How to Get Free Admission to California State Parks With Your Library Card

Still, there are plenty of state parks in the Bay Area where you can use the pass. These include Mount Tamalpais State Park, Half Moon Bay State Beach, Mount Diablo State Park, Castle Rock State Park and Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Historic Park. Big Basin Redwoods State Park – California’s oldest state park, founded in 1902 – is also included, but is currently only partially open due to a wildfire.

Take a look at:

How do I get a California State Library Parks Pass from my local library?

Each library may have different preferences for how you check out a pass, but your best bet is almost certainly to visit in person.

Different public libraries have been issued different numbers of passes, with the minimum being three passes per library – but San Francisco and Oakland say their public libraries plan to increase the number of passes they can offer at the end of April .

This may mean that if you are not able to easily get a pass now at the start of the program, don’t worry: you may have better luck in a few weeks as the program progresses.

If you have a library card with a public library system that has multiple locations – like in San Francisco or Oakland, for example – the California State Library park passes will most likely be split between these locations. Contact your local branch in advance to confirm the location of the pass.

Your library decides how many days you can keep a pass, so be sure to know this return date when borrowing a pass.

Your library may also allow you to place a hold on a pass, like you would a book – that’s, for example, what the San Francisco Public Library allows for cardholders. You may be able to block a pass in person at your local library or online by logging into your library card account. Putting a pass on hold can be a good way to plan ahead for an upcoming trip where you want to use the free pass.

Find your nearest local library.

How much money will I save by using a California State Library Parks Pass?

Entrance fees generally vary from state park to state and often increase during peak weekends or holidays.

the California Explorer annual day-use pass usually costs $195but does not cover all California state parks.

Gaviota State Park in Gaviota, one of the state parks that will accept the California State Library Parks Pass. (George Rose/Getty Images)

How long can I keep the pass?

This will really depend on your local library, as each library decides how long a pass can be borrowed. Public library systems in Oakland and San Francisco, for example, will offer their passes as week-long physical items.

Contact your local library to find out how long they lend their passes and be sure to return your pass in a timely manner so the next person can enjoy it.

Can I use the pass to enter multiple state parks that accept it?

Yes, you can use it to enter as many eligible state parks as you want during the loan period. This is another reason why putting a pass on hold can be a useful way to plan a few days of travel (or a road trip) in advance so you can visit multiple state parks. .

What’s the catch?

Keep in mind that not all state parks participate in this program and passes do not cover camping fees. The Department of Parks and Recreation also says the pass will not cover “per person admission or visitation fees (such as museums), boat use, camping, use or sites of group, special events, additional/additional vehicle costs, disposal of sanitary use or…additional costs.”

Additionally, libraries can decide how many days a pass can be borrowed, and each library will receive at least three passes to distribute. So if your local library doesn’t offer many passes and allows cardholders to keep a pass for several days, you may have to wait your turn.

Also, it may take some time for your local public library to set up the program. So if passes aren’t immediately available, you may need to be patient about that as well.

Mount Diablo State Park in Alamo, featuring the tallest mountain in the San Francisco Bay Area, July 2016. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

What if I don’t have a library card?

Obtaining a library card is quite simple and will grant you access not only to a California State Library parks pass, but also to the full range of books, media, records and library services from your local library, such as a laptop and Internet access.

To apply for a library card, you must:

  • Be a California resident.
  • Provide government-issued photo identification, such as your valid driver’s license, government ID, passport, consular ID, or active military ID.

Find your local library near you. You may be able to apply for a library card in person or online, but be sure to check to see if the pandemic has changed your local library’s opening hours if you visit in person.

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