Recreate Responsibly on California’s Trails

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Photo by California State Parks

Hiking in your state parks is more than just a walk in the park. It’s an exciting and affordable way to improve your health while enjoying the magnificent beauty of California with your family and friends. Whether you decide to try the newly opened Pfeiffer Falls Trail in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, or hike along the ocean bluffs of the recently opened Año Nuevo State Park to check out the famed elephant seals, it’s important to plan ahead and properly prepare. 

Early morning hikes mean cooler temperatures and better chances to see wildlife. Also, hiking early in the morning is best during heat waves to avoid heat exhaustion and heatstroke.  

Knowing what type of trail to hike is key to avoiding injuries. To help visitors identify a trail for their experience level, many trails within the State Park System are rated for a combination of distance and degree of difficulty. State Park staff and trail maps can also help you identify which trails are appropriate for you and your family.  

Año Nuevo State Park, Photo by California State Parks

To ensure your hiking trip is safe and enjoyable here are a few additional tips: 

Download Our App 

Powered by OuterSpatial, the official California State Parks mobile app provides visitors with real-time updates about on-the-ground conditions and access to a library of park and trail information. Navigate safely while on trails by knowing which trails are suitable for hikers, bikers, equestrians and your furry friends.  

Have a Plan 

With cell phone connectivity in many state parks limited or non-existent, it is important to share your hiking plans with a responsible person back at camp or home. Let them know where you are going and when you plan on returning.  

Hike with Others 

Hiking with a friend or family member not only provides companionship but also can help keep you safe in case of an accident or injury. 

Stay Hydrated 

Drink and carry plenty of water (a minimum of 1 quart every two hours) and leave stream, river and lake water for the park wildlife. Although it looks clean and refreshing, mountain stream water can make you ill.  

Dress the Part 

Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes to help prevent injury and a hat for sun protection. 

Don’t Walk Off-trail 

Please stay on designated trails. Do not walk off-trail or enter closed areas. This increases your chance of suffering an injury or getting lost. Also, cutting across switchbacks erodes the hillside and eventually destroys the trail.  

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, Photo by California State Parks

Leave No Trace 

Leave areas better than how you found them by staying on designated trails and packing out all trash. Do not disturb wildlife or plants.  

Be COVID-19 Safe 

State Parks continues to meet guidance from local and state public officials as COVID-19 is still present and deadly. For our latest visitor guidelines and safety tips, visit 

Before you visit, be sure to search for hiking trails at our parks* so you have a good understanding of the terrain and trails and can be prepared. Thank you for recreating responsibly.  

*Some state parks are closed or impacted by the ongoing wildfires. Prior to leaving home, check the status of the park unit you want to visit to find out what restrictions and guidelines are in place. In addition, please visit our incidents webpage to find out which parks are impacted:

#RecreateResponsibly   I   #CAStateParks   I   #Hiking   I   #VisitCalifornia 

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