California State Parks have released a new website called “Find Recreation“. It’s an interactive site where you can search for parks, trails and campgrounds by either entering search criteria or panning around a map. You can turn on different features such as trail overlays and check out the satellite view or a 3D Google Earth rendering of your favorite parks. Clicking on the park opens up a popup with information about the park you are looking at.
After playing around with the site I’ve found it to be marginally useful for the hard core outdoor enthusiast. The trail overlays are okay but lacking in significant detail. Panning around Castle Rock State Park, one I am pretty familiar with, I noticed that some trails were missing. While it’s nice to see trail names labeled, they don’t reflect the true terrain, often substituting a straight line for a trail that switchbacks and curves all over the place. This can be deceptive to someone who is trying to determine a trail’s length based on the map’s scale.
I was happy to see that special trails like the Bay Area Ridge Trail are labeled and highlighted in a different color so they stand out. Other non-State Park open spaces are labeled, but when you click on them the information in the popup is minimal compared to the information provided for the State Park.
In general, I’ve always found the State Park system’s website to be rather lacking in information compared to sites like the ones run by Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District or the East Bay Regional Park District, but this is definitely a sign of improvement (especially given the current budget issues). It’s an easy starting point to find out what’s available in a certain area, and Google can help out with the additional details from there.