The size, age and variety of California’s state parks rank among the best in the country.
The Golden State sports 280 state parks, which include 5,200 miles of trails, 15,000 campsites, and countless natural and historical attractions.
However, it was only last year that a coalition of public agencies and conservation nonprofits came together to formally acknowledging the natural beauty, ecological role and history of the state’s park system one week per year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to California’s communities, but it also illuminated the important connection of the outdoors to our physical and mental well-being. Parks across the U.S. experienced increased visitation in 2020-21, and California State Parks Week underscores the important role parks play in communities statewide,” a press release announcing the 2022 event stated. Organizers include California State Parks, Save the Redwoods League, Parks California and the California State Parks Foundation.
“We are excited to host the second annual California State Parks Week and build upon last year’s inaugural successes,” Armando Quintero, director of California State Parks, said in a statement announcing this year’s events. “California State Parks Week serves as a reminder that state parks belong to all who call California home. Everyone deserves to enjoy them, to stay healthy and active, find inspiration and connect with nature and areas of cultural significance.”
Like last year, the second annual State Parks Week will include dozens of events spread over five days (June 14-18) in parks across the state. In the North Bay, Sonoma, Napa and Marin county residents are invited to experience local parks for the first time or through a new lens of understanding.
Each of the five days of this year’s Parks Week has a theme. The theme of Wednesday, June 14, is “Explore New Experiences,” followed by “Nourish Your Health and Well-being” on June 15 and “Support Climate Resilience” on June 16. The weekend is split between a “Celebrate Community and Culture” theme on June 17 and “Care for Our Shared Lands” on June 18.
In an interview last week, Matthew Gomez, senior parks program manager at the Save the Redwoods League, said California State Parks Week requires organizers to have an “all hands on deck” mentality to pull off the 143 planned events in five days.
A midwesterner who worked for parks departments around the country before landing in California last year, Gomez highlighted the great range of natural wonders on display in the Golden State. A worthy reminder for any jaded, life-long California residents.
“The ecosystem out here is just so diverse,” Gomez said. “From the deserts in Southern California, up to the dense redwood forests near the Oregon border and everything in between, it is just stunning.”
So, grizzled Californian, if you can, take a break from your day job and set out to appreciate one or two of the state’s many natural wonders highlighted during one of the events listed below. Details are available at www.castateparksweek.org.
June 14: Forest Bathing at Mount Tamalpais State Park
According to California State Parks, “Forest bathing, a literal translation of the Japanese word shinrin-yoku, is the practice of absorbing the calming, wellness-inducing atmosphere of natural places.” This is a low-key event. Participants will reflect on the experience of being in nature, instead of aiming to conquer a peak or finish a new trail. If that sounds enticing, meet up in the Pantoll parking lot at 9:15am or 10:30am on Wednesday. Contact [email protected] for the meeting place.
June 15: Nature Journaling and Wellness at Samuel P. Taylor Park
Attendees of this event will “Learn how to start a nature journal, observe nature and explore why spending time in natural landscapes might improve our health and wellbeing.” Meet at the Azalea Picnic Area just past the kiosk entry station before the 10am start of the event. Participants are expected to bring their own writing materials, including pencils, paper and a notebook or nature journal. For more information, contact [email protected].
June 16: Exploring Protected Redwood Groves at Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Due to logging during and after the Gold Rush, just 5% of Southern Oregon and California’s Old Growth redwood forests stand today. Attendees of this hike along Pioneer Trail will learn “how California State Parks works to preserve areas like [Samuel P. Taylor State Park], and why the preservation of these forests is so important.” The event is expected to run from 1 to 2:30pm. Contact [email protected] for more details.
June 14: A Redwood Hike in the Park at Jack London State Historic Park
Attendees of this four-mile, moderate-difficulty guided hike will “pay homage to an elder tree estimated to be 2,000 years old. On the way, you can expect to see the Jack London Lake and spring native wildflowers for a fabulous morning of exercise and inspiration.” Participants’ park entry fees will be covered by the California State Parks Week sponsors; however, parking fees ($10) are not included. Attendees should meet in the Ranch parking lot, a right turn after the entry kiosk, ahead of the 10am start time. Online reservation at CaStateParksWeek.org is required.
June 15: ParkRx – Forest Therapy Walk at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
For another Forest Bathing opportunity, meet with other attendees at the White Barn before 10am. According to the organizers, Forest Bathing is “a centering and calming restorative practice, it promotes balance and restored vitality through a quality of presence and heightened sensory awareness.” Online reservation at CaStateParksWeek.org is required for this event.
Those who can’t attend but are interested in the health benefits of parks are invited to join the Forest Therapy Series as part of Sugarloaf’s ParkRx Program the fourth Sunday of each month. For more details about those recurring events, led by certified Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT) practitioners, visit Sugarloafpark.org.
June 18: New Volunteer Orientation & Social at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
The Sonoma Ecology Center, which operates Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, is always looking for volunteers. Those seeking an excuse to get outside more often can attend this event, scheduled for 3 to 7pm. The orientation will take place at the Robert Ferguson Observatory classroom, followed by a volunteer social potluck at the group camp, where participants can meet some of the active volunteers.
Attendees must RSVP to [email protected].