Field Trips

Visit a State Park or Beach



Online registration for State Parks field trips is now open. Virtual and in-person field trips will be offered in Santa Cruz District State Parks.
Also, please explore what is available virtually through the Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS), a free distance-learning program that uses the power of interactive videoconferencing to help K-12 schools teach common core state standards in the context of California State Parks.

Año Nuevo State Park

School groups are welcome at Año Nuevo State Park year-round to learn about this incredible coastal habitat including the elephant seal rookery, the one-of-a-kind island, and Ohlone middens. Tours vary based on the time of year.

  • Spring Season Self-Guided Walk — In-person: During the spring, seals cluster along the beaches and molt their skin and fur. Docent guides may be made available upon request, once registered, please follow the instructions in your confirmation email to request a guide. There is no additional charge for the docent guide. The spring season receives fewer park visitors and allows more flexibility for school visits. This program is two hours long and appropriate for grades K-12. For more information, contact anonuevostatepark@nullports-ca.us or call (650) 879 2032. Register here.
  • Spring Season Guided Walk — In-person: During the spring, seals cluster along the beaches and molt their skin and fur. Your docent will meet you at the parking lot picnic tables 10 minutes before your walk start time. Please arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled walk to use the bathrooms and have a snack, no food is allowed in the preserve. The spring season receives fewer park visitors and allows more flexibility for school visits. This program is two hours long and appropriate for grades K-12. For more information, contact anonuevostatepark@nullports-ca.us or call (650) 879 2032. Register here.
  • Breeding Season Guided Walk — In-person: Guided field trips at Año Nuevo State Park take place during the breeding season over the months of December to March. These months experience high visitation and are when the elephant seals are most active. Those wishing to view the seals must be on a tour. Tours depart every 20 minutes and last 2.5 hours. Please read the confirmation email and ensure students are prepared due to tightly scheduled seal tours. This program is appropriate for grades 4-12. For more information, contact anonuevostatepark@nullports-ca.us or call (650) 879 2032. Register here.
  • Elephant Seal Tour — Virtual: Discuss the behavior, lifecycle and adaptations of the Northern Elephant Seal. These unique animals spend the majority of their lives at sea where they forage for food to bulk up for time spent on land. Elephant seals visit Año Nuevo State Park twice a year to breed and molt. Register here.

Castle Rock State Park

Students have the ability to learn firsthand about the natural wonders of Castle Rock State Park.

  • In-person: Join a State Parks interpreter for a 3-hour, 1.5-mile guided hike field trip! Learn about the natural wonders of the park. The hike focuses on the park’s distinctive geology during this program, but will also touch on other subjects including Native American peoples, wildlife, and modern human impacts to the ecosystems. All participants must bring water and a bag lunch and wear close-toed shoes/hiking boots. Register here.
  • Virtual: Register here.

Castro Adobe State Historic Park

A visit to the Castro Adobe in Watsonville immerses students in the community’s story from the heyday of the vaquero to the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Hands-on, sensory experiences bring more than a century of history to life, while guided investigations of students’ own inquiries make learning personanly relevant. Both in-person and virtual visits are being offered. Online registration opens Aug. 29.

  • In-person: Enjoy a 2-hour visit to the Rancho San Andres Castro Adobe State Historic Park. Tour the Castro Adobe and learn experientially about its adobe construction and the uses of its various rooms, and Mexican rancho period. In-person visits are offered Fridays. Only half-busses are allowed because of the narrow road access. For questions please call (831) 226-9669 or email castroadobe@nullports-ca.us. Register here.
  • Virtual: Explore the Mexican period of California history while learning about the Castro family who was some of the first settlers in Alta California in this 45-minutes lesson. The class will also have an opportunity to explore the 170-year-old two-story adobe hacienda that was named after the family who built it. Register here.

Half Moon Bay State Beach

School groups grade K-12 can take part in docent-led, hands-on educational programs along the San Mateo Coast. Field trips focused on shoreline habitats are held at Half Moon Bay State Beach, Pescadero Marsh, Montara State Beach and Bean Hollow State Beach. Virtual options also are available.

The following in-person field trips are available. All in-person field trips are two hours long. Stay to eat lunch at picnic tables overlooking the beach.

  • Birding at Francis Beach: Explore the sandy beach habitat and the birds that call it home, including the threatened Western Snowy Plover. Students will learn how to use binoculars to identify birds in their natural habitat, create a model “nest”, learn about the community/citizen science program which protects the snowy plover, and learn how they can help protect our birds, too! This field trip meets at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay State Beach. This field trip is best for 3rd to 6th graders and can accommodate one class at a time. Register here.
  • Geology of the Rocky Shore: Experience the excitement of discovery like real geologists at Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach. We’ll learn to identify key geologic features of the area including marine terraces, plate tectonics, tafoni, and evidence of underwater volcanic activity! We’ll also explore the rocky shore through hands-on activities, a guided hike, and a beach “lab.” This field trip meets at Bean Hollow State Beach, near Pescadero. This field trip is best for 2nd to 5th graders and can accommodate up to four classes at a time. Register here.
  • Marine Mammal Adaptations: Discover which marine mammals live along the local shoreline! Students learn how these species are adapted to live in ocean and beach habitats. Explore blubber, ocean food webs, and real skulls and fur. Discover the importance of the ocean for animal, plant, and even human life…and how to protect the earth’s largest habitat. This field trip meets at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay State Beach. This field trip is best for kindergarten to 6th graders and can accommodate up to three classes at a time. Register here.
  • Gray Whale Cove Trail: Witness unforgettable views of the Pacific coast on this two-mile guided walk on Montara Mountain. Observe multicolored wildflowers and native plants, migratory and resident birds, and numerous signs of wildlife. Learn about the many historic land use changes over time in this area. Come explore both history and science on the inland side of Montara State Beach. This field trip meets in the Gray Whale Cove Trail Parking Lot, on Highway 1 about 9 miles north of Highway 92. It is appropriate for 3rd to 12th graders and can accommodate one class at a time. Register here.
  • Pescadero Marsh: Explore the largest coastal wetlands in the area on a guided walk through the Pescadero Marsh. Walk through many habitats, observing many kinds of local wildlife. These wetlands are a popular birding location right on the Pacific Flyway, so bring binoculars! Students will learn about marsh ecology, historical uses of the marsh, and why wetlands must be protected. This field trip meets at Pescadero State Beach. This field trip is best for 2nd to 12th graders and can accommodate one class at a time. Register here.
  • Sandy Beach Habitat: Where does the sand come from? What kinds of organisms live on (or under) the sand? Students will explore the ecology of the sandy beach habitat through a variety of guided activities, and will learn about the dynamic tidal zones and the animals and plants that call the beach home. This field trip meets at Francis Beach in Half Moon Bay State Beach. This field trip is best for kindergarten to 6th graders and can accommodate up to four classes at a time. Register here.

The following virtual field trips are available. All virtual programs are 30 minutes long.

  • Geology of the Rocky Shore: Schedule a virtual field trip to the San Mateo coast and visit Half Moon Bay State Beach. In this program, learn how scientists uncover the long and active history of the earth by studying rocks and the formations along our coast. Questions can be emailed to halfmoonbay@nullports-ca.us. Register here.
  • Tide Pool Invertebrates: Schedule a virtual field trip to the San Mateo coast and visit Half Moon Bay State Beach. In this program, examine the many species of invertebrates that live in the intertidal zone that cannot be found anywhere else, and the adaptations they need to survive in this harsh and constantly changing environment. Questions can be emailed to halfmoonbay@nullports-ca.us. Register here.
  • Animal Habitats and Adaptations: Schedule a virtual field trip to the San Mateo coast and visit Half Moon Bay State Beach. In this program, investigate how State Parks protect many animals from the beaches to the ocean, how they are adapted to their environment, and what can be done to help preserve their homes for the future. Questions can be emailed to halfmoonbay@nullports-ca.us. Register here.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Book an in-person or virtual field trip at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. With the diverse ecosystems within the park boundaries, including old-growth redwood forest, riparian habitat, sandhills chaparral and grasslands, there are many opportunities for student engagement.

  • In-person: During this two-hour experience, teachers and students will walk the Old-growth Redwood Loop with an interpreter and learn about coast redwood life history, physiology, adaptations, ecosystems and more! Program specifics differ depending on age group (grades K-2, 3-6, 7-12). Register here.
  • Virtual: This is a great opportunity to prepare for your in-person field trip with students or get to know this unique location in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Henry Cowell is home to an abundance of biodiversity. Explore a glimpse of Henry Cowell’s most precious natural, cultural and historic resources. This one-hour program is appropriate for all ages. Register here.

All in-person field trips at Henry Cowell offer admission/parking at no charge for K-12 school groups that have made reservations a minimum of two weeks in advance with an approved waiver.


Natural Bridges State Beach

Come visit Natural Bridges State Beach virtually or in real life!

  • Monarch Butterflies — In-person: This 1-hour program is designed to share Monarch Butterflies with visiting K-12 students. During the visit, explore the monarch grove, connect with a California State Park Interpreter and learn more about Monarch butterflies’ lifecycle, migration, adaptations, and so much more! For questions or concerns please call (831) 423-0871 or email naturalbridges@nullports-ca.us. Register here.
  • Tidepools — In-person: This 90-minute program is designed for K-12 students to explore the tidepools at Natural Bridges State Beach. During this field trip, students will discover tidepool habitats, animal adaptations, and so much more. Connect with a California State Park interpreter and learn more about Natural Bridges State beach. For more information please call (831) 423-0871 or email naturalbridges@nullports-ca.us. Register here.
  • Monarch Butterflies — Virtual: Discover the life cycle, migration, adaptations and conservation of monarch butterflies here at Natural Bridges and all across the state. This one-hour program is facilitated by California State Park Interpreters live from the park. Please feel free to share this link with co-teachers. For more information please call (831) 423-0871 or email naturalbridges@nullports-ca.us. Register here.
  • Tidepools — Virtual: Discover tidepool adaptations and zonation at Natural Bridges State Beach. This hour-long program will guide the class through the intertidal zone and the unique species that call this place home. Please let us know if there are any specific topics to discuss. For more information please call (831) 423-0871 or email naturalbridges@nullports-ca.us. Register here.

Rancho del Oso Unit

Rancho del Oso will be hosting virtual and in-person field trips. Registration will be open soon.


Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park

Come visit Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park virtually or in real life!

  • Mission Rotations Program — In-person: This program is available to 4th-grade classes with 40 to 90 students. Participate in several stations illustrating daily life in the Santa Cruz Mission including an adobe tour during this 4-hour program. To book a Mission Rotations Program, please call 831-425-5849 or email santacruzmission@nullports-ca.us. Register here.
  • Day Program — In-person: The Mission Day program takes students from the life of the Ohlone people in their village to their life in the Santa Cruz Mission with the Spanish students will understand how the California Mission System changed traditional Indigenous life forever. They will consider ways in which Native People responded to this change resulting in cultural continuity and cultural change. This program is for 10 to 39 students and required six to nine chaperones. Register here.
  • Ohlone Lifeways and Mission — Virtual: Virtually walk through the adobe building at Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park to understand the impacts of the California Mission system on the world of Ohlone and Yokuts people. This 1-hour program is designed to introduce students to how the California Mission System changed traditional Indigenous life forever. Register here.

Seacliff State Beach

Seacliff State Beach hosts virtual and in-person field trips.

The following in-person field trips are available. Stay to eat lunch at picnic tables overlooking the beach.

  • Fossils, Floating and Fauna: Discover a secret that is 2.5 to 5 million years old during this 2-hour visit. Students will have the opportunity to brush for fossils, an activity that is only possible while on field trips!! Also discover how a ship made out of concrete can float and which animals call it home. This field trip is offered on Thursdays and Fridays. Register here.
  • Marine Sanctuary Exploration: Seacliff State Beach is located in the heart of Monterey Bay, a very special place as it is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. During this 1-hour program, kindergarten and first-grade students will design a marine sanctuary and then travel down to the beach to look for evidence of plants, animals and people. Register here.

All in-person field trips at Seacliff offer admission/parking at no charge for K-12 school groups who have made reservations a minimum of two weeks in advance with an approved waiver.

The following virtual field trips are available. All virtual programs are 45 minutes long unless otherwise noted.

  • Seafloor to Seashore: How did fossils from the seafloor end up in the cliffs at Seacliff State Beach? Students (grades 2-4) will become paleontologists and investigate how fossils are made and how the beach has changed in the last 5 million years. Register here.
  • Avian Adaptations: Birds are a common sight at Seacliff State Beach. Students (grades 2-4) will learn how adaptations, specifically beaks and feet, of birds allow them to make themselves at home in almost any habitat, including some surprising places at Seacliff. Register here.
  • Floating a Concrete Ship?: The S.S. Palo Alto attracts visitors from all over the world. This unique ship is made out of something that’s surprising to many people… concrete! How can a concrete ship float and why is a broken ship still at the end of the pier at Seacliff State Beach? Students will explore the physical forces that determine what floats and what sinks. There will also be a discussion about which animals call the ship home. Register here.
  • Marine Sanctuary Exploration: Seacliff State Beach is located in the heart of Monterey Bay, a very special place as it is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. During this 1-hour program, kindergarten and first-grade students will design a marine sanctuary and then travel down to the beach to look for evidence of plants, animals and people. Register here.

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Parks

Book an in-person or virtual field trip at The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park in Aptos.

  • In-person: Enjoy an hour in-person visit to Nisene Marks. Listen to the language of the forest while walking among giant coast redwood trees. Please note that for in-person visits, only half-busses are permitted due to the narrow roads. This field trip is offered on Tuesdays. Register here.
  • Virtual: Explore the Forest of Nisene Marks during this live, free, virtual field trip experience. This program is designed for students of all ages and provides students the opportunity to learn about The Forest of Nisene Marks and the many unique natural, cultural and historic resources that call this place home. For more information please call (831) 685-6444 or email newbrighton@nullports-ca.us. Register here.

All in-person field trips at Nisene Marks offer admission/parking at no charge for K-12 school groups that have made reservations a minimum of two weeks in advance with an approved waiver.


Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch State Park offers both in-person and virtual enrichment activities for students in grades 2-4. All field trips at Wilder Ranch offer admission/parking at no charge for K-12 school groups.

  • Ranch History and Farm Animal Encounter — In-person: Students will engage in tasks required to operate a dairy ranch in the year 1900 during this hands-on learning experience which includes interacting with the farm animals that call Wilder Ranch their home today. This field trip is for 10 to 35 students. It’s designed for third graders but 2nd- to 4th-grade classes can be accommodated. Rain may cancel. Register here.
  • A Hard Day’s Work on the Ranch — Virtual: Living on a dairy ranch in the year 1900 took a lot of hard work and required working together as a team to be successful. This virtual program explores some of the chores that children would have been expected to help with. Students will see a series of pre-recorded videos of docents performing old-fashioned ranch tasks and will participate in group discussions and scavenger hunts! This program is designed for 1st-4th graders and is limited to one class or 35 students. Register here.

Also, self-guided tours of Wilder Ranch are available when the workshops, barns and Interpretive Center are open; call for the current schedule or with any questions: 831-426-0505.