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Enjoy Parks and Recreation in Southern California

You’ll find dozens of parks and recreation destinations around Southern California so pack a picnic and head out to enjoy some fun in the sun on any given day.  Make your way to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area located east of Brawley to discover forty miles of sand dunes. You can also explore the former gold mining town around the Picacho State Recreation Area, the perfect spot to go hiking, boating, and fishing.

When you’re in Los Angeles, head to Burton Chace Park to enjoy amazing views of the city or go fishing for an afternoon. Hiking opportunities await at Malibu Creek State Park, a popular destination for horseback riding and bird spotting. Get ready to explore the desert and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities.

Other parks and recreation areas to explore include:

•   Crystal Cove State Park
•   Mount San Jacinto State Park
•   Anza Borrego Desert State Park
•   Balboa Park
•   Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area
•   Morro Bay State Park

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area

As the largest concentration of sand dunes in California, the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreational Area is a premier destination in the Desert Region.

Located east of Brawley, the forty miles of dunes with an average width of five miles, were formed by sand blown from ancient Lake Cahuilla. This wonderful area of California provides recreational fun and beautiful scenery for visitors.

The northern area of the dunes is known as Mammoth Wash. The North Algodones Dunes Wilderness area is located just south of the Mammoth Wash area.

The southernmost section is located near Highway 78 and is the most visited area by those with off-road vehicles and ATVs. It remains a popular place for cruising across the sand.

Picacho State Recreation Area

Plan for a romp through the desert in California. The Picacho State Recreation Area, in southern California's desert region is the site of former gold mining town from more than 100 years ago. The town was flooded in 1938 once the lake was filled behind Imperial Dam. The remains of an old ore processing mill still exist along the river.

Today, visitors to the area enjoy hiking, fishing and boating. Located along the lower Colorado River, many love to fish in the river for bass and crappie. After exploring the park and surrounding desert, drive a short distance north to Blythe.

Burton Chace Park

The next time you visit the Los Angeles area, be sure to check out Burton Chace Park. This is a beautiful, 12-acre park in near Santa Monica. Kick back, relax and enjoy the incredible views of the city from one of the park's grassy knolls. As the city's largest public park, there are plenty of fun outdoor activities to do in the park.

Bring your favorite food for grilling out and enjoy an afternoon picnic in one of the picnic shelters. Cast into the water and enjoy an afternoon of fishing or take a leisurely stroll around the park. Those visiting the Los Angeles area during the holidays, will want to find a spot in the park to enjoy the Marina Del Rey Holiday Boat Parade.

Malibu Creek State Park

Visit one of California's premier parks on your next visit. Malibu Creek State Park, located 25 miles northwest of Los Angeles, near Thousand Oaks, is a wonderful area for outdoor activities. Lace up your hiking boots to hike along the 15 miles of trails, along Malibu Creek and through the woods.

Saddle up your horse for horseback riding, bring your pole to catch some fish or your binoculars for spotting birds. For centuries, this area was home to the Chumash Native Americans. This lush setting was conducive for the filming of Planet of the Apes and M*A*S*H and many other movies and TV shows that were filmed in the park.

Crystal Cove State Park

Head outdoors on your next visit to California. Crystal Cove State Park, located in Laguna Beach, features a wonderful variety of surf and land activities. The 2,400 acres of undeveloped wooded canyons and open bluffs are great for those hitting the trails by foot, by mountain bike or horseback. Don't miss the historic 1920s - 1940s beach cottages, located in the park's historic district.

The 3.2 miles of beach is a haven for relaxing on the beach, swimming, surfing, scuba and skin diving and fishing. The offshore waters' underwater park features tide pools, a rocky reef, kelp forests and 1,140 underwater acres, perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. Have fun traveling and exploring Orange County.

Mount San Jacinto State Park

Plan for an outdoor excursion at Mount San Jacinto State Park. Found within the Desert Region of California, Mount San Jacinto is a short drive west from Palm Springs. The park's namesake, Mount San Jacinto, is Southern's California's second-tallest mountain range at 10,834 feet.

Step on-board the park's Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a ride to 8,516 feet. Once at the top, browse through the gift store, grab a snack at the snack bar or decide which hiking trail you want to venture on for the day.

The park is in the Santa Rosa and Jacinto Mountains National Monument. The wilderness areas around the peak are included in the San Bernardino National Forest. The panoramic views of the mountain peaks are incredible. Bring your camera to capture the breathtaking views from the Mount San Jacinto.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Plan for an outdoor adventure on your next visit to the Desert Region of California. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is California's largest state park.

Visitors to the park enjoy the 110 miles of hiking trails in the 12 designated wilderness areas. Drive in from nearby Indio and spend the day exploring this scenic desert.

The park's diversity includes colorful badlands, desert washes, rock formations, arid landscapes and mountains. Park wildlife includes coyotes, kit foxes, golden eagles, mule deer, black-tailed jackrabbits, roadrunners, quail, and red diamond rattlesnakes.

Drop by the Visitor Center to pick up maps and view the interpretive displays. Bring your camera to capture the beauty of the park.

Balboa Park

See one of the most iconic San Diego attractions. Balboa Park was made into a beautiful San Diego park in 1892, after the land was untouched for over 20 years. It began with the one hundred trees planted by Kate Sessions, "The Mother of Balboa Park." Some of those original trees are still alive today.

Many of the park's Spanish-Renaissance style buildings along the El Prado walkway, were constructed for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition, held in the park.

The historic Cabrillo Bridge and the park's landmark tree, the Moreton Bay fig, are a result of the Exposition.

The Museum of San Diego History & Archives, San Diego Model Railroad Museum and the Museum of Photographic Arts, are housed in the historic Food and Beverage Building, built for the Exposition.

In 1916, the San Diego Zoo was developed on the park grounds. Several additional San Diego attractions are also located in the park, in historical buildings.

While visiting this wonderful 1,200 acre park, be sure to view the Kate Sessions statute, stroll through the Veterans Memorial Garden and ride the Balboa Park Carousel.

Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area

Load up your dirt bikes and quads and head for the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. As one of California's most popular state parks, located in the central coast region, you'll find easy access from nearby Arroyo Grande. Drive your car, truck or buggy along the five miles of beach and put it four-wheel-drive across the sand dunes.

This is the only park in the state that allows for this much driving fun on the beach. Get out of your vehicle for a relaxing swim in the surf or grab your board for riding the waves. Saddle up on horseback for sauntering down the beach. Make the most of your dunes-adventure in Arroyo Grande.

Morro Bay State Park

Yielding unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean, Morro Bay State Park is a must-see for visitors to Morro Bay in the central coast region of California. This state park features Morro Rock, the prominent landmark, as well as a natural bay habitat and lagoon. Bring your binoculars for birding or bring your clubs for a round of golf at the 18-hole public course. Sailing and hiking are also popular activities in the park.

Visit the park's Museum of Natural History to learn about the area's rich Native American history. Join in a lecture, enjoy a nature walk and view the exhibits. Stroll past the Chumash garden outside of the museum to see the native plants that the Chumash used daily.