California State Park offers four annual passes for 2015

California State Park offers four annual passes for 2015
New California State Parks annual passes come out Jan. 1. The California Explorer, which includes 134 state parks, costs $195. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

The good news: You have a choice of four different 2015 annual passes for California State Parks.

The not-so-good news: Even the most expensive pass at $195 won't give you free access to all of the 280 sites managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.


The day-use passes (camping and other fees are separate) include the California Explorer and the return of the Golden Poppy (see details below) plus a new $75 Tahoe pass for folks who regularly visit Lake Tahoe and a Historial Passport for state historic parks.

Not all state parks and beaches charge entrance or parking fees, but some that do give frequent visitors a break on the cost with the opportunity to buy an annual pass.

Do the math to figure out which pass will work best for you. Hikers might find the Golden Poppy pass more valuable because it includes access to many parks and trail heads; surfers might prefer the California Explorer for the number of beaches it covers.

Here are highlights of the passes:

California Explorer Annual Pass: This is the priciest one at $195. It will get you into 134 state parks including Torrey Pines State Beach in La Jolla and Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu.

But it won't include these: Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisadesm where parking runs from $4 to $14.50 in summer; Dockweiler State Beach, also in L.A., and Point Dume State Beach in Malibu where summer parking costs run $3 to $12.50. Here's a list of state parks included in the Explorer pass.

Golden Poppy Vehicle Day Use Annual Pass: The pass covers more parks than last year (112) including great hiking and outdoor spots such as Julia Pfeiffer Burns and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park near Monterey and Will Rogers State Historic Park in Los Angeles.

In Southern California, it won't cover Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Crystal Cove State Park and the beaches mentioned above. Here's a list of parks included in the Golden Poppy pass.

Tahoe Pass includes admission to D.L. Bliss State Park, Ed Z'Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, Emerald Bay State Park, Kings Beach State Recreation Area and Donner Memorial State Park.

The Historian Passport for $50 includes admission for up to four people to state historic parks that charge an entry fee.

State parks passes are good for 12 months whenever you buy them.

You can buy passes online at the California State Parks Store or starting Jan. 5 at state parks where fees are collected.