Ways to Explore California’s State Parks for Free

Explore the Great Outdoors with Your Free Pass Program

With much of the winter rain behind us, there’s no better time to explore the great outdoors. Whether you’re looking to hike to a pretty waterfall, do some backcountry camping, or take an Instagram-worthy selfie, you can be in nature at California state parks for free.

Three Ways to Explore the Great Outdoors for Free

California State Parks, California Natural Resources Agency, and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom are reminding nature lovers about how they can explore the great outdoors for free with a park pass program.

The Golden State is home to over 200 state parks, and the free pass programs make it easier to visit them. Visitors can experience California’s world-renowned nature with a California State Park Adventure Pass, a California State Parks Library Pass, or a Golden Bear Pass.

California State Park Adventure Pass

Fourth graders and their families can get a California State Park Adventure Pass to explore dozens of select state parks for an entire school year. This is the second year of a three-year pilot program, and over 26,000 passes have been given out since its inception in 2021.

The California State Park Adventure Pass Program allows students and their families to enjoy the benefits of connecting with each other and their communities through nature. A parent or guardian can obtain the pass online at ReserveCalifornia.com. This year’s free access is valid until August 31, 2023.

California State Park Library Pass

Individuals with a public library card can request a California State Parks Library Pass to access over 200 state parks. The program was launched in April 2022, and since then, 5,000 passes were distributed to over 1,000 libraries across the state.

The three-year pilot program provided each library branch with four day-use passes to hand out to library cardholders for an allotted number of days. This year, the California State Library and California State Parks announced an additional 28,000 park library passes will be distributed to local public and tribal libraries, bringing the number of passes to 24 at each branch. The pass allows one passenger car with a capacity of up to nine occupants or one motorcycle to enter the parks.

Golden Bear Pass

Those receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), California Work Opportunity and Responsibility for Kids (CalWORKs), or low-income individuals 62 and older can apply for a Golden Bear Pass to use at more than 200 state parks and beaches.

The Golden Bear Pass Program was first created in 1977 but was relaunched last year to educate families about the benefit of spending time outdoors. Since the relaunching of this program, over 35,000 Golden Bear Passes have been distributed.

Those receiving SSI and income-eligible adults 62 and older can apply in person, by mail, or online at ReserveCalifornia.com. In addition, all adults over 62 can apply for a Limited Use Golden Bear Pass to access the parks during the off-season.

Creating a California for All

California officials said these park pass programs aim to champion the right of all California residents to have free access to outdoor opportunities and enjoy the state’s historical, cultural, and natural resources. Prioritizing efforts to expand access to open space and natural amenities promotes Governor Gavin Newsom’s solid commitment to creating a “California for All.”

Visit California State Parks’ website for more information on the free State Park Pass programs.

Watch the YouTube video to learn more about how you can explore California state parks for free.

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Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

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