Activities including walking for pleasure, hiking, biking, jogging, and horseback riding are by far the most popular forms of recreation pursuits.  Whether for physical exercise, stress relief, personal challenge or competition, the chance to enjoy natural settings, as a transportation alternative, or simply to get from one place to another, trails are sought by Californians of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, interests and abilities.  Trails and trail facilities such as staging areas, comfort stations and interpretive signage are often the first recreation outlet provided in newly acquired lands.  Trails frequently offer opportunities to connect with other natural, cultural and recreation features and, just as frequently, provide a venue for interpretive and educational programs. Trails act as investments in land protection and resource preservation, channeling and controlling public access and recreation activities and thus mitigating their potential impacts to sensitive natural and cultural resources.  Trails often serve as a catalyst for involving individuals and groups as volunteers in building, maintaining, improving and providing public trails services.

Note:  these guidelines are current as of fiscal year 2024-25;  updates will be posted here when available.


In seeking potential project lands to be nominated for acquisition, the following characteristics should be considered:

1. State Parks is seeking additional trail opportunities within urban areas or within a short travel distance of highly populated urban areas, where large numbers of people, particularly under-served urban residents, will have the opportunity to readily participate in a trails-related recreation activity.

2. Preferred trail acquisition projects will accommodate as many types of trail uses and abilities as are possible; i.e., hiking, biking, equestrian, interpretive, water, disabled access, etc.

3. State Parks is seeking trail opportunities that offer the greatest degree of connectivity, those that:

a. Connect with population centers

b. Connect other public lands and recreation opportunities

c.   Connect with other statewide, regional and local trail corridors (particularly those described in the State Recreation Trails Plan,such as the Pacific Crest Trail or the California Coastal Trail) where it substantially completes a regional trail system.

d.  Connect to outstanding scenic, historic, natural or educational resources, or with other recreation attractions.

e.     Are accessible from  public transportation.

4. Preferred trails acquisition projects will include potential trail linkages or systems and supporting facilities; e.g., campgrounds, parking, access areas, staging areas, transit connections, etc., or those which can be readily developed to provide such facilities. 


A.     Priority will be given to proposed trail acquisitions within or near under-served urban areas. While an indicator of need may be the current levels of authorized or unauthorized recreation uses occurring on the proposed acquisition or on other nearby public or private lands, there also should be a demonstrated need for trail recreation based on demographics, recreation trends/patterns and population projections.

B.     Priority will be given to proposed trail acquisitions that extend trails within existing units of the State Park System.

C.    Priority will be given to candidate projects that offer the possibility of accommodating the widest variety of trail interests.

D.    Priority will be given to candidate projects that connect with other statewide and/or local trail corridors, and which stimulate the development of trail linkages and staging areas.

E.     Priority will be given to candidate acquisitions that incorporate existing trails and supporting facilities such as campgrounds, access points with parking, staging areas, transit connections, and the like.

F.     Priority will be given to trail corridors that link with other public lands and/or lands with outstanding scenic, historic, natural or interpretive/educational values.

G.    Priority will be given to candidate projects that offer the greatest probability of being funded from a non-state source, such as TEA, EEMP, RTP, LWCF or HCF.

H.    Priority will be given to suggested projects that offer the greatest probability of involvement by the public and interest groups to voluntarily develop, maintain and improve trails.