How to get into California’s state parks for free this year
How to get into California’s state parks for free this year

After the state legislature reinstated a popular program, Californians will once again be able to enter hundreds of the state’s parks for free until at least December 2025.

Through the Library Parks Pass Program, Californians with a valid library card can borrow a parking pass from their local library that allows them to drive one vehicle to over 200 state parks, beaches and recreation areas.

Cardholders can borrow a pass and visit up to 54 state parks for free year-round.

Visitors to Folsom Lake State Recreation Area take photos on the green meadows of Beeks Bight on Thursday, April 13, 2023. (Getty Images)

According to supporters, including the California State Parks Foundation, the program fell victim to budget cuts earlier this year.

But as part of a grassroots initiative to secure funding for at least another year, more than 5,000 letters were sent to lawmakers urging them to protect the program, nonprofit officials said.

The California State Legislature has now allocated $6.75 million of its upcoming budget to fund the program through the end of 2025. Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to approve and sign the state’s budget bill later this week.

“We commend the Legislature and Governor for agreeing to fully restore funding to this highly effective and popular program that provides free access to California’s state parks,” said Rachel Norton, executive director of the California State Parks Foundation. “The California State Library Parks Pass is critical to our state’s goal of creating a healthier and more equitable California for all.”

Norton said entrance and parking fees can create a barrier for Californians who want to visit the state’s limitless natural wonders, especially those with lower incomes. This, Norton said, can prevent families from experiencing the “physical and mental health benefits, educational opportunities and recreational activities that these places offer.”

The state has issued over 33,000 parking permits at over 1,100 public libraries, and the program is very popular.

According to a survey conducted by the nonprofit, a majority of respondents – including many from lower-income households and members of the BIPOC community – said that admission fees to a state park had previously been the main reason for not visiting.

“Thanks to the Park Pass program, an astonishing 90% of respondents now plan to visit state parks more than seven times a year,” the organization said in a press release.

Click here for more information about the California State Library Parks Pass program, including a list of participating parks.