Northern California is the go-to destination for state parks. Whether you’re hungry for a hike in the woods, kayaking along a lazy river, or fishing for a hungry camping posse, there’s more to whet your appetite in our part of the state than we can list.
Waterfalls, dense redwood forests, white water rafting, and magical trails along the Pacific Ocean mean there’s no reason you should ever say you have nothing to do when you live out here. Take a peek at 19 of our favorites to make our list, but be nice! We purposely excluded a few of the bullies on the block like Yosemite and Point Reyes. We want you to open your eyes and expand your horizon.
1. Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park
Located in northeastern Shasta County, it's only accessible to the public by boat. How cool is that?
2. San Juan Bautista State Historic Park
Not only can you get your fill of a gorgeous state park, this one has its very own mission to peruse. FYI - The mission is situated adjacent to the San Andreas Fault, and has suffered damage from numerous earthquakes.
3. McArthur Burney Falls Memorial State Park
Five miles of streamside and lake shoreline, plus a portion of Lake Britton are what you see here. But, the cherry on top would be the 129 ft. Burney Falls. It's not the highest or the largest waterfall, but it could be the most beautiful.
4. Portola Redwoods State Park
Santa Cruz doesn't only have beaches-- it has forests, too! Discover redwood trees in this breathtaking oasis.
5. Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
Hiking? Check. Sandy Beaches? Check. Rugged wilderness? Check. Oceanfront preserve? Check.
6. Clear Lake State Park
Fishing, boating, camping--it's all here in Lake County. This state park can get hot in the summer, so pick a spot with a little shade.
7. Angel Island State Park
Need we say more?
8. Bodie Historical State Park
A state park AND a ghost town rolled into one? Absolutely!
9. Mt. Tamalpais State Park
In scenic Marin County is this lovely of a state park. Hike Tamalpais and you'll experience a view like none other.
10. Emerald Bay State Park
In 1969, Emerald Bay was designated a National Natural Landmark for its brilliant panorama of mountain-building processes and glacier carved granite. If you decide to camp here the summer temps reach a high of 75 during the day and a low of 40. Yeah, pretty perfect, right?
11. Indian Grinding Rock
Part state park, part American Indian history lesson, marbleized limestone with some 1,185 mortar holes—the largest collection of bedrock mortars in North America...and it's in NORTHERN CALIFORNIA!
12. Ed Z'Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
You might come for the sugar pine and dense fir forests, but the historical mansion brings you back in time to the lives of the incredibly wealthy who escaped to this part of Lake Tahoe for a little peace and tranquility.
13. Donner Memorial State Park
It might be the spot where members of the ill-fated Donner Party were trapped by weather during the winter of 1846–1847 and ended in tragedy, but we think her majestic beauty erases her sad history.
14. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
If you're the kind of person who loves a great tidepool then you've found heaven on earth at this state park. You're welcome!
15. The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
In the area of Aptos and Capitola lies a state park that turns a day hike into a magical adventure. Who wouldn't want to venture through the woods here?
16. Russian Gulch State Park
This state park definitely made the varsity team of state parks. Located along the Sonoma coastline, it boasts tidepools, forest trails, waterfalls and draws anyone this side of the Mississippi who loves camping.
17. South Yuba River State Park
Located along the south fork of the Yuba River, this is a sweet spot of adventure. White water rafting is a thing here! Or if you're not up for an adventure, how about enjoying spring flowers on an easy hike?
18. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Situated nine miles east of Crescent City, lies this redwood forest masterpiece. Named after explorer Jedediah Smith, it's one of four parks included in the Redwood National and State Parks. You can find the world's largest coast redwood here, which measures 20 feet in diameter and 340 feet tall. You know you're impressed!
19. Humboldt State Park
While we're on the topic of redwoods...you MUST add this state park to your bucket list. AHHHMAZING! Located along the Eel River in northern California, Humboldt Redwoods State Park contains some of the world's most majestic ancient redwood groves. The park encompasses over 53,000 acres, including 17,000 acres of old-growth coast redwoods. With over 250 campsites and 100 miles of hiking there's more to do here than your one summer vacation can hold.
Which one of these gorgeous state parks have you ventured into? Do you have a favorite you’d be willing to share? Don’t worry, we won’t ask to share a campsite, just a few s’mores!