California state parks offer an eclectic collection of recreational, ecological, and educational opportunities in twelve diverse geographical areas throughout the state. Over 278 park units exist and 123 of them provide camping facilities including tent sites, RV or camper sites with electricity and water, and even primitive sites where you have to hike in by foot. Traveling the state, you will see arid desert landscapes, sandy beaches, mountain ranges, gorgeous lakes, and primordial redwood forests that seem older than time.
Rich in cultural heritage, natural resources, and definitely recreation, California state parks provide plenty of outdoor action no matter what you may want to experience. Are you partial to sea life and water sports? There are underwater preserves you can explore. Learning about the history of the state and the land is easy, with the state historic parks home to many old buildings dating back to the era when the Spanish ruled the area. Experience some of the gold rush days and visit old gold mines and ghost towns. The wildlife and ecological habitats are a joy to explore whether they are in the beaches, desert, or redwood forests.
Popular Sites to Add to your Itinerary
Perhaps one of the most popular California state parks to visit, especially for families, is Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. It offers a glimpse into San Diego's past when it was first settled by the Spanish and established with a fort and a mission. Ten historic buildings are located here, and you can also visit quaint shops, blacksmith demonstrations, educational tours, and more.
Sonoma Coast State Park is one of the best attended of all California state parks, thanks to its excellent camping facilities as well as plentiful beach activities. While not the optimal place for swimming due to strong currents and large swells, it is excellent for shell beachcombing, seal watching, and exploring the sea life in the many tide pools along the rocky shoreline.
Experiencing the majestic, peaceful beauty of the redwood forests, many people head to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Located on the North Coast of the California state parks system, this park offers plenty of camping facilities so you can spend days enjoying the fishing, boating, swimming, and ecological tour opportunities it has to offer. There are varying difficulty levels of hiking available, with all trails offering exceptional views of this coastal redwood area.
If the stark beauty of the desert lands in the California state parks system has captured your spirit and sense of adventure, Providence Mountain State Recreational Area offers plenty to see. It is home to Mitchell Caverns, the only limestone cavern system in the state. There are plenty of tours available for this underground wonder. The nature trails are quite challenging and present a beautiful, yet austere landscape with an abundance of desert wildlife and plants to see. Some visitors to the desert area of the state may argue though that Mount Diablo State Park is the best, simply because of its fantastic views from the summit as well as a variety of overlooks in the area.
Plumas-Eureka State Park offers plenty of winter fun and is popular among families in the California state parks system. You can find a number of trails in the winter time for both beginning and advanced skiers and everyone in between. The cross country and downhill skiing is a major draw as is the majestic Sierra Mountain setting. Warm weather offers plenty of hiking opportunities as well as fishing and tours of historic buildings depicting life during the gold rush.
There is truly something for everyone at California state parks, regardless of the time of year. The state park system alone accounts for about 1/3 of the coastline of the state! Whatever environment you are dying to explore, the California state parks system provides exceptional opportunities whether you are an outdoor lover or die hard city folk.