How to Buy a California State Parks Annual Pass

How to Buy a California State Parks Pass

The California State Parks are celebrating their 150th year. Buying a pass is a great way to support our state park system or give someone the gift of outdoors.

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Remember, if you want to visit Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington State Beach, Doheny State Beach, or other state beaches and parks in Orange County – it’s going to cost you $15/day use.  I certainly get my money’s worth out of my annual pass. Here’s the day use fee schedule if you’re wondering about other parks which are also around $10 to $12 a day. Annual passes are for day use only – not overnight camping.

Where Can You Play?

There are 20+ family-friendly parks and beaches in the LA/OC/SD area to visit by purchasing this pass.  It gives you the freedom to visit these places multiple times during the week, too! You can just drive in to park at Crystal Cove and see the sunset!  Make this your Year of State Parks!  You get access to ALL of these for your whole carload of people for $195/year.

Orange County State Parks (SP) and State Beaches (SB)

  • Bolsa Chica SB
  • Chino Hills SP
  • Crystal Cove SP
  • Doheny SB
  • Huntington SB
  • San Clemente SB
  • NOTE: Corona Del Mar SB (excluded))

Popular Los Angeles County State Parks (SP) and State Beaches (SB)

  • Antelope Valley CA Poppy Reserve (SNR)
  • Leo Carrillo SP
  • Malibu Creek SP
  • Malibu Lagoon SB
  • Topanga SP
  • Will Rogers SHP

Popular San Diego County State Parks (SP) and State Beaches (SB)

  • Border Field SP
  • Cardiff SB
  • Carlsbad SB
  • Cuyamaca Rancho SP
  • Palomar Mountain SP
  • San Elijo SB
  • San Onofre SB
  • Silver Strand SB
  • South Carlsbad SB
  • Torrey Pines SB & SNR

Why Buy a Pass?

First of all, CA State Parks are such treasures that you’ll want your kids to be able to experience them over and over again! These parks fit all the parameters of the Nature Kids Institute Nature Connection Pyramid. Secondly, see the Monthly block on the pyramid? And how it notes the #1 reason for closures is under-utilization by the public. So you can save a park, just buy visiting it. Lastly, if you join through the California State Parks Foundation and decline all the extra perks – then your whole fee is tax-deductible!

nature-connection-pyramid

How to Decide Which Pass to Buy If You Want to Visit CA State Parks & Beaches in Orange County

Always consult the CSPF or official CA State Parks site for the final word on pricing.

Two Potential Purchasing Categories – which one are you?

  1. Buy pass directly from CA State Parks (RECOMMENDED)
  2. I used to recommend purchasing through the California State Parks Foundation, but they’ve changed their membership structure as of April 2015. Now it’s set up so “You’ll get a discount of 10%-20% off the retail price of the single highest-priced pass you choose. The discount must be used within 90 days of making your membership gift.” So you must pay a membership fee of $50 or $100 or $250 or $500 to receive the discount. If you join at the $1000 level, then you get the $195 Explorer Pass as a benefit of your membership.

The California Explorer Pass ($195) gives you access to most of the popular state parks (locally operated state parks have never been included). At the $15 rate for most Orange County state beaches and parks – you only need to go 13 times in a year or basically once  a month to make it worthwhile.

The Golden Poppy Pass ($125) has limited access with NOT all parks included. Make sure you always check the parks accepting the Golden Poppy Pass before you make your purchase. There are other membership levels with discounts for seniors and disabled. There’s even a Veteran’s pass with no fee.

Buy pass directly from CA State Parks

Remember! Many of us who live in Southern California go to the same state beaches multiple times. During summer, state beaches are staffed with lifeguards and have access to restrooms, showers, and picnic areas.

Ordering through the online store is probably the easiest — or you can purchase in-person at District and Sector Offices.

 

Give the Gift of California State Parks

Park photos: San Onofre State BeachCarpinteria State Beach (top), Crystal Cove State Beach, San Onofre State Beach, Pfeiffer Big Sur, South Carlsbad State Beach

Disclosure: I am a member of the California State Parks Foundation and SPAN: State Parks Action Network, but I am not affiliated with them in any other way. All my views are my own and you should check the linked websites for official information.

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Comments

  1. says

    Good question, Jenny.

    I think you are thinking of the OCParks.com annual pass for regional parks which used to run from Jan through Dec (with half off starting in August). Now they’ve changed that pass so it’s good for a year from the date you buy it – and no more stickers, just a gate card.

    For the STATE PARKS pass, there used to be discounted ways to get it through the California State Parks Foundation. They JUST changed their memberships in April and I was really disappointed with their new structure. I’ve researched and can’t really find a way to get it for less than $195/year. Considering we have 278 state parks in California and not everyone buys a pass – I think it’s a great deal. We just make sure we use it at least once a month and it pays for itself — especially over the summer when I frequent state beaches.

    (And you know I’m not an official representative of any park – just offering my personal opinions here.)

    Thanks for asking the question! I’m sure others are wondering! Let me know if you uncover anything different.

  2. Jenny says

    Will the annual pass cost half the price in August like it used to in the previous years?

  3. says

    Oh no! I’m always worried we are going to lose ours. I’m not an official source of info – just a writer who writes about parks.

    I would contact the State Park Pass Sale Office and ask them. Since it is transferrable, I think they are going to say you have to buy a new pass. But I hope there is another solution!

    Please come back and let us know how it goes by leaving a comment.

    Good luck!

  4. Bob Morano says

    My comment is a question. This pass would be for my wife and I who are retiring. Is there a Senior discount?
    Does this cover other State Parks that are not beaches (on the list)?

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