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FAQs

Welcome to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, popularly known as California State Parks.

Our “Frequently Asked Questions” are here to help you find the information you need faster than you can email or call us with your questions. If you cannot find the answer to your question(s) below, please feel free to connect with us.

Thank you for loving California’s natural and cultural resources.

 


 

There are vehicle day-use fees to enter most parks. Fees vary by park. If the kiosk is not open, you may need to self-register using an envelope at an “iron ranger” station or an automatic payment machine. It is free to visit a state park if you walk or bike in. You can see a list of day use fees here.
California State Parks offers several annual and special pass options. Fees, passes and where they are accepted can be found here.
There are some parks that do not accept the “Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass”, primarily those operated for California State Parks by local governments, non-profits and private concessionaires who do not receive revenue from pass sales. The list of parks accepting annual passes and more information can be found here.

Reservations can be made online through ReserveCalifornia™ at www.ReserveCalifornia.com or (800) 444-PARK (7275). Camping and lodging inventory becomes available each day for a period of six months in advance.

If this is your first time making a reservation, please be advised that our parks are loved by many within and outside the state of California. Due to demand, reservations for popular locations such as coastal beaches and campgrounds or cabins in the redwoods can be booked months in advance. Plan, do your research, and have alternate parks in mind in case your first choice is booked. One alternative is to visit a fully booked park during the day, but have lodging elsewhere nearby.

Cancellations can be made via ReserveCalifornia online or calling the Customer Call Center at (800) 444-PARK (7275). Detailed information about the cancellation policy can be found here.

In general, dogs are not allowed on trails or beaches with a few exceptions. Dogs must always be on a six-foot leash. For more information by district and park, click here.

Service dogs, as defined by the Americans with Disability Act, are allowed throughout our parks. For more information on service dogs in state parks read our brochure and our webpage.

Yes, but a permit is required even for a small group. Each park or region has an event/permit coordinator. To obtain contact information please email us at info@parks.ca.gov. You can read additional information here.
Yes, with a permit issued by the district superintendent of the park you wish to scatter remains. Please email us your request at info@parks.ca.gov with the name of the park.
Providing our visitors with a pleasant outdoor experience is a priority to us. Should you encounter any issues or would like to share your positive experience with us, please email us at info@parks.ca.gov. Any maintenance or safety problems can also be submitted to this email address.
California State Parks takes complaints seriously regarding employees. If you wish to file a formal complaint, please contact the park or district where the incident occurred. A superintendent will provide you with a complaint form along with instructions for completing the form and filing the complaint. A list of park districts and contact information can be found here. You can also contact State Parks at info@parks.ca.gov and we will direct your complaint to the appropriate superintendent. (Please include park location.)
Yosemite is a national park and not part of the California’s state park system. For more information on national parks in California, please visit here.
California State Parks does not accept the America the Beautiful pass, nor do any other states or local parks. This pass provides entry to federal government lands only including National Parks, U.S. Forest and Bureau of Land Management areas.

California is the second largest park system in the world with 280 units and the largest state park system in the United States. Off-highway motor vehicle recreation, boating activities, horseback riding, on and off-road cycling, hiking, camping, rock climbing, tours, school group enrichment and special events are just some of the activities enjoyed in our parks and through the recreational programs supported by California State Parks.

For more facts, such as where you can find the tallest tree in the world or the oldest continuously used Chinese Temple in California, click here.

  • For reservation sites, plan ahead.
  • Determine where you want to camp and be flexible.
  • Consider non-reservation sites, less busy days and less popular camps.
  • Remember the holiday rush. The closer you make a reservation to a holiday (Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Labor Day), the further north and inland you may need to go.
  • Consider cancellations. Check periodically online for cancellations or contact our Customer Call Center at (800) 444-PARK (7275). While cancellations are rare and no waiting lists are available at the moment, cancellations do occur.
  • Consider visiting the park for a day.
  • Visit us in April, May, September and October. This is considered our “Shoulder Season”. It is a good time to enjoy California’s state parks as the weather during these months is usually good.
  • Please leave the campsite in good condition. The camper who follows you will appreciate it. Remember to pack it in, pack it out.

Detailed information on these tips can be found here.

All parks offer firewood for sale with proceeds benefitting the local park. Some parks are in quarantined regions and are required to ban the import of firewood to prevent against the spread of tree disease and pests. For more information, click here.
Campfires are usually allowed in provided fire rings at each campsite. Occasionally, during extreme fire conditions, open fires may be banned on short notice. Call the park ahead or check the park website at “Visit a Park” for information about fire bans during peak fire season.
Rules vary by beach. In some areas, environmental or safety concerns preclude beach barbecues or gas stoves. It is best to check ahead with the state beach you wish to visit. You can findcontact information for individual parks at "Visit a Park".

California State Parks strives to make its parks as accessible as possible and is in the process of a multi-year project to upgrade facilities to meet Americans with Disability Act requirements. In other locations, state parks provides accessibility with specialized equipment such as a beach chairs. For information about accessibility in parks, click here. For additional questionsemail access@parks.ca.govor call (916) 445-8949.

In general, no. California State Parks is mandated to protect natural and cultural resources in the 280 state parks. The California Code of Regulations prohibits the removal of these items from parks with a few exceptions granted by permit from the district superintendent. These include gathering samples for scientific research, Native American traditional cultural activities, small amounts of driftwood, and hands and pans for gold mining only. Contact the park or district for information on permits for these activities here. (Pertinent State Regulations – 4301, 4306, 4307.)

Drones are technically allowed in state parks, state beaches, state historic parks, state recreational areas and state vehicular recreation areas except where prohibited by a district superintendent’s posted order. However, most districts have posted orders banning drones as California State Parks works on a statewide policy. Superintendents can grant waivers from posted orders for scientific and academic research, media and other purposes. For more information about drone use, click here.

Possibly yes. The carrying and possession of firearms in California’s state parks is generally prohibited, and is only allowed per Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Section 4313.

Exceptions to this regulation are granted in the California Penal Code Section 25900 pertaining to law enforcement and retired law enforcement personnel, and PC Section 26010 for citizens with Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) permits. However, any restrictions placed on the CCW by the issuing agency would also be applicable in California’s state parks. For example, if the CCW is only valid in the CCW holder’s city of residence or county, it would not be valid in a state park unit located outside the city or county of the holder. Some CCWs also prohibit carrying in “parks” and this would include state park lands, if that is the case.

Natural scenery, plants and animal life are the principal attractions of most state parks. They are integral parts of the ecosystem and natural community. As such they are protected by federal, state and park laws. Disturbance or destruction of these resources is strictly forbidden.

Fires are permitted only in facilities provided for this purpose. This is necessary to prevent disastrous fires. Portable stoves may be used in designated areas. It is the responsibility of every visitor to use extreme caution with any burning materials, including tobacco. All fireworks are prohibited.

Noise from engine driven and/or electric sources, which can disturb others, may be operated only between the hours 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. within state park units. Loud disturbing noise is prohibited at all times, as well as disturbing visitors who are asleep between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

For more key rules and regulations to protect our parks and visitors, click here.

California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Divisions 3 and 4. For more information, click here.

Public Resources Code Division 5, Section 5001-5873. For more information, click here.

California State Parks is working to provide guidance to our park managers on how to enforce electric bicycles at our 280 park units across the state. Each park is unique so a statewide policy on e-bikes is not feasible. Currently, trails in the state park system are open to pedestrians only unless otherwise designated by the park’s superintendent for equestrian or cycling. This would be on a trail by trail basis, which we understand can be confusing to visitors. We are working to provide more specific guidelines that will provide the public access, where feasible, to our bike trails but at the same time, protect California’s beautiful, iconic landscapes.

Permits are required to film, video or photograph for any commercial or potential commercial purpose in a state park. The initial permit is with the California Film Commission, which can be handled online on the Commission's website.Commission staff will then help you coordinate with local state park staff for a second permit issued by the park. There may be fees to recover costs to state parks. For more information, please click here.

Below you will find various ways you can connect with us:

Headquarters
info@parks.ca.gov   |   (800) 777-0369   |   TTY Relay Service: 711
1416 9th Street, Sacramento (95814) or P.O. Box 942896, Sacramento (94296) 

Newsroom
www.parks.ca.gov/newsroom

Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW)
pubinfo@parks.ca.gov   |   (888) 326-2822

For Aquatic Invasive Species inquiries, including the treatment of water hyacinth and Egeria densa, please contact AIS@parks.ca.gov 

Off-Highway Motor Vehicular Recreation Division (OHV)
ohvinfo@parks.ca.gov   |   (916) 324-4442

Office of Historic Preservation
calshpo.ohp@parks.ca.gov   |   (916) 445-7000

State Park Districts
District Office Contacts 

Commissions
www.parks.ca.gov/commissions

  • California Boating and Waterways Commission
  • California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission
  • California State Historical Resources Commission
  • California State Park and Recreation Commission

Small Business/DVBE Advocate
Website
P.O. Box 942896, Sacramento (94296-0001)

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