Enjoying the Great Outdoors at California State Parks

Campsite at Limekiln State Park. Photo from California State Parks.

What would the Great Outdoors be without camping? Whether you’re pitching a tent, bringing your fifth wheel or booking one of our cabins, camping is synonymous with State Parks. 

There are approximately 14,000 campsites available on ReserveCalifornia. If you’re not familiar with our current reservation system, State Parks operates on a six-month rolling window, meaning you can book a reservation to our highly sought-after campsites and lodging up to six months in advance from the current date. Sites can also be booked two days prior to the arrival date. However, because our state parks are loved by many and demand often exceeds the inventory of campsites, we recommend you have alternate choices when you book. Finding a campsite inland may be easier than one along the coast. 

Cousins enjoying the outdoors at Bodega Dunes, Sonoma Coast State Park. Photo from California State Parks.

Before heading out, be sure to check the webpage of the park unit you plan to visit to check on the amenities available (hot showers, flush or chemical toilets, water spigots, hookups, etc.) as each campsite will vary. Check-in time is 2 p.m. and check-out at noon. All individuals camping (up to 8 people per site) and their associated vehicles (permissible quantity vary at each campground) must be registered, and fees must be paid at the time of registration. Don’t forget to place your registration tag on your dashboard. If you arrive after hours, be sure to register at the kiosk before noon the following day or your reservation may be cancelled. 

Here are some key tips to make your camping experience enjoyable and safe:

  • Check your vehicle before the trip to make sure it’s in good condition and make sure your camping equipment is also in good shape.
  • Arrive early so you have plenty of time to check your campsite and set up camp before dark. Pitching a tent in the dark is never easy.
  • Take precautions to protect your food and equipment from bears and other animals. Place anything scented, even hand sanitizers and toothpaste, inside the bear locker. Your car is not a safe place as bears can easily rip open car doors.
  • With wildfire season upon us, be sure to check the park’s webpage to see if campfires are allowed.
  • Collecting firewood in the park is never permitted. Most campgrounds offer wood for sale. We encourage visitors to buy their wood where they intend to burn it. This reduces the chances of importing damaging insects into the parks’ natural environment. 
  • Never leave campfires unattended and never leave children around a fire unattended. Always extinguish a campfire completely before going to bed and leaving your campsite.
  • Make sure your tent is at least 15-feet upwind from grills and fires. Maintain at least a 3-foot clearance area around your tent, free from leaves and dry grass. 

For more safety tips, visit www.parks.ca.gov/safetytips. Don’t forget to recreate responsibly. Please visit www.parks.ca.gov/COVID19 for our visitor guidelines. Enjoy the fresh air and connecting with nature!

S’mores over a campfire at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Photo from California State Parks.

A family enjoying a hike in the outdoors. Photo from Parks California.

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