10 Southern California State Parks to Explore This Summer

photo courtesy of WasatchWill.com

We know every traveler is different — and while some people come to Los Angeles or Orange County to experience all the big city amenities, others would much rather be relaxing in the mountains or on the beach. Luckily, in Southern California, you can do both.

If you’re more of an outdoors enthusiast than you are an urban adventurer, plan to visit a few California state parks on your summer vacation. They’re absolutely beautiful, and some of them are highly underrated.

Of course, you can’t exactly rely on public transportation when planning such a trip, and you’ll need the right vehicle to take you through the tough terrain. Our Los Angeles car rental reservation packages are designed to help you have your best experience, and since we never punish our customers for their age, you’ll always find the best underage car rental Los Angeles rates at Super Cheap as well. So whether you’re a college student on summer break or you’re retired and ready to relax in nature, you’ll be happy with what our company offers.

There is no such thing as a bad California state park. However, these picturesque parks are all in the southern part of the state, minimizing your driving time — and they happen to be especially amazing.


  1. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Located about 40 miles away from San Diego, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park offers 26,000 acres of exploration. Here you can hike in an oak woodland forest, relax in the many meadows, or spend some time at Lake Cuyamaca.


  1. Malibu Creek State Park

Movie buffs will appreciate Malibu Creek since it used to be owned by Paramount Pictures. Many films and TV shows were filmed here, but today, it’s mostly known for its hiking trails, horseback riding, mountain biking, and scenery. You can still take a guided tour through the park to see some of the locations that were once used for filming.


  1. Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove is an absolute gem you’ll find off the North Coast Highway in Orange County. In fact, it’s one of the largest remaining examples of open space and natural seashore, featuring about 3.2 miles of sandy beach and plenty of natural wilderness. And although they are usually reserved extremely far in advance, the onsite vintage cabins and cottages are worth checking out — and you just might get lucky with a last-minute reservation.


  1. Topanga State Park

Located in Los Angeles County, Topanga State Park still feels like a whole different world. You’ll find it nestled deep in the Santa Monica mountains, and it has it all: 36 miles of hiking trails, open grassland, live oak trees, and breathtaking view of the ocean.


  1. Bolsa Chica Beach State Park

This is a beachfront state park in Orange County, so as you might suspect, it can get crowded on a warm and sunny day… but it’s still worth going. If you check it out, don’t miss the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve or the Bolsa Chica State Beach Visitor Center with its interpretive displays and exhibits.


  1. Chino Hills State Park

If you’re a fan of hiking, rejoice: Chino Hills has over 60 miles of trails you can explore. It sits nestled in the foothills near Corona, Chino Hills, and Brea, and it’s incredibly picturesque and peaceful.


  1. Moonlight State Beach

 You’ll find this stunning state beach in Encinitas, and it has all the makings of a perfect day trip: A grassy park with a kids’ play area, picnic tables, surfing and swimming, volleyball courts, and of course, miles of white, sandy shoreline.


  1. Mount San Jacinto State Park

You’ll find this wild state park in Riverside County, and if you’re looking for a backpacking adventure, this is the perfect place. For hiking enthusiasts, the summit of Mount San Jacinto is a worthy venture — it’s the second highest peak in Southern California.


  1. Leo Carrillo State Park

Perfect for anyone who loves to explore tide pools or go beachcombing, Leo Carrillo State Park offers almost two miles of beach for swimming, surfing, and windsurfing. You can even go backcountry hiking or camp here if you so desire.


  1. Placerita Canyon State Park

Located deep in the San Gabriel Mountains, Placerita Canyon State Park has been preserved for a very special reason: It was one of the first documented places where gold was discovered in California back in 1842. These days, it’s an amazing hiking destination with plenty of scenic nature trails for all skill levels. The shaded oak groves provide a respite from the heat on scorching summer days.

Whether you prefer the beach, the mountains, or both, you’ll find it all at Southern California’s beautiful state parks.