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Parks and Recreation in Northern California

Parks and Recreation in Northern California: Explore the Great Outdoors

California’s beautiful parks and endless opportunities for outdoor recreation are some of its greatest treasures. From the wetlands to the forests and beyond, you’ll find diverse recreational areas and state parks where you can swim, hike, bike, kayak, canoe, go horseback riding, backcountry camping, and much, much more.

Go birding at Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a wetland sanctuary for tens of thousands of migratory species. Walk through old-growth forests at Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and Montgomery Woods State Reserve. Find tree-studded islands at Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park, and blooming flowers each spring at Azalea State Reserve.

Amazing hiking trails are always close at hand at inviting landscapes like Alum Rocks Park, Salt Point State Park, and Pacheco State Park. Love being on the water? Head to Clear Lake State Park, Castle Crags State Park, and Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park. Find your ideal adventure in Northern California.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Considered the longest continuously operated tourist destination in California, Calaveras Big Trees State Park is premier outdoor destination. The park is located just east of Angels Camp in the Stanislaus National Forest. Two groves of giant sequoia redwoods are featured and protected in the park.

These giant specimens can reach 250 to 300 feet tall and more than 25 feet across, dating back in age 2,000 to 3,000 years old. Hikers enjoy easily navigated trails in both the North and South groves.

The North Grove is more popular, with the more remote South Grove offering more solitude. Enjoy an outdoor adventure on your next visit to Gold Country.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Enjoy a hike, nature walk, or picnic near Garberville. Humboldt Redwoods State Park, located located along the Eel River, is home to a diverse coast redwood ecosystem. The park contains over 53,000 acres of land. Included in this is the Rockefeller Forest with 17,000-acres of old-growth redwoods, the largest old-growth redwood forest in the world.

The Bull Creek watershed is also included in the park. Enjoy boating, fishing and swimming in the South Fork and Main Eel River for a fun afternoon in the park.

Visitors to the park enjoy hiking, biking and horseback riding on the 100 miles of trails, including the 32-mile Avenue of the Giants trail. Over 100 of these incredible 350-foot-tall trees live in the park. Enjoy exploring the outdoors year-round in this wonderful park in northern California.

Patrick's Point State Park

Outdoor adventure awaits in California. Patrick's Point State Park is located in California's beautiful north coast redwood region, 25 miles north of Eureka. Visitors to the park hike among the spruce tree forests and through meadows filled with wildflowers. Bring your camera to capture the spectacular views from the top of Ceremonial Rock and Lookout Rock.

The coastal area of the park is a great place to watch sea lions, whales and the tide pools. While in the park, check out the recreated Yurok Indian Village or the Native American Plant Garden, with plants for basketry, medicinal and ceremonial purposes.

Jug Handle State Reserve

Because of the wide open ranges, wooded areas, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, Jug Handle State Reserve is a premier outdoor destination. Plan a visit to the North Coast of California and head for Fort Bragg – Jug Handle is just minutes to the south.

The unique feature of the park is The Ecological Staircase, a two-and-a-half mile trail allowing visitors to view five wave-cut terraces. View the geological 100 feet up-drift that formed the prairie, the pines and the pygmy forest on each respective terrace. Each terrace formed 100,000 years before the next level.

Mailliard Redwoods State Reserve

Forge your own trail in California. Head for the Mailliard Redwoods State Reserve near Cloverdale on your next visit to the North Coast. This state reserve protects and preserves the coastal redwood forest and local wildlife habitat. Visitors to the Reserve will see the beautiful mixed evergreen Redwood forest and deciduous oak.

This 242-acre Reserve, found just minutes from SR 128, is along two steep slopes, providing feeder streams to the Garcia River. Bring along your camera to capture these beautiful trees, along with bobcat, Blacktail deer, feral pig and smaller animals. Enjoy an afternoon in this protected forest, named for conservationist John Ward Mailliard, Jr.

MacKerricher State Park

Yielding some of the most exceptional views of the Pacific Ocean, MacKerricher State Park is located near Fort Bragg, along California's North Coast. Visitors to the park will find tide pools along beach. The park's Cleone Lake is a great spot for fishing and birdwatching. More than 90 species of birds live near the lake, a former tidal lagoon.

Enjoy hiking, bicycling, jogging or horseback riding along the trails. Whale watching from the park is popular during the winter and spring. This northern California park is the only park in the California park system that was part of the Mendocino Indian Reservation.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park

Enjoy a piece of California history, and one of its most pristine state parks. Head for the the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park the next time you visit Calistoga. Hike the five-mile trail to the summit of Mount St. Helena, for incredible vistas of the San Francisco Bay area.

This area was once the place where Robert L. Stevenson, the famous author, spent his honeymoon in 1880. A maker along the summit trail indicates where Stevenson's cabin once stood. It's popular among those who live along the North Coast.

Make the most of your time in the Marin County and Wine Country. Tour the vineyards, take a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train or cheer on your favorite racer at the Calistoga Speedway. No matter where you choose to visit from, be sure to enjoy a day of unrivaled outdoor fun at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.

Fremont Peak State Park

As you make plans to visit California, be sure to include a trip to Fremont Peak State Park. Located in the central coast, and a short drive south from nearby Hollister, Fremont Peak State Park is a premier outdoor destination in the state. Hike along the park trails to see the gorgeous views of Monterey Bay along the Gavilan Range.

When you visit Fremont Peak, be sure to check out the astronomical observatory to view the night sky through the 30-inch telescope. Time your visit to enjoy the July 4th celebration and the annual motorcycle rally. This renowned rally has given Hollister the nickname "Birthplace of the American Biker."

The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square Park

The City by the Bay is home to many wonderful parks, museums and landmarks, including the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Alcatraz Island National Historic Landmark.

Alamo Square Park, located west of San Francisco in the Western Addition neighborhood, is one of the two hundred parks maintained by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department.

This beautiful park is bordered by four city blocks, with spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline. Steiner Street on the east side of the park, is home to the famous "Painted Ladies," a row of Victorian homes.

While in this vibrant city, visit the park to capture a picture of these historic homes. Bring your tennis racket for a fun game of tennis or relax as the kids play on the playground.

Alum Rocks Park

Plan for an outdoor adventure in California. Make plans to visit Alum Rock Park in the foothills of the Diablo Range near San Jose. It's ideal for casual outdoor activities. The park has 13 miles of trails perfect for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

Picnic facilities are available along with restrooms and a children's playground. Travelers to San Jose find Alum Park a convenient getaway from the city. Your next visit to the San Francisco Bay Area should a fun-filled day at Alum Rocks Park.

Hollister Hills State Vehicle Recreation Area

Spread across 4,000 acres, the Hollister Hills State Vehicle Recreation Area is found in California'a Central Coast area. Enjoy a sunny California day by riding your motorcycle or 4-wheeler through the 24 miles of trails in the 800 acre Upper Ranch area.

The Lower Ranch area at Hollister Hills boasts 3,300 acres of land, over 128 miles of trails and climbing hills. The picnic areas, mini-bike trail, practice motocross track and mini-track are also nice features of the recreation area. Visit this wonderful recreation area, just south of Hollister for a fun-filled day outside.

Pacheco State Park

On your next trek through California, visit and explore Pacheco State Park. It encompasses over 6,500 acres in the central coast region of California near Hollister. The park is the last remaining section of El Rancho San Luis Gonzaga, the Mexican land grant.

It was the Pacheco family's cattle and horse ranch land since 1843, and remained with the Pacheco family through five generations. In 1992, it was donated to the state for visitors to enjoy for recreational use.

Whether you choose to trek through the park on horseback, by mountain bike or on foot, the 28 miles of trails offer several options. Bring your camera to capture the beautiful wildflowers, elk, bobcat, coyote, fox, golden eagles and hawks.

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

Discover more than 30 miles of hiking, jogging, and mountain biking trails at the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos. Visitors love the outdoor fun in the rugged mountains of in the San Francisco Bay region of California.

The park was the site of a forty-year logging frenzy during 1883-1923. Thankfully, the Forest of Nisene has repaired itself since then. Enjoy a picnic in this beautiful setting in one of the picnic areas.

Whether you bring your bike, your hiking boots or saddle up for a horseback ride, visit the park to enjoy the variety of outdoor fun. Keep a lookout for the old trestles and mill sites, from the logging days, still found in the park. Make the most of your visit to Aptos with an outdoor exploration.

Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve

What began as the Kruse Family Ranch in 1880 has blossomed into the Kruse Rhododendron State Reserve. Located west of Healdsburg, this state reserve today features five miles of hiking trails through the 317 acres of second-growth redwood, grand fir and Douglas fir forests and clusters of rhododendrons. During May, hikers enjoy the brilliant pink rhododendron blossoms.

The Department of Parks and Recreation maintain the reserve to ensure the regenerating forest is not overwhelming the rhododendrons. While visiting the reserve, schedule time to visit the adjacent Salt Point State Park. Enjoy your time in the beautiful North Coast region of California.

Salt Point State Park

Experience stunning views of the Pacific Ocean when you visit Salt Point State Park. Located near Healdsburg in California's North Coast, the park encompasses 6,000 acres and includes 20 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails.

The sandy beaches are a great place from which to fish and relax. Scuba diving is another favorite activity in the park. Bring your camera to capture the tafoni, where the water crystallizes into the honeycomb like crevices, along the rocky coast line.

During the 1800s, sandstone from Salt Point was used to create the streets and buildings in San Francisco. Stroll to Gerstle Cove to see the eyebolts left in the rocks. Ships would anchor to the rocks while loading slabs of sandstone onboard. Enjoy the scenic beauty of the steep ocean cliffs and shallow tide pools.

Turlock Lake State Recreation Area

Enjoy your time in Stanislaus County with a day at Turlock Lake State Recreation Area. Located in La Grange, along the Tuolumne River, this is a premier outdoor destination in California's Central Valley. The area features the beautiful Turlock Lake and its 26 miles of shoreline. Make the short drive in from nearby Modesto.

Lace up comfortable shoes for a hiking, year-round, in the fresh country air. Enjoy fishing, swimming, boating and water skiing in the lake's calm waters. Pack a picnic lunch for an enjoyable afternoon break and admire the views of the surrounding rolling hills in the San Joaquin Valley.

Smith River National Recreation Area

Included in the Six Rivers National Forest, the Smith River National Recreation Area along the north coast of California is a premier outdoor destination. The area is along the top border of the Redwood National Park. Visitors to the area enjoy fishing in the Smith River, the "longest National Wild and Scenic River" in the country. Make the short drive in from Eureka.

Known as one of the best fishing areas in America, fishermen love to cast out for steelhead trout, chinook salmon and a variety of other species. During the summer, try rafting or swimming in the river, one of the cleanest in the country. Lace up your hiking boots for enjoyable hikes in the Pacific Coast Ranges in the area, accessible year-round.