California State Parks offer abundant opportunities for families to disconnect from technology and adventure outside, recharging their own batteries as they connect to a world rich with possibilities. And although often overlooked as getaway destinations, state parks are pretty simple to enjoy – just pick one and go.

Most California state parks have a simple day use fee per vehicle and don’t charge to walk or bike the trails and paths. Little more is needed than a willingness to try something new and explore.

And with hundreds of parks throughout the state, there’s almost assuredly one nearby fit to individual tastes. So pack a lunch, pack the family, and head out for adventure at any of the top rated California state parks. Here are just a few of the best.

 

California State Parks

Redwood National and State Parks + Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

California’s known for the Sequoia (aka Redwood) trees of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and these two parks combine to offer hundreds of miles of walking trails through coastal forests of the giants.

Reaching hundreds of feet tall, they create a uniquely and breathtakingly beautiful woodland environment well worth exploring.

 

California State Parks

Emerald Bay State Park

For lakeside adventures, head to the southwestern shores of iconic Lake Tahoe. With trails along magnificent shores, there’s plenty of shady outdoors to trek.

If you think of one of those perfect scenes where campers enjoy an arranged campsite and fry fresh fish just pulled from blue water lapping in the background, the image in your head is pretty much Emerald Bay.

 

California State Parks

Big Basin Redwoods + Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks

Think waterfalls. Julia Pfeiffer Burns has an 80-foot water cascade onto the untouched beach of an ocean cove. Big Basin Redwoods, California’s oldest state park, includes gentle, scenic trails along a creek down to the Pacific Ocean.

One is Sequoia loop trail with its own incredible waterfall, but there are dozens (hundreds?) of options, each picturesque and singularly thrilling.

 

California State Parks

Crystal Cove State Park

With miles of ocean coves, beaches, and eighteen miles of hiking trails, there’s a lot to enjoy. Head upland to explore the trails winding into the foothills.

Or you can walk the coastline and find your own perfect sandy beach, with family-friendly waves included. Then watch the sun dip into the Pacific. Not a bad day.

 

What to Bring

Before you hit the road, you’ll need to pack up a few things. To do it right, be sensible. Before you take any trip into the wilderness, make sure to research needed safety gear, including survival tools and technology, and distress tools like GPS beacons.

When you’re trekking through California state parks, carry proper high-quality gear, including these essentials for thriving in the California sun:

  • Drinking water (in a reusable stainless steel bottle)
  • Waxhead Sunscreen
  • Light Jacket and/or Rain Gear
  • Hat
  • Polarized Sunglasses
  • Good Hiking Shoes
  • Well-charged mobile phone
  • Good pocket knife, fire starter, roll of twine, compass, water-proof map, GPS locator beacon, pocket-size survival guide (if you plan to leave established paths)

It’s easy to get started being a California state park explorer. Visit California Department of Parks and Rec, pick a park nearby and GO.