Best California State Parks – Episode 669

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Best California State Parks (Podcast)

Hear about the best of California’s state parks as the Amateur Traveler talks to Jeff Ohlfs who has been to all the parks in the state park system.

Former National Park ranger Jeff Ohlfs returns to the show to share his encyclopedic knowledge of California state parks.

Jeff says, “We are going to talk about, of course, I am biased because I am a 3rd generation Californian, probably the best state park system in the country and that’s California’s state park system which preserves the cultural and natural heritage of California. So basically we are going to take a big tour of California.”

There are 290 properties in the state park system. Jeff has been to all of them including 90 parks that used to be state parks including the very first California State Park which was Yosemite.

The California State Parks System is classified into different types of parks: museums, historic parks, beaches, battlefields, forts, lakes, rivers, vehicle recreation areas.

The California State Parks System runs 6 different museums including the California State Capitol Museum, California Indian Museum & Cultural Center, California State Railroad Museum, Locke Boarding House Museum, California State Mining & Mineral Museum, and Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park.

For Native American history, Jeff recommends Indian Grinding Rock and Wassama Round House State Historic Park near Yosemite, Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park near Santa Barbara, and Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park between Bakersfield and Las Vegas.

Many of the California missions are still active churches but all or part of them are also in the park systems including one of my favorites Mission San Juan Bautista. There are many historic buildings in Monterey which is California’s first capital. Old town in San Diego is another great site for seeing the Mexican/Spanish period of California.

Bodie State Park

There are a number of sites that date back to the mining history of California including mines, stamp mills, ghost towns, steam trains, and the Marshall Gold Discovery site which was set aside in 1890.

The park system includes old army forts but also includes Fort Ross which was a fort built by the Russians in California. Fort Tejon on the way to Los Angeles was for a time the home of the U.S. Army Camel Corps.

Old Town Sacramento has a number of interesting spots including the Railroad Museum and the gold discovery site. The state park system also includes a dairy ranch, a working citrus farm, a Daoist Temple,  a “castle” built by newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, and a historic town financed and governed by African Americans.

The park system includes one-third of California’s shoreline in 70 different state beaches. Some have sea glass, or body surfing, or scuba diving, or retreat centers, or lighthouses.

The scenic parks include one that you need to boat into, the western Ellis Island, mountains, volcanoes, tufa columns, redwood trees, caverns, red rocks, telescopes, Joshua trees, movie sets, and desert bighorn sheep.

The state historic landmarks in California (all 1097 of them) are also managed by the California State Parks System.

There is a stunning variety of sites within California as represented by its state parks. If you like to get outside, the California State Park System has something for you.

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Show Notes

California State Parks
List of California State Parks
Jeff Ohlfs on Amateur Traveler
List of California Historical Landmarks
California Historical Landmarks
Olvera Street
California State Capitol Museum
California Indian Museum & Cultural Center
California State Railroad Museum
California State Railroad Museum – Amateur Traveler
Locke Boarding House Museum
California State Mining & Mineral Museum
Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park
Indian Grinding Rock
Wassama Round House State Historic Park
Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park
Tomo-Kahni State Historic Park
Sonoma State Historic Park
Rancho Petaluma Adobe
Mission Santa Cruise
Mission San Juan Bautista
Monterey – Amateur Traveler
Monterey – California Travel Media
Colton Hall Museum
Robert Louis Stevenson House
California’s First Theatre
Presidio of Monterey
La Purisima Mission
Mission San Antonio de Padua
Presidio of Santa Barbara
El Camino Real
List of Spanish missions in California
Battlefields of Santa Barbara
San Pasqual Battlefield
Old Town San Diego
Shasta California
Empire Mine State Historic Park
Plumas-Eureka State Park
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
Sutter’s Fort
Bodie – Amateur Traveler
Railtown 1897 State Historic Park
Placerita Canyon State Park
Oak of the Golden Dream
Fort Humboldt
Fort Ross
Fort Tejon
Old Sacramento
Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park
Leland Stanford Mansion State Historic Park
Woodland Opera House
Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park
Wolf House
Marconi Conference Center
Wilder Ranch State Park
Hearst Castle
Allensworth, California
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park
Will Rogers State Historic Park
Watts Towers
California Citrus State Historic Park
Benbow Lake
Lake Oroville
Folsom Lake
Folsom State Prison
San Luis Reservoir
Millerton Lake
Cascade Lake
Silverwood Lake
Lake Perris
Salton Sea
Lake Tahoe
Donner Memorial
Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park
D. L. Bliss State Park
Rubicon Point Light
Emerald Bay
Grover Hot Springs State Park
South Yuba River State Park
Auburn River National Park
Sacramento River
Caswell Memorial State Park
George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area
Picacho State Recreation Area
State Vehicular Recreation Areas
Hollister Hills
Oceano Dunes
Eastern Kern County Onyx Ranch SVRA
Ocotillo Wells, California
Candlestick Point State Recreation Area
Pelican State Beach
Border Field State Park
Humboldt Lagoons State Park
Patrick’s Point
Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
MacKerricher State Park
Glass Beach
Schooner Gulch State Beach
Bowling Ball Beach
Half Moon Bay
Natural Bridges State Beach
New Brighton State Beach
Seacliff State Beach
Asilomar State Beach
Point Lobos
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Lime Kiln Point State Park
Cayucos State Beach
Gaviota Beach
Carpinteria State Beach
Morro Bay
Central Coast of California – Amateur Traveler
Point Mugu, California
Point Dume
Santa Monica State Beach
Dockweiler State Beach
Huntington State Beach
Crystal Cove State Park
List of lighthouses in California
Cambria State Marine Conservation Area
Castle Craig
Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park
McArthur–Burney Falls Memorial State Park
Angel Island
Castle Rock State Park (California)
Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail
Mono Lake Tufa
Red Rock Canyon State Park (California)
Saddleback Butte State Park
Malibu Creek State Park
Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Pacific Crest Trail
Pacific Crest Trail – Amateur Traveler
Tomales Bay
Indio Hills Palms
Sutter Buttes
Mount Saint Helena
Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
Mount Tamalpais
Mount Diablo
Fremont Peak
Providence Mountains
Mitchell Caverns
Mount San Jacinto State Park
Palomar Mountain
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park
Prairie Creek Redwoods
Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Redwood National and State Parks
Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area
Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest
King Clone
Portola Redwoods State Park
Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
Muir Woods National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
Azalea State Natural Reserve
Jug Handle State Natural Reserve
Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve
Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Redwood National and State Parks
Torrey Pines
Santa Rosa Island
Año Nuevo State Park
Tule Elk State Natural Reserve
California Coastal National Monument
State Park System Map


On Travel to Lima Peru – Episode 668, Jeff wrote:

Hey Chris,

Enjoyed listening to Lima.  I wanted to add a couple of comments.  Besides Cusco, a side trip could also be taken to the Nazca Lines and Paracas National Reserve.  I was surprised that the Convent of San Francisco which houses over 25,000 skeletons in the catacombs beneath the building wasn’t mentioned.  You mentioned floral, I was amazed at all the beautifully landscaped little corner or island city parks.  Apparently, it’s a competition among councilmen.  Some were even supported by advertisers who had their names nicely landscaped into that park.  One final mention should be the Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) with its world-renowned collection of pre-Inca gold.


Jeff Ohlfs

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Best California State Parks (Podcast) #travel #trip #vacation #state-parks #parks #beaches #history #missions #redwoods #hiking #beautiful-places #nature #adventure

Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won numerous awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine. He move to California in 1964.

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Jubilee Shoals


We are a family run dive centre in Cyprus, we love your content!

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