California offers free ways to enjoy its state parks

There are three new ways to explore the great outdoors for free.

California State Parks, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and the California Natural Resources Agency are reminding visitors about the opportunities:

  • Fourth graders can obtain a free California State Park Adventure Passto explore 19 select state parks for free for a full school year.
  • All Californians can check out a California State Parks Library Passby using their library cards to access more than 200 participating state park units.
  • Families receiving California Work Opportunity and Responsibility for Kids, individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income and income-eligible Californians 62 and over can apply for the Golden Bear Passwith their smartphone or other web-based device in just minutes and have access to more than 200 California state park units.

“California is home to more than 200 state parks, and it’s never been easier to visit them,” said California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot. “These easy-to-use programs give all Californians a chance to experience our world-renowned nature. Sign up for one of these programs or check out a park pass from your local library and discover a new state park this weekend!”

Below you will find short summaries of the three free park pass programs:

California State Park Adventure Pass
This is the second year of the three-year pilot program made possible by Assembly Bill 148, signed by Governor Newsom in July 2021. To date, more than 26,000 passes have been provided to families.

Championed by the First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, whose California for All Kids initiatives support children’s physical, mental and social-emotional well-being, the California State Park Adventure Pass Program expands the opportunity for fourth graders and their families to enjoy the benefits of connecting with nature, each other and their communities. The pass for this school year’s fourth graders is valid until August 31, 2023.

Obtaining a free pass online at ReserveCalifornia.com is simple. All that is needed is for a parent and/or guardian to provide a name, address, phone number and email address.

Individuals who do not have access to a smartphone, computer or printer, and/or do not have an email address, can still request a pass by visiting a State Parks Pass Sales Office – click here for a list of locations –  or by calling (800) 444-7275 (Spanish-speaking customer service available).

California State Park Library Pass
In partnership with the California State Library, State Parks launched the California State Park Library Pass in April 2022 with a total of 5,000 passes distributed to 1,184 public libraries across the state. As part of a three-year pilot program, each library jurisdiction received an average of at least four special day-use hangtags to circulate, allowing library cardholders to check out the pass for the allotted number of days allowed by the local library.

State Parks and the California State Library are excited to announce that an additional 28,000 park library passes are being distributed statewide to all public libraries, bringing the average number of passes available at each branch to 24. The Library Pass program is being expanded to also include the addition of tribal libraries throughout the state. The pass is valid for entry of one passenger vehicle with a capacity of up to nine people, or one highway-licensed motorcycle, at more than 200 participating state park units. The program also includes grant funds for public libraries to host programs and conduct outreach in their communities to promote the passes, state parks and the benefits of the outdoors.

“California’s libraries serve their communities in all kinds of ways besides providing the books Californians want to read,” said California State Librarian Greg Lucas. “They check out tools, DVDs, provide online learning you can access 24/7 – even homework tutoring. And now they’re helping open the window on California’s breathtaking state parks. Just one more great reason to visit your local library – in-person or online.”

Golden Bear Pass
State Parks and the California Department of Social Services made it easier for CalWORKs families to receive a free, annual vehicle day-use pass for use at more than 200 state parks and beaches.

“Outreach efforts to reach eligible recipients have proven successful, as more than one in 10 families receiving CalWORKs benefits have already received their Golden Bear Pass,” said California Department of Social Services Director Kim Johnson. “The Golden Bear Pass represents yet another resource for families receiving CalWORKs, building on other recent supports such as increased monthly grants and targeted outreach to connect families with critical tax benefits, such as the child tax credit.”

Created in 1977, the Golden Bear Pass Program was relaunched last spring with the goal to directly notify approximately 300,000 families receiving CalWORKs about their eligibility and the overall health benefit of spending time in the outdoors. To date, more than 35,000 Golden Bear Passes have been distributed since the relaunching of this program. Individuals participating in SSI and low-income adults 62 and over can apply for Golden Bear Passes via online ReserveCalifornia.com, mail, or in person. Additionally, all older adults 62 and over can apply for a Limited Use Golden Bear Pass, for off-season access.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to enjoy California’s State Park System,” said State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “Spending time in the outdoors is so important to our physical and mental well-being and State Parks is proud to receive the support from the Newsom Administration, Natural Resources Agency, our state legislators and state departments to make the outdoors more accessible to all Californians.”

For more information on all three State Park Pass programs, visit parks.ca.gov/OutdoorsForAll.