California Simplifies Annual Day Use Pass Program for CalWORKs Families

Gloria Sandoval
California State Parks

Scott Murray
California Dept. of Social Services

Pass Provides Free Access to 200+ State Parks

California State Parks and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) have made it easier for CalWORKs families to receive a free annual, vehicle day-use pass valid at 200+ state parks and beaches. Now, families receiving CalWORKs can complete the application on their smartphone in just minutes. By simplifying the application process, more Californians will have access to the outdoors, regardless of their zip code.

Four of every 10 Californians have no access to open space within walking distance of their home and six of every 10 Californians live in park-poor neighborhoods. The improvements to the Golden Bear Pass Program help advance the “Outdoor Access for All” initiative championed by Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and the recently launched “California Outdoors for All” initiative. This effort expands outdoor access to all Californians through focused investments in open space infrastructure, outdoor programming, and improvements to permit applications, with a priority to expanding access in underserved communities.

“Improving access to nature is a crucial public health tool to ensure Californians of all ages and backgrounds are healthy in mind and body,” said California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “Through the state’s renewed efforts to raise awareness of the Golden Bear Pass for eligible Californians, we are taking a significant step forward to advance equitable access to the great outdoors and California’s awe-inspiring and unparalleled state parks system.”

The Golden Bear Pass Program was created in 1977 and is being relaunched with the goal to directly notify approximately 300,000 families receiving CalWORKs about their eligibility and overall health benefits of spending time in the outdoors. The revamp of the program is part of a greater push by the Newsom Administration to innovate government to work better for the people including connecting Californians directly with state resources in an efficient and convenient way. The update to the program includes moving the application form online and removing the need for families receiving CalWORKs to compile documentation and mail the package, while also reducing the administrative burden on families to verify eligibility as CDSS will be assuming that role.

“California continues to invest in the health and wellbeing of families receiving CalWORKs through increases in grants, support through the Home Visiting Initiative, and targeted outreach efforts to connect families with critical tax benefits, such as the child tax credit,” said CDSS Director Kim Johnson. “The Golden Bear Pass is yet another resource for families receiving CalWORKs, providing free access to California’s rich and beautiful state parks. Spring and summer are upon us, and it’s my hope that families receiving CalWORKs are able to get out, explore, and enjoy all that our beautiful parks and beaches have to offer.”

The 2021/22 State Budget included initiatives to advance equitable access to state parks and open spaces for all Californians. A $9.1 million one-time General Fund investment was included in the budget to launch a state parks pilot to expand parks pass distribution, especially for youth in disadvantaged communities. The pilot includes a “California State Park Adventure” program that provides free day use passes for fourth graders and their families, a California State Library Pass, and the revamped Golden Bear Pass Program with CDSS. Under the library pass program, scheduled to launch in April, State Parks will be providing physical passes to every public library in the state for checkout by library patrons.

“Everyone deserves to have access to the benefits of spending time in the outdoors,” said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “With the support of the Newsom Administration and Legislature, disadvantaged communities and youth can now more easily create memories with family and friends, connect with their communities, be active, and support healthy emotional and physical well-being by visiting California’s State Park System for free. Welcome.”

The Golden Bear Pass is valid for vehicle day use at 200+ park units of the California State Park System operated by State Parks. It is not valid at units operated by federal and local government, private agencies or concessionaires. Also, the pass is not valid for per-person entry or tour fees (such as museums), boat use, camping, group use or sites, special events, additional/extra vehicle fees, sanitation disposal use or for supplemental fees.

For more information on the State Park Pass Programs, please visit CalWORKs families can find information on the Golden Bear Pass Program at

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California State Parks provides for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high quality outdoor recreation.