California is a western U.S. state that stretches from the Mexican border along the Pacific for nearly 900 miles and has many different landscapes including cliff-lined beaches, redwood forest, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Central Valley farmland, and the Mojave Desert
It is a place that many people dream of going to at some point in their lives. There are so many things for tourists to do there, and California’s state parks offer an adventure like no other! In this article, we will explore the top 15 state parks in California and why you should visit them.
The city of Los Angeles is known for its Hollywood entertainment industry while San Francisco is famous for its Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and cable cars.
Explore California’s beauty with our tours! We offer everything you need to explore this great state! From day trips to week-long adventures, we have something for everyone! Book your tour today!
1. Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park is a state park of California, United States encompassing 3.2 miles of Pacific coastline and an inland canyon area with the Crystal Cove Historic District on its beach frontage to explore.
The cove provides visitors with glimpses into what life was like in Southern California at the turn of the century when wealthy families built summer homes so they could enjoy this coastal paradise year round!
Camping and Lodging: Crystal Cove State Park is a perfect place for RV and tent campers alike. With over 140 campsites, you’ll never have to worry about making reservations or finding enough space!
Pets: Dogs are a big part of any family’s life and it is no different at Crystal Cove State Park. Dog owners can bring their canine friends to the park, but be mindful that there are some rules in place for those with dogs as well!
Things to do: Crystal Cove State Park is the perfect place to relax and enjoy time with your loved ones.
You can check out the beautiful cottages of Crystal Cove’s Historic District, rent a cottage on one of its sandy beaches, explore nature at Moro Canyon or tackle an adventurous hike around our park perimeter loop. Spend some quality nighttime under these stars in this California gem!
Entrance Fee: For just $15, visitors to Crystal Cove State Park can explore a haven of natural beauty with more than 2 miles of ocean shoreline and enjoy hiking trails that lead up into the park’s forested hills.
Opening Hour: The park is open from 6 am and closes at 10 pm so you don’t want to miss out on this amazing opportunity.
2. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Mountaintop views, deep forests, and the ocean’s crashing waves are all just a drive away from your resort at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The cool coastal climate of this California park ensures that redwoods can live to be 2,500-years old.
Stand on McWay Falls’ 80-foot cliff and watch as white water crashes into an endless blue horizon; or hike through ancient groves with giant sequoias for company.
Camping and Lodging: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is one of the hottest and most sought-after camping spots in California. This beautiful state park offers two designated campsites, but if you’re looking to explore more than just these sites, be warned that parking lots or highways will not allow for overnight stays.
Pets: Pets are not allowed in any park area unless they’re on a leash; your best bet would be parking lot C (which has paved spaces).
Things to do: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a spectacular destination for the whole family. You can enjoy an unparalleled view of McWay Falls, explore the rugged coastline on the Waterfall Overlook Hiking Trail, and scuba dive along with kelp forests with underwater rock outcroppings! Speaking of Partington Cove, there are plenty of hiking trails to challenge your ability – hike the Partington Canyon trail or walk among trees at Camp Among The Trees.
Entrance Fee: The entrance fee is $10.
Opening Hour: This world-famous park is open to the public between 8 am and sunset.
3. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
The Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a beautiful forest area that was originally inhabited by Native Americans before it became the home of redwood trees. Visitors to this California park can enjoy the scenic beauty of towering trees and learn about how these redwoods came to be.
It’s now preserved as one of California’s state parks and includes some stunning old-growth coast redwood forests, making for an excellent getaway from city life.
Camping and Lodging: Camping in the redwoods is a fantastic experience; 113 single-family campsites are set among an evergreen forest, near some dunes.
Pets: Dogs love camping! They are allowed in the picnic areas and campsites but should be kept on a leash at all times. Dogs may also accompany you on trails as long as they’re leashed up when not near your side.
Things to do: The Henry Cowell Redwood State Park is a beautiful place to camp, swim, and hike. The park also offers many scenic picnic spots for visitors to enjoy nature in the middle of an urban setting.
Entrance Fee: The Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park entrance fee is $10.
Opening Hour: Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is open from sunrise until sunset, so be prepared with your gear before you head out!
4. Emerald Bay State Park
Emerald Bay State Park is a state park of California in the United States, centered on Lake Tahoe’s Emerald Bay. A National Natural Landmark and home to Vikingsholm (a 38-room mansion considered one of finest examples of Scandinavian architecture) this area has plenty for you to enjoy whether it be hiking through steep terrain or simply lounging around lakeside with your family.
Camping and Lodging: Emerald Bay State Park is a campground for all who love the outdoors. It includes 2 campsites: Boat-In Camp, which can only be reached by boat or foot; and Eagle Point Campground where you can take your pick of camping in anything from tents to RVs with hookups.
Pets: Emerald Bay State Park Dogs are not allowed on any trails or roads into Emerald Bay nor the beach.
Things to do: Emerald Bay is a majestic location with many attractions to explore. Vikingsholm Castle, Emerald Beach, and Fannette Island are just some of the beautiful things that visitors can enjoy on their visit. Visitors may also want to hike one of our well-marked trails or take in views from Inspiration Point (Emerald Bay).
Entrance Fee: The entrance fee to this park is only $10, but the scenery makes it worth a million bucks.
Opening Hour: The gates open at 7 am and stay that way until the sunsets.
5. Castle Crags State Park
You can see the dramatic rock formation, Castle Crags in Northern California. The tallest point reaches 6,500 feet tall and is nearly 2 miles wide from east to west at its widest points. With elevations ranging from 2000 ft near the Sacramento River’s base of the crags up to 6000ft on top!
It the highest peak rises over 4000 feet above sea level with remarkable views for every step you take through this rugged terrain including some historic mining structures dated back as far as 1877 that are still accessible today for a little bit more adventure instead of just viewing it all passively
Camping and Lodging: Castle Crags State Park is a camping destination for any type of camper. Visitors can enjoy year-round use, subject to closure during severe winter weather conditions! The park has 76 developed campsites that are equipped with picnic tables and fire rings only a step away from the amenities area where you’ll find flush toilets and showers available near each site.
Pets: Dogs are not allowed on most trails within Castle Crags State Park, but they can be off-leash in designated areas. Dogs must also stay leashed and supervised at all times when outside the campsites or the picnic area of this park that is known for its redwood forest.
Things to do: Castle Crags State Park is a spectacular place to enjoy the outdoors. Visit Castle Crags Hiking Trails for breath-taking views of natural beauty, Trout Fishing in beautiful Lake Siskiyou, or Geocaching at one of 8 different locations around the park! The climbing on Castle Rock offers high-quality routes and great views from up top.
Entrance Fee: Castle Crags State Park is a hidden gem in the north of California, its entrance fee is only $25 per night! the entrance fee is $25
Opening Hour: Castle Crags State Park is open for 24 hours, but certain areas close at night. Those visiting the park should be aware of this and plan accordingly to make sure they can see all their favorite attractions!
6. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a California desert with incredible features. It takes its name from 18th-century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and Borrego, the word for sheep in Spanish.
The park ranges over 464 square miles of land that has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park by NASA and measures 120 feet below sea level at its lowest point!
Camping and Lodging: The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a great place for camping and lodging. You’re allowed to camp anywhere in the park, but you’ll need to follow some basic rules: set up your campsite 100 yards away from any water sources; ground fires are not permitted so bring something metal with which you can start one (and pack out all of the ashes); only cook food over an open fire if there’s no wind whipping through it.
The state has designated areas where people may collect certain types of rocks as long as they do not disturb wildlife or plant life.
Pets: Pets are not allowed on the trails or in any wilderness area, but they can roam freely through the park as long as their leash is 6 feet and it’s a road. Pets must be 100 feet away from all water sources so that animals like otters don’t get disturbed by your pet.
Things to do: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a desert wonderland with an endless array of things to do. Take in the beauty at Font’s Point and watch as the sun sets over Palm Canyon Trail while you sit on its banks, or explore one of many scenic trails that lead into this vast natural paradise from which there are no boundaries. Walk among wildflowers during springtime and find yourself face-to-face with wildlife such as bighorn sheep, coyotes, bobcats, rabbits – even rattlesnakes!
Entrance Fee: The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a great place to visit if you’re looking to escape city life. If you plan on driving through, there’s no entrance fee. ut be sure not to miss out on any of the popular areas because they do have day passes ranging from $5-$8 depending on whereat!
Opening Hour: The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is open 24 hours a day. This desert environment has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Southern California for about seventy years and it’s not hard to see why!
7. Empire Mine State Historic Park
The Empire Mine State Historic Park is a state-protected mine and park in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The land alone was worth about $3 million, but when you factor in all of its assets like minerals, buildings, equipment, etc., it’s valued at around $120 million!
It has been called one of California’s most historic mines because it played an important role during World War II due to lead that could be extracted from there. When visitors come here they can take tours through this 3-mile long complex full of rich history or enjoy walking on their own among this beautiful scenery without having to worry about getting lost.
Camping and Lodging: Empire Mine State Historic Park is a great place for camping but there are no campsites allowed in the park itself. That being said, you can find many beautiful and secluded sites near Empire Mines Skatepark that would be perfect to set up your tent or pop open some beers around the campfire with friends on a cool summer night.
Pets: Dogs are now allowed on all roads and trails, as well as in the visitor center of Empire Mine State Historic Park. However, they may not be brought inside any historic buildings or into mine shafts.
They can roam free at California’s Empire Mine State Historic Park!
Things to do: It’s not just about mining in Empire Mine State Historic Park. This historic state park offers many tours and activities for a better understanding of the mine, including: “My Yard Tours, Garden Tours,” or even an estate tour! One really cool activity offered is called the “Garden Tour”.
Entrance Fee: Fees to enter Empire Mine State Historic Park are $7 for adults; daily tours of the Bourn Cottage and my yard are included, Cottage Living History (summer) is $2 per person.
Opening Hour: The Empire Mine State Historic Park is a fantastic place to visit. The grounds are open from 10 am-5 pm, but the mine itself closes at 4:30 pm. You can explore several different mining features on your trips such as an ore bin and an old miner’s shack!
8. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is a state park of California, United States, preserving old-growth redwood trees. These ancient and iconic trees were first discovered by Jedidiah Smith in 1827 after he followed the river as it flowed towards this location around 9 miles from Crescent City where they then became known to many people all across America.
Camping and Lodging: The park has four cabins that are accessible to everyone and offer an escape into nature for anyone looking to disconnect from society.
It was founded as a way of preserving redwood trees by showcasing them for visitors around the country but also giving people who need time away from their busy lives some peace within its borders too! The 4 rental cabins available in this area include 2 ADA-compliant dwellings so no one is left out when visiting these tranquil woods where you can experience two types of unspoiled natural beauty: lush vegetation or towering tree life like nowhere else on Earth.
Pets: The Redwoods in Jedediah Smith Park are amazing. You can take your pet on Cal Barrel Road and other scenic routes, but not on any trails.
Things to do: If you’re looking for a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is your destination. You’ll find plenty of hiking trails throughout Stout Grove as well as unrestricted fishing access that will surely please any angler’s appetite. And if there are things, in particular, you want to do while visiting the park, don’t forget about all those other wonderful areas this state has on offer like Lady Bird Johnson Grove and Fern Canyon!
Entrance Fee: There are no fees to enter the park, walk, or hike and there’s only an overnight camping fee for those looking for a more adventurous experience in the woods.
Opening Hour: Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm, but closes at 4 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
9. Morro Bay State Park
Morro Bay State Park is a haven for birdwatchers with over 220 species of birds. The park’s saltwater and brackish marshes are home to many types of waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls, terns, and other aquatic lifeforms while the lagoon on its northeastern edge also offers excellent fishing opportunities.
Morro Bay State Park in San Luis Obispo County has both salty marine marshlands as well as freshwater lagoons that make it an ideal place for watching animals like seagulls or viewing fish from dockside observation decks.
Camping and Lodging: Morro Bay State Park Campground isn’t your average campground. It has 120 campsites and amenities galore, from standard sites to hook-up ones.
Pets: Dogs are allowed on the beach at Morro Bay State Park for roughly a mile, but must turn back before entering an area where nesting shorebirds live. Certain areas of this coastal park have been designated off-limits to protect wildlife from humans and dogs alike.
Things to do: Morro Bay State Park has everything you could imagine for an outdoor adventure. Hiking, biking, birdwatching, and fishing are some activities to enjoy in the park on a sunny day while kayaking or sailing offer more opportunities when it’s raining.
Entrance Fee: It has three entrances with over 400 campsites available along the coastline. The fees are reasonable as well; it will cost $35 a night if they have standard sites and $50 a night at hook-up sites that offer water on site (plus electricity).
Opening Hour: The Morro Bay State Park is 24 hours and opens every single day of the year for your enjoyment.
10. McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is a beautiful, scenic state park in Northern California. Take a break from your day to hike up the rolling hills or fish at one of its pristine lakes for some peace with nature’s beauty all around you!
Camping and Lodging: McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park has camping and lodging for visitors that are not interested in tent camping. Visitors can rent one of the 24 cabins available, each within walking distance from attractions such as swimming pools, hiking trails, waterfalls, and picnic areas.
Pets: Dogs are not allowed in buildings, on trails, or by the beach. Dogs must be confined to a vehicle or tent at night and cannot be left unattended during day hours as well!
Things to do: The McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is a scenic place to go fishing. Visitors can catch rainbow, brown, and brook trout in Burney Creek or bass, bluegill crappie catfish carp squaw fish sunfish perch nearby Lake Britton. The best time of year for freshwater fishing opens on the last Saturday in April and closes by mid-November!
Entrance Fee: The McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park has been a public space for over 120 years. Recently, the entrance fee was raised to $10 per vehicle as of 2020 to help maintain and continue improvements on this beloved state park.
Opening Hour: McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park presents a beautiful and awe-inspiring waterfall. This state park is open for visitors from 8 am to 5 pm, all day long.
11. Mendocino Headlands State Park
The Mendocino Headlands State Park is a California state park that consists of 347 acres within the town of Mendocino. The area includes two beaches as well as an eight-mile stretch along both banks of the Big River, and it’s all surrounded by undeveloped seaside bluffs and islets.
Camping and Lodging: In Mendocino, there are no facilities for camping. Visitors can only be day users and the Historic Ford House is a museum located on Main Street in Mendocino that serves as the visitors center of its state park.
Pets: Mendocino Headlands State Park is an extremely dog-friendly park, allowing dogs on the trails. There’s one access trail that leads to Portuguese Beach where dogs are allowed too! Point Beach has local names such as “dog beach”, and it can get busy so be sure your pooch gets along with other pups if they’re around or you might have a problem.
Things to do: Mendocino Headlands State Park is the number one attraction to visit in Mendocino. The top things to do include: visiting a lighthouse, hiking through redwoods and along dramatic cliffs, enjoying wildlife including harbor seals, gray whales, and sea lions at nearby beaches, and stopping by Russian Gulch for some coastal views.
Entrance Fee: The Mendocino Headlands State Park is free but a suggested donation of $2 per person or $5 for a family, will be appreciated.
Opening Hour: Mendocino Headlands State Park is open year-round. The hours are: 11 am – 4 pm
12. Bodie State Historic Park
Bodie State Historic Park, a former gold-mining community turned ghost town in the high desert of Mono County CA. The park has daily tours and displays artifacts like stamp mills from when it was an active mining site before being abandoned by its residents.
Camping and Lodging: There is no camping at Bodie State Historic Park. The park preserves the history of a mining town and encompasses 2,000 acres in California’s Gold Country.
Pets: If you’re looking for a place to bring your furry friend while visiting Bridgeport, Bodie State Historic Park is the perfect spot. The park offers more than one mile of trails that are suitable for dogs and their humans alike!
Things to do: If you want to check out other old mining camps near Bodie, there are Aurora, Masonic, Lundy, and Hector Station. These sites aren’t maintained anymore but it is possible to visit them via a 4WD vehicle.
Mono Lake offers interesting tufa formations as well as volcanic cinder cones that can be seen from the shoreline drive along U.S Route 395 in Lee Vining or through Yosemite National Park if Tioga Pass Road isn’t covered by snow; however, Mammoth Mountain and Devil’s Postpile National Monument offer skiing during winter months while enjoying some great food at Whoa Nellie Deli & Grill before heading on your way back home again!
Entrance Fee: At Bodie State Historic Park, the entrance fee is $8 for adults and $5 for children. Children under 3 are free; this state park has so much to offer visitors that it’s worth checking out!
Opening Hour: If you are planning a visit during the summer, be sure to stop by between 9 am and 6 pm. It will close at 4 pm if it is wintertime.
13. Salt Point State Park
Salt Point State Park is a state park in Sonoma County, California. It covers 6,000 acres of land on the coastline with 20 miles of hiking trails and over six miles along a rocky coastline that reaches out into the Pacific Ocean where Salt Point protrudes from it all.
Camping and Lodging: Salt Point State Park is currently offering advanced reservations for campsites and lodging. The available options are six months in advance from the current date, or up to seven days before the arrival date – based on availability and maximum stay rules.
Pets: If you’re bringing your dog to Salt Point State Park, they must be kept on a leash at all times. They are not allowed on the trails or beaches and have to stay inside tents or cars during nighttime hours.
Things to do: Salt Point State Park offers 20 miles of hiking trails, a six-mile stretch of rugged coastline, and an underwater park. Visitors can enjoy picnicking, horseback riding fishing skin & SCUBA diving camping in the state park
Entrance Fee: Salt Point State Park charges $8 a day for vehicles entering the park. However, no permit is required to hike Salt Point Trail.
Opening Hour: Salt Point State Park is open from 8 am to 10 pm.
14. Grover Hot Springs State Park
Grover Hot Springs State Park contains a natural hot springs complex. The park has beautiful views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and features many amenities, including hiking trails, camping areas, picnic tables with grills as well as swimming pools fed by the naturally occurring spring water.
Camping and Lodging: The Grover Hot Springs State Park camping experience is a great way to get out and enjoy nature. The campground has 76 family suites, which are typically available from mid-May through the end of September on a reservation system.
Pets: This state park is a wonderful place to bring your dog. They are allowed on leash in the campground and certain developed areas of the park, but they must be kept away from swimming facilities like pools.
Things to do: Grover Hot Springs State Park is a wonderful place to camp, with many amenities like picnic areas and fishing. There are different trails for biking or hiking. If you bring your kids, it will be an easy adventure for them!
Entrance Fee: At Grover Hot Springs State Park, the campsite entrance fee for adults is $10 and $5 for anyone under 16.
Opening Hour: At Grover Hot Springs State Park is open from sunrise to sunset, enjoy camping in a quiet and serene environment. Camping hours are 10 pm to 6 am so that everyone can sleep through the night without disturbance of any kind.
15. Hearst San Simeon State Park
The 3,409-acre Hearst San Simeon State Park is a state park of California that was first established in 1932. It lies between Cambria and San Simeon along the Pacific coast where it preserves rocky coasts as well as rare habitats like dunes and native grasslands.
Camping and Lodging: Hearst San Simeon State Park has two campgrounds – it’s a good place to stay if you can’t decide between the options. One is at San Simeon Creek Campground and Washburn Primitive Camp Ground, which are both great spots for travelers who love nature but don’t want to be too far from civilization.
Pets: Home to many beautiful trails, Hearst San Simeon State Park is a great place for people who love hiking with their pets.
Things to do: To make a visit to Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument more interesting, consider visiting the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve and
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. Also in this area is William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach and Point Piedras Blancas Beach. Another attraction to check out while you’re here are the remains of an old pier that juts into crashing waves at Jade Cove Sand Dollar Beach; don’t forget about relaxing with friends by taking advantage of a showing at one of its theaters either!
Entrance Fee: The Hearst San Simeon State Park offers camping for $35 per night, hiking and biking are $5 a person.
Opening Hour: Hearst San Simeon State Park opens at 8 am and closes its doors to the public by 10 pm.
You might be thinking of visiting California for the first time. Here are some reasons why you should! There’s so much to do in this state, from hiking mountains and swimming along its coastlines to tasting fresh produce at a farmer’s market or driving through vineyards. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for fun, adventure, beauty, history there’s something waiting just for you here in California.