Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Where can I use my pass for day-use entry?
For the annual passes like the California Explorer and Golden Poppy, the list of locations that you can use the pass for day use is included in the terms and conditions document. For the discount passes (Disabled Discount, Distinguished Veteran, Golden Bear and Limited Use Golden Bear), the day use acceptance list is posted as a separate file.
We now have a map that will show you the known locations where all the passes are accepted for day use.
You can locate these resources by visiting the specific webpage for the pass that you are inquiring about.
What is the difference between a county park, state park, and a national park? Why do they all have different passes?
California is home to some of the most amazing natural and cultural landscapes in the nation. There are a wide variety of different parks operated by various agencies. Simply, county parks are operated by local counties, state parks by the state of California, and national parks by the federal government. Each agency has their own pass program since policies, guidelines and operations are unique.
Is there a pass that is accepted by all the county, state and national parks?
There is no pass that grants access to all the parks in California.
Does State Parks charge a per person entrance fee at its parks in addition to the vehicle day use fees?
State Parks does not charge an additional per person entrance fee for its parks that charge a vehicle day use fee. However, this does not apply to any museums that charge per person admission fees or private events that may be held at the state parks.
Do I have to pay a fee if I walk or ride my bicycle into a state park that charges a vehicle day use fee?
No. There are no fees associated with walking or biking into a California state park.
Why isn’t my annual or discount pass accepted at locally operated state parks?
Although state parks operates a majority of its state parks, there are selected state parks that are operated by a third party. State parks operated by a third party have the discretion to accept or not accept discounted and annual passes. Check your respective pass acceptance list, posted on the pass webpage, to see where your pass will be accepted, or call the park ahead of your visit.
Do passes include boat use fees?
Only the Distinguished Veteran pass includes boat use fess. The Disabled Discount pass entitles the bearer to a discount on boat use fees.
No other pass includes boat launch fees, but boat users can purchase a Boat Use Annual Pass for $100. Visit the Boat Use Annual Pass webpage for more information on the pass and which watercraft are subject to boat use fees.
Do I need a Boat Use Annual Pass for my kayak or any other non-motorized vessel to boat within the State Park System?
A boat sticker is not needed for non-motorized or motorized watercraft less than 8ft in length.
Are there special rules for oversized vehicles, such as an RV?
Yes. In the high-demand units of southern California, State Parks must charge fees according to the space you occupy. If your recreational vehicle occupies two spaces, the department offers an oversized vehicle sticker for an additional $75.
This fee is designed to recover revenue lost when an oversized vehicle uses more than one space that could have been filled by an additional paying vehicle. The fee will also deter large vehicle owners from expanding their recreational vehicles (RV) in a parking area, limiting space for other paying visitors. If the vehicle’s traveling length and width extend beyond two spaces, additional stickers may be purchased to cover the number of spaces occupied by the vehicle. Additional stickers cannot be purchased to accommodate a vehicle’s extended size. Stickers may only be used to cover the traveling size. Extending a shade canopy or additional equipment into adjoining spaces beyond traveling size will require a day use fee for each additional space used.
How do I show proof of having a pass if there are only self-pay kiosks (iron rangers or automated parking machines) present?
Please see the breakdown below:
- Hangtag Passes: Clearly display the pass on your vehicle’s rear-view mirror or on the dashboard where it is visible through the windshield.
- Wallet Card and Paper Passes: Clearly display the pass and self-payment receipt [if applicable] on your vehicle’s dashboard where it is visible through the windshield.
- Adventure Passes: Clearly display the printed PDF of your pass on your vehicle’s dashboard.
What can I do if I do not want to leave my pass on my dashboard?
If there is an open kiosk at the park, please see a staff member and show them your annual or discounted pass. They will be able to print you a day use receipt that you can display. If there are only self-pay stations, please fill out one of the self-pay envelopes and include your pass information on the envelope. Place the envelope in the “iron ranger” box and attach the receipt to your motorcycle. Always bring your pass with you and have it ready if asked to present it.
Does State Parks donate annual passes to qualifying nonprofits/fundraisers?
Unfortunately, as a state agency we are unable to assist with this type of request because the donation of passes can be considered a gifting of state funds.
When does my pass expire?
Hangtag passes such as the California Explorer or Tahoe Regional are valid for 12 months from the month of purchase. For example, if you purchase a pass in January 2023, the pass will be valid until the last day of January 2024.
The California State Park Adventure Pass is valid from September through August of the student’s fourth-grade year.
The Golden Bear Pass and Limited Use Golden Bear Pass are both valid for a calendar year.
Other passes such as the Distinguished Veteran Pass or Disabled Discount Pass are lifetime passes but require periodic renewal.
Any extensions will be posted on the Pass Renewal & Extension Information webpage. Please review the terms and conditions for the respective pass for complete details.
Do you offer discounts passes for active military, first responders, or state employees?
At this time, we do not offer discounts on annual or discount passes for active military, first responders, or state employees.?
Military veterans may qualify for the Distinguished Veteran Pass. More information on the criteria and application process is available on the Distinguished Veteran Pass webpage. U.S. veterans, as well as active and reserve personnel, have free day use entry to many California State Parks on Veteran’s Day.
I am not a resident of California. Can I get a pass?
California State Park passes are available to everyone, except for the Distinguished Veteran Pass. You must be a California resident in order to receive a Distinguished Veteran pass.
My pass is completely faded/damaged from the sun, how do I receive a replacement?
If it is a Golden Bear, Limited Use Golden Bear, Disabled Discount or Distinguished Veteran pass, please email us at ParkPassInfo@parks.ca.gov so that we may provide you with instructions.
If it is an annual pass, such as the California Explorer or Golden Poppy, we cannot issue a replacement pass. A new pass must be purchased.
Discount Pass Questions
Do I have to renew my Disabled Discount Pass or Distinguished Veteran Pass?
In 2022, California State Parks implemented a one-time extension of the validity period of the Disabled Discount and Distinguished Veteran passes. The validity of these passes was extended by five years. Current pass holders should retain their pass. The pass will be renewed within the Reserve California System without the need for pass replacement. For more details, visit the Pass Renewal & Extension Information webpage.
Despite being a “lifetime” pass, California State Parks requires a renewal to ensure the integrity of the pass. The process enables us to take un-used passes out of circulation and to implement new pass designs.
It is important for the pass holder to notify the Park Pass Sales Office at ParkPassInfo@parks.ca.gov of any change of name, address, e-mail address, or telephone number to ensure that their account is up-to-date for proper reservation making.
Do I have to renew my Golden Bear Pass or Limited Use Golden Bear Pass?
The Golden Bear and Limited Use Golden Bear passes are valid for a calendar year. The renewal is completed through the application process, which typically starts in October of the year prior (e.g. 2024 pass applications are posted and accepted starting in October 2023). This can be done in consecutive years, just once, or any other interval.
The exception is passes issued in 2022. These received a one-time, one-year extension to December 31, 2023. For more details, visit the Pass Renewal & Extension Information webpage.
I just moved, how do I update my address for my Disabled Discount Pass or Distinguished Veteran Pass?
Please email ParkPassInfo@parks.ca.gov your request for a change of address. Once you submit your new address to the Park Pass Office, the department can update your contact information.
I recently had a name change. How do I update my name on my Discounted Pass?
Please email ParkPassInfo@parks.ca.gov to request a name change.
I qualify for the Disabled Discount Pass and the Distinguished Veteran Pass. Can I apply for both passes?
Disabled Discount Passes and Distinguished Veteran Passes are both lifetime passes. At this time, a passholder can only hold one of these lifetimepass at a time.
Disabled Discount and Distinguished Veteran pass holders can obtain and use other California State Parks passes. For example, if a Disabled Discount passholder also qualifies for a Golden Bear pass, they may use their Golden Bear pass for free day use. Pass benefits are for the passholder only andcannot be compounded or transferred. Review the terms and conditions of both passes prior to purchasing, as refunds will not be issued.
How do I receive my discount for camping if I have a Disabled Discount Pass or a Distinguished Veteran Pass?
If you have the updated credit card styled pass, your profile on ReserveCalifornia.com has already been created for you. Just make sure to use the email you provided on your application as your username. If you have not set a password, please click the “Reset Password” button and a temporary password will be e-mailed to you. Once you log in you will receive the discount automatically when checking out. If you do not see the discount automatically being applied, please email the Park Pass Office at ParkPassInfo@parks.ca.gov.
My child has a permanent disability. Are they eligible for the Disabled Discount Pass?
Yes, minors can apply for the Disabled Discount Pass. If the child is under the age of 18 a parent/guardian must be listed on the application. A photo ID is still required. Visit the Disabled Discount Pass Application Requirements webpage for an example.
The Limited Use Golden Bear Pass asks for my spouse/registered domestic partner. Can their name be on the pass if my spouse/registered domestic partner is not 62 or older?
Yes, as long as the primary applicant is over the age of 62 then the spouse/registered domestic partner does not have to be 62 years or older.
Annual Pass Questions
Where are the Annual Passes available for purchase?
Annual passes are available for purchase via our online store and in-person at many locations throughout the State Parks System. They are also available for purchase at most District and Sector offices and many park units. Please call ahead for availability at the in-person locations.
Discount passes require an application and may be applied for online, by mail, or in person.
The list of locations and contact information is available on the Pass Sales Locations webpage.
I have a large quantity of annual passes I would like to purchase. Can I make bulk order?
Yes. Please email the California State Park Store forsupport email@example.com.
How do I purchase an annual pass as a gift?
Annual passes can be purchased as gifts online or in person at our designated pass sales locations. Since annual passes are not tied to an individual, passes can be purchased and then gifted. A full list is available online at parks.ca.gov/Passes and via the Online Park Pass Store (store.parks.ca.gov).
Passes with an application requirement, such as the Disabled Discount and Golden Bear, cannot be purchased as gifts.
Who can I contact if I purchased an annual pass online and have not received it?
Please contact the State Parks Online Store at (866) 417-2757.
The park I purchased my annual pass to visit is temporarily closed. Can I receive a refund for my pass?
Current departmental policy is that passes are not refundable due to “loss, theft or environmental conditions such as low water levels, fire, park closures or inclement weather.” For more information, please see the Terms & Conditions for your specific pass.
I purchased the wrong annual pass, am I able to upgrade my pass?
Yes, annual pass upgrades are available through the location form which they were purchased only. For online purchases, refer to the California State Parks Store website. For purchases made at a Park Pass Office, visit that location. For a list of office locations, please visit our Pass Sales Locations webpage.