If you work your way through the quagmire of ownership and fee structures, you'll find out that the California Parks System has some of the nation's finest natural wonders. Don't let yourself get caught up in the confusing park regulatory groups, the price of admission and other details that are hard to make sense of.
In a nutshell, California's parks are like taxes- and since they are funded by taxpayers who pay for them twice-once in taxes, and then, again, with gate fees to gain admission, the best values are the "free" parks generally found in your own home town. Unfortunately, they can be grass lots near schools, or urban parks with manicured lawns and nothing to climb.
It takes time to sort through the confusion of who owns what parks and how much they charge to get in and "park" your car, but we'll try to break it down.
There are more than 270 California state parks. The California taxpayers fund these parks, but they also pay fees to access many of them. Redwoods State Park is also a national park, and that gets a bit confusing. There are only about 8 National Parks in California that taxpayers fund through federal taxes, and still, residents and visitors also pay fees to enter these parks. Yosemite National Park shown in the photo is one such park.
National parks, state parks, county parks and city parks make up the sum of California's parks you can visit. Of course there are also theme parks and water parks, but those are almost strictly commercial ventures in which you pay at point of entry, and hopefully not in addition to taxes to fund them.
In the parks systems, there are mountains, waterfalls, beaches, forests and even museums. One of the most interesting national parks system attractions is Lava Beds National Monument at Tulelake. Before you rush to sign up, the 3-hour tours are strenuous excursions for people 12 years and older in VERY good physical condition. Read some of the highlights before diving in.
Tour participants must:
use upper body strength to ascend a sheer, 50-foot long sloped ice floor on a rope
must be able to crawl through a tight hole
have enough fitness and coordination to negotiate loose, boulder-strewn floors and icy patches
be free of major medical conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, or osteoporosis,
have no fear of heights
have no claustrophobic fears of tight places
If extreme adventure doesn't suit you to a tee, many parks offer simpler pleasures and less physcial activity. Tour buses actually take visitors through Yosemite National Park where the most strenuous activity is climbing in and out of the bus. Whether you visit a state, national, county or city park in California, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful sights in all the world-the biggest redwoods and the tallest redwood trees, high mountain peaks, beautiful beaches, and icy caves that are steep, dark, narrow and exciting! There are well over 1,500 parks in California to explore.