Here Are 3 Easy Ways to Gain Free Access to California State Parks
California State Parks is reminding visitors about three new ways to explore the great outdoors for free. With the California State Park Adventure Pass, the California State Parks Library Pass, and the Golden Bear Pass, residents can find plenty of free ways to gain access to the great outdoors in the state.
“Spending time outside can be tremendously beneficial to a person’s mood, stress levels, and overall well-being,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “The Adventure Pass, Library Parks Pass, and Golden Bear Pass give Californians increased access to our beautiful state parks and all of the benefits that come with time spent in nature. I encourage families to take advantage of these resources and make time – when they’re able – to get outside and connect with each other and the great outdoors.”
The State of California champions the right of all Californians to have access to recreational opportunities and enjoy the cultural, historic, and natural resources found across the state. Too many Californians cannot access neither public outdoor spaces nor the state’s array of museums, and cultural and historical sites. The state is prioritizing efforts to expand all Californians’ access to parks, open space, nature and cultural amenities. This priority requires focusing funding and programs to expand opportunities to enjoy these places. Doing so advances Governor Gavin Newsom’s strong personal commitment to building a “California for All.”
“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 by 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 an 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.”