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With thrilling attractions that span an astounding diversity of natural landscapes (from the best beaches to the best National Parks), California State Parks are like having a Disneyland for every corner of the state. Explore the agency’s 280 properties—the largest and most diverse holding of any state agency in the U.S.—and you’ll soon be swimming in Laguna Beach’s crystalline waters, strutting the dusty main streets of preserved Gold Rush towns, and exploring otherworldly redwood groves that were home to the ewoks in Return of the Jedi. While each park features a unique landscape or historical site that’s worth a visit, the following 15 spots lend a good introduction to the state’s offerings. Hit tip: Invest in an annual pass if you anticipate visiting multiple California State Parks over the next 12 months.
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