to enjoy the giants that helped jumpstart a conservation movement in California.
For additional big shrub appeal, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is situated about twenty miles northwest of Henry Cowell. California’s oldest state park and home to many of those finest Conveniently near Santa Cruz, Big Basin Redwoods State Park features redwood grove hiking paths and lush canyons filled with life. While visiting, the Redwood Loop Trail is a must-do hike for the whole family.
- Things to Do in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: Hiking Trail, UCSC Arboretum, Mystery Spot, Laili Restaurant
- Location of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: Big Trees Park Road, Felton, CA 95018
- Contact of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park: +1 831-335-4598
7. Columbia State Historic Park
Found in the heart of Gold Country, a bit over an hour drive from Sacramento, Columbia State Historic Park maintains the California gold rush city of Columbia, where enormous amounts of gold have been mined between 1850 and 1860.
The city declined in subsequent years, with buildings torn down and many people are departing. Still, unlike most of the additional gold rush era boom cities, Columbia was never entirely abandoned. In 1945, the playground was made to maintain what was left.
Today Columbia is a living city that preserves more than two dozen structures built during the gold rush era. You can pan for gold, ride the stagecoach, see a blacksmith in actions, and take a guided tour of this town.
If you enjoy historic state parks, definitely put Columbia Historic State Park in your California destination!
- Things to Do in Columbia State Historic Park: Columbia Kate’s Teahouse, Mandy’s Breakfast House, Camping, Columbia Candy Kitchen, Columbia Cemetery
- Location of Columbia State Historic Park: 11255 Jackson St, Columbia, CA 95310-9425
- Contact of Columbia State Historic Park: +1 209-588-9128
8. Castle Crags State Park
The park offers swimming and fishing in the Sacramento River, hiking in the back country, and a view of Mount Shasta. There are 76 developed campsites and six environmental campsites. The campground in Castle Crags is a popular home base for adventures.
Available from Redding having an hour’s drive, the 6,000-foot granite spires of Castle Crags draw tourists from around the world to this state park in Northern California. Featuring over 25 miles of hiking paths that browse the base of these dramatic mountain monuments, the park is also home to a few of the best day hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail, which extends through Castle Crags with great views of Castle Dome along the road.
- Things to Do in Castle Crags State Park: Fishing, Hiking Trail, Swimming Beach, Camping, The Wheelhouse, Boxcar Gallery
- Location of Castle Crags State Park: 20022 Castle Creek Rd Latitude/Longitude: 41.1852 / -122.3427, Castella, CA 96017
- Contact of Castle Crags State Park: +1 530-235-2684
9. Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Calaveras became a State Park in 1931 to conserve the North Grove of giant sequoias. This grove comprises the “Discovery Tree”, the first Sierra redwood noted by Augustus T. Dowd in 1852. This region was a major tourist attraction ever since and is thought of as the longest continuously worked tourist centre in California.
Located in Gold Country, north of the Sierra Nevada national parks in California is Calaveras Big Trees State Park, featuring two stunning groves of giant sequoias, the largest trees on the planet.
The richly scenic Stanislaus River flows through the park, in addition to the beautiful Beaver Creek. Swim in the picturesque swimming holes, fish, go kayaking, and hike.
Walking through the North Grove of giant sequoias is a favorite activity in the playground. The trail is 1.4 kilometres long and relatively easy. The South Grove Route is more extended, at five kilometres, but also takes you via giant sequoias and other evergreens.
See in the spring to see dogwoods in bloom: a fantastic sight! Or in the autumn for pretty leaf colors. Start looking for wildlife and birds: you will see kingfishers or turkey vultures, and deer, rabbit or fox. You can do guided snowshoe hikes or go cross-country skiing in the summertime.
- Things to Do in Calaveras Big Trees State Park: Fishing, Hiking Trail, Boating, Camping, Sarafina’s Italian Kitchen, White Pines Lake, Arnold Rim Trail
- Location of Calaveras Big Trees State Park: 1170 Highway 4, CA 95223
- Contact of Calaveras Big Trees State Park: +1 209-795-2334
10. Morro Bay State Park
Part of what makes Morro Bay one of the best small towns in California is Morro Bay State Park at its southern boundary. Offering great views of Morro Rock along with the surrounding bay, this country park also features a postcard marina, an 18-hole golf course, and a seaside all-natural History Museum. The campground at Morro Bay State Park supports tent camping and RVs, and the playground is also in proximity to other scenic places, such as Montaña de Oro State Park.
Morro Bay State Park includes a lagoon and organic bay habitat. The bay’s most notable landmark is Morro Rock. The park has opportunities for sailing, fishing, hiking, and bird watching. The park museum includes exhibits that cover natural characteristics and cultural heritage, Native American life, geology, and oceanography. The park also contains a vibrant marina.
- Things to Do in Morro Bay State Park: Fishing, hiking, and bird watching, museum, Galley Seafood Grill & Bar, Bayside Cafe, Montana de Oro State Park, Morro Bay National Estuary
- Location of Morro Bay State Park: State Park Road, Morro Bay, CA 93442
- Contact of Morro Bay State Park: +1 805-772-2694
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