Can I Carry A Weapon While Hiking in California? (A Beginners Guide)

Can I Carry a Weapon While Hiking in California

As a gun owner, you must always be sure if it’s legal to carry a gun in a specific place. Even with a valid license, violating gun laws will get you in trouble.

Hiking puts you through grim trails. So a gun may give a sense of safety. How, then, does that play out for a hiker in California?

California has the second-highest number of registered gun owners in the US. Thus it’s easy to imagine having no problem flaunting a gun in the State.

Carrying a weapon while hiking in California is down to a valid permit and the trail. Despite the high number of gun owners in California, the State has strict gun laws. State laws dictate that no person can own a weapon without a valid license. As such, the law holds for gun possession on private property, campsites, and parks.

You must now wonder what trails it’ll be okay to carry a weapon while hiking in California. Don’t worry; this article will answer all the questions about that.

Also, you’ll get to know the proper way to carry your weapon where laws permit in California. So let’s carry on, shall we?

Can You Open Carry While Hiking in California?

Can I Carry a Weapon While Hiking in California

No, you can’t open carry while hiking in California. 

Since January 2013, California law has restricted the open carry of any firearm. For the record, California has stringent gun laws.

That discipline reflects in the total number of registered gun owners in the United States. 

The State of California is second on the list, coming second only to Texas.

Yet, registered gun owners make up only about three percent of the total gun ownership in the State. 

In California, 28.30% of its citizens own guns. So that’s about 11,104,922 people.

As a gun owner, it’s easy to find yourself always itching to have your weapon with you. But it’s always best to keep gun laws in mind wherever you find yourself.

In California, restricted zones don’t permit firearms in any form – loaded or unloaded. But those are usually public areas like schools, federal facilities, and urban areas.

Thankfully hiking trails don’t fall within those limits. So, it’s easy to stay away from public areas during hikes.

Open carry of firearms isn’t legal in California because the State strictly prohibits shooting. Sometimes it gets tricky to find where you can carry firearms, even for self-defense.

It may surprise you that law enforcement doesn’t openly carry firearms in California on legal grounds. Thus, civilians should refrain from toying with open carry laws.

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t show off any weapon when hiking in California, even with a valid permit. It doesn’t matter your route or reason for carrying the weapon.

Please, adhere to the gun laws of California to stay out of trouble with the security forces.

Is It Legal to Conceal Carry While Hiking in California?

Yes, it’s legal to conceal carry while hiking in California. Although the State doesn’t permit open carry, concealed carry is an option for gun owners with valid permits.

However, getting permission from the State’s guns department would be best. The State doesn’t approve any out-of-state CCW permits. 

So all gun owners must get their permits in California. In other words, California will not recognize any CCW permit that another State issues. 

Verifying documents gets tedious, so people must apply within the State for gun permits.

So, once you get a valid CCW permit in California, you can conceal-carry your weapon on a hike. 

The next thing is to ensure that the paths you choose to trail aren’t restricted areas.

Yes, California strictly prohibits the discharge of weapons in some areas, so the law doesn’t permit weapons in any form.

While going through State parks, hikers can conceal-carry firearms with a valid CCW permit. However, some facilities within the parks are still no-carry zones for weapons.

As such, it’ll be illegal for hikers to conceal-carry their firearms even with a valid CCW permit. Those areas include visitor centers and offices within the parks.

But don’t go wondering how you’ll know if an area is a prohibited area or not. 

There’s usually a “No Weapons” sign at the site to inform people about the restriction.

The signs also come in handy for defaulters because the State can’t convict them even after an arrest. So it’ll be fair to count ignorance of a prohibited area as bliss.

You can conceal carry when hiking through any trail in California. But watch out for “No Weapons” signs at various entrances.

What Weapons Should You Carry for Self-Defense While Hiking in California?

The California weapons law permits handguns, pistols, revolvers, and other firearms that a person can conceal. 

It’s also legal to purchase and carry stun guns and tasers. Hikers can also choose to buy/use chemical spray or pepper spray. 

But the legal limit is a product that contains no more than 2.5 ounces (net weight) of aerosol spray. So, hikers with valid firearms permits can freely carry these weapons in California. 

But keep in mind that some parks may have specific exemptions. The parks usually state them, of course.

Take Sequoia & Kings Canyon, for instance, which has a list of illegal weapons within the premises. 

Visitors to the park risk an arrest if security officers find the items in their possession.

The weapons include; BB guns, bear spray, bow/arrow, pellet and paint guns, slingshots, and other compressed gas irritant devices. Also, parks generally regard knives as illegal weapons.

It would help if you kept the provisions of California gun laws in mind, so you don’t get into trouble. 

The table below gives a summary of California gun laws.

Law ProvisionDescription
Gun Permit LicensureCalifornia issues ALL permits.
Minimum Age for Concealed Carry18 years.
Magazine Limits for HandgunsNo more than ten rounds of ammunition.

You won’t violate any laws when you use legal weapons with a valid license. But as always, look for prohibited areas where you can’t carry weapons.

Do You Need to Carry a Firearm While Hiking in California?

Unless there’s an urgency for self-defense, you don’t need to carry a firearm while hiking in California. 

Carrying a gun on a hike isn’t safe, especially if you won’t be alone. Someone may get interested in your weapon, and that’s you attracting unwanted attention. 

Thus, an accident is on the cards if someone without sufficient gun training handles your firearm. There are barely any cases of attacks on hikers in California

So there isn’t much reason to carry a firearm during a hike. But if you must, it’s best to consider using less sensitive weapons.

You can grab a pepper spray or taser before you go on a hike. Also, ensure you get valid permits for those weapons.

However, the need to carry weapons fades when hikers move in groups. There’s safety in numbers and fewer chances of any attacks.

The fear of attacks on trails is mostly paranoia. Those events barely occur.  However, you should always try to be cautious. 

When hiking in California, stick to the marked paths on trails. Avoid “exploring” secluded areas seeking adventure. You might run into trouble. 

Generally, hiking trails are safe areas, and hikers will get through fine without having to carry any weapons at all.

Josh Matthews

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