State parks are crown jewels and the Golden State has a wealth of them—269, incorporating 1.3 million acres and 280 miles of coastline. These public lands embrace everything from forest, desert, mountain, beach, and lake to mansion, fort, and other historic sites. May is California State Park Month—here's a selection of easy hikes throughout the state to help you celebrate:
Caswell Memorial State Park (San Joaquin County)
A relatively level ramble along the Stanislaus River, from .5 to 2.5 miles. Take the Austin Road exit west from Highway 99 at Manteca and continue seven miles until the road ends at the park. (209) 599-3810.
Pacheco State Park (Merced County)
The 2.5-mile trail up to Spike's Peak leads to stunning views. Located between Los Banos and Gilroy on Highway 152 at Pacheco Pass. Take the Dinosaur Point Road exit south from 152. (209) 826-6283.
Henry W. Coe State Park (Santa Clara County)
The Forest Trail-Springs Trail loop takes you on an easy walk of two to three hours along oak-studded ridges and mixed woodlands. Take East Dunne Avenue from Highway 101 in Morgan Hill. (408) 779-2728.
Mount Diablo State Park (Contra Costa County)
The Fire Interpretive Trail, below the visitor center, runs for 3/4 mile and features dramatic views of the Bay Area. Exit east on Diablo Road from I-680. (925) 837-0904.
China Camp State Park (Marin County)
The Turtle Nature Trail is a 3/4-mile loop open only to foot traffic. Exit from Highway 101 in San Rafael at North San Pedro Road and follow signs. (415) 456-0766.
Mount Tamalpais State Park (Marin County)
The Verna Dunshee Trail at East Peak makes a 3/4-mile loop near the 2,571-foot summit. Exit at Highway 1 off Highway 101 and follow signs. (415) 388-2070.
Tomales Bay State Park (Marin County)
A mile loop leads from Heart's Desire Beach to Indian Beach. Take Pierce Point off Highway 1 by Inverness. (415) 669-1140.
Photography by Markham Johnson/Robert Holmes
This article was first published in May 2001. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.