Lesser-known California state parks | Cal Parks

Lesser-known California state parks

Published: July 1, 2020

As Californians are being conscious about social distancing, California state parks remain open! We wanted to compile a list of less-visited state parks that may act as a place of solace during these difficult times. These parks have been hand-curated for solo or small-group exploration. Make sure if you travel with a group that you practice 6-foot social distancing. Please note the closure of indoor facilities including visitor centers, museums, and cafes. In addition, all campgrounds in the state park system are closed. For more information on closures, please check the Department of Parks and Recreations website.

Los Angeles Area

  • Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park

    • Located on the border between Los Angeles and Ventura counties, this 680-acre park has plenty of opportunities for activity. The park offers 360 degree views of the Los Angeles valley. The park also features many historic Chumash sites, including grinding basins and camp sites.

Bay Area

  • Tomales Bay State Park

    • Located in northwestern Marin County, Tomales Bay State Park offers foggy, peaceful mornings and breathtaking views of the California coast. Oyster farming and dairies have long been a staple of life in this region, and you can easily view the picturesque landscapes and lose yourself as you drive to the north end of the park.

  • McLaughlin Eastshore State Park

    • Truly an oasis in an urban environment, McLaughlin Eastshore State Park is located on the west side of the I-80 freeway which connects the East Bay cities of Emeryville, Oakland, Berkeley, and Albany. Miles of running trails allow you to see spectacular views of San Francisco.

Central Valley

  • Caswell Memorial State Park

    • This 250-acre state park in the San Joaquin Valley protects riparian woodland and was donated by the children of the landowner Thomas Caswell in 1950. The Stanislaus river runs through the park and was a significant place for the Yokut tribe to collect nuts and berries.


  • Wassama Round House State Historic Park

    • This park is still an active meeting place for Native Americans and includes a visual and oral history of their traditions. Most of the gatherings themselves are closed to the general public, but once a year Indian Gathering Day takes place, and anyone interested can witness cultural celebrations.

North Coast

  • Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park

    • 20 miles south of Eureka lies this small state park, less trafficked than the other better-known redwood state parks. Don’t discount it, however, as Grizzly Creek Redwoods was used as a filming location in Return of the Jedi.


  • Sinkyone Wilderness State Park

    • In northern Mendocino County, you can find this hidden gem of a beach near the remote settlement of Leggett. The Sinkyone Indians once called this place home, and used the nearby river to fish salmon and other animals.

Santa Cruz/Monterey

  • Butano State Park

    • This incredible redwood park is located near the community of Pescadero and features extensive hiking trails. Notably, this park features patches of old-growth redwoods. Another plus is that this park is located very close to Año Nuevo State Park and Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, so knock a few off your list!

  • Zmudowski State Beach

    • Just north of Moss Landing is the secluded Zmudowski State Beach. Coastal upwelling here leads to an incredible array of fish. Surfing, fishing, and kayaking are all popular at this park.

San Diego

  • Border Field State Park

    • As the name would suggest, this park is parallel to the U.S.-Mexico border and features the Friendship Park, where until 1994 Americans and Mexicans could converse under supervision. Swimming is not recommended at the park due to the hazardous ocean conditions in the Tijauana estuary.

Inland Empire

  • California Citrus State Historic Park

    • Although the visitor’s center and museum are not currently open, the trails remain available for the public. The park itself is a monument to the southern California citrus industry, which defined the region for many years and brought many immigrants to work the fields and other support businesses.


San Luis Obispo

  • Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve

    • Established in 1972, this reserve protects centuries-old coast live oaks. Originally, the region was home to the Chumash and Salinan tribes, who named it Los Osos for the grizzly bears that once roamed the area.


  • Plumas-Eureka State Park

    • This large state park boasts extensive wildlife viewing opportunities and protects historical pieces from California’s Gold Rush history. When fully functional, the park docents dress in period attire and recall oral histories of the era. Trout fishing and hiking are popular at this park.


  • Kruse-Rhododendron State Natural Reserve

    • North of Jenner, this incredible state park contains thousands of Rhododendrons which have sprouted up after a historical fire. Visit in May to see the spectacular bloom which dot the forest with color.

When you are exploring these lesser known parks, be sure to share your adventure with us @calparks on Instagram and Twitter, and facebook.com/calparks.