San Francisco is the commercial and financial center of Northern California. A popular tourist destination, sports hub and headquarters of major banking organizations, San Francisco is rich in diversity and cultural. There are multiple National Park sites located within the city limits and up-to 8-hours for everyone to enjoy. Here is our list of National Parks Near San Francisco, California
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- National Parks Near San Francisco, California
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National Parks Near San Francisco, California
Map of National Parks near San Francisco
National Parks Within San Francisco
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is an expansive collection of areas located within San Francisco, San Mateo County and Marin County. Established on October 27, 1972, it is the most visited National Park Service site with over 15-million annual visitors. Over 30-years, the National Park Service acquired land and historic sites beginning with Alcatraz Island and Fort Mason, incorporating them into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Visitors have plenty of locations in the area to choose from including:
Alcatraz Island – Alcatraz Cruises departs from Pier 33 Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, providing roundtrip ferry transportation to the island and “Doing Time: Alcatraz Island Cellhouse Audio Tour.” Due to its popularity, tickets should reserved be in advance for both the daytime and evening tours. Learn about the storied history of the island while visiting the famous cellblock that once housed Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. While on “the rock”, visitors can experience the locations made famous in 1979’s ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ staring Clint Eastwood.
Fort Point National Historic Site – Located beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point is a historic fort predating the Civil War created to defend San Francisco against hostile warships. Open Friday through Sunday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, various exhibits retell the history of the fort throughout its year before reaching the roof. A scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, ‘Vertigo’ was filmed here.
Marin Headlands – Located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Main Headlands is composed of multiple former military installations that housed bunkers and batteries. The most famous, Battery Spencer lies closest to the Golden Gate Bridge, providing views of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, and the Bay Bridge. Finding a parking spot, especially on the weekends can present a challenge and can be limited. Bringing along a light jacket in the afternoon is recommended.
Presidio of San Francisco – A former U.S. military reservation and park, the Presidio consists of 2,347 square miles and was fortified on September 17, 1776 along the northern tip of San Francisco. The San Francisco National Cemetery, Walt Disney Family Museum, and Lucasfilm’s headquarters are located here.
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park
The San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park is located at Hyde Street and Jefferson Street in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. The Visitor Center is housed inside a 1908 brick cannery warehouse and tells the story of San Francisco’s colorful and diverse maritime history through interactive exhibits. Located at the end of Hyde Street Pier, the collection of historical ships, including the Eureka and Balcultha dominate the skyline. Visitors will need to present their America the Beautiful Pass or pay $15.00 at the kiosk for entrance to the pier. The Eureka, a paddle steamboat and largest existing wooden ship in the world was a main source of transportation for people across the bay to Sausalito prior to the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Visitors can also enjoy the Aquatic Park, Maritime Museum and walk along the Municipal Pier. No trip to the park cannot be completed without a visit to Ghiradelli Square, the Buena Vista Cafe (credited for the introduction of Irish Coffee to the United States in 1952) or a photo opportunity on a cable car at the Hyde Street turnaround., all located along the park boundaries.
National Parks Within 1 Hour of San Francisco
Muir Woods National Monument
Drive time: 45-minutes North across the US-101 North (Golden Gate Bridge) and CA-1 North
Muir Woods National Monument is named for John Muir, a naturalist whose environmental campaigns helped to establish the National Park Service is located 12-miles north of San Francisco. The first monument created from the donation of private land in 1908, it protects 540 acres, the majority being coastal redwood
Visiting Muir Woods National Monument requires visitors to purchase a parking or shuttle pass in advance of their arrival. These fees are separate from the entrance fee into the monument and are scheduled in 30-minute increments. Please also keep in mind that there is no cell phone service or WIFI available at the monument, therefore, it is suggested download your parking reservation or shuttle pass in advance.
Parking at Muir Woods: $8.50 for standard vehicles, $30.00 for medium vehicle and $45.00 for large vehicles.
Shuttle Reservations: $3.25 per adult round trip transportation (16 years and older). Children 15 years and younger are free. The Muir Woods Shuttle serves three off-site locations in Sausalito and Mill Valley. Additional information can be located here.
Get help planning your trip to Muir Woods National Monument
Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Site
Drive time: 35-minutes Northeast via I-80 E across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to the 580 North to the Visitor Center in Richmond, CA.
Please note: The Visitor Educational Center is located within a commercial area making it your eye out for a large brick warehouse and park as the park unit is adjacent to them.
Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Site interprets and preserves the National Home Front legacy of WWII. Located in the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards, it is a combination of “partnership parks” administered by the National Park Service. The Visitor Education Center is located within the Ford Richmond Plant, the largest assembly plant built on the West Coast is free of charge and showcases multiple educational films and exhibits and Rosie Friday’s, an opportunity to meet a real life WWII Home Front worker. The Rosie Memorial is the first National tribute to home front American women and is located nearby in Marina Park on the site of the former Kaiser Richmond Shipyard # 2. The SS Red Oak Victory is also located nearby in Richmond. Now preserved as a museum, it saw active duty during WWII, Vietnam and Korean Wars. It is open on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Additional information, including admission prices are located on its website.
John Muir National Historic Site
Drive time: 40-minutes East via the I-80 E and CA-4 E to Martinez, CA.
The John Muir National Historic Site illustrates the life of America’s favorite naturalist and conservationist whose work led to the creation Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and Mt. Rainer as National Parks. The house built by Muir’s father-in-law, Dr. John Strentzel in 1862 is a 17-room wooden Victorian mansion. Upon entry into the “big house”, visitors are greeted by a park ranger who provides a brief historical overview of the house. From the impressive dining room on the first floor, to Muir’s study on the second floor and up to the stairway accessible attic, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy. While on property, be sure to explore the grounds that include the family fruit orchards and nature walk.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Drive time: 1-hour, 10-minutes North across the US-101 North (Golden Gate Bridge) to Sir Frances Drake Blvd to the Bear Valley Visitor Center.
Point Reyes National Seashore combines panoramic cliff views, sandy beaches and hiking trails for everyone to enjoy. Attracting over 2.5 million visitors annually, Point Reyes National Seashore was established after a 1962 bill to protect the coastline from development. Located along the westernmost part of the Point Reyes Headlands, the Point Reyes Lighthouse attracts whale watchers from mid-January through late March. Due to its location, parking can be limited and fill-up early in the day. The visitor center and observation deck are located near the parking lot, while the lighthouse is located 900-feet beyond it at the end of a steep staircase. Exercise caution when in the area as it can get windy.
The Cypress Tree Tunnel and KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station. are also located within the park. The tunnel is a popular location among photographers during sunrise and sunset. The receiving station is a historic structure constructed in the early 1900’s that has been restored and functional. Parking is available along the road adjacent to the tunnel and at the end next to the receiving station.
Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site
Drive time: 40-minutes East I-80 E, CA-24 E and I-680 S to Danville, CA.
The Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site preserves the Tao House, home to America’s only Nobel Prize winning playwright. Using the prize money, Eugene O’Neill and his wife personally designed the house from their interest in Asian art and decor. Through fundraising efforts, the house and the 13-acres it lies on was saved from demolition in the early 1970’s.
Accessing the site requires booking a reservation in advance. Tours of the house are free, including round trip transportation and offered on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. Saturday’s are free and self-guided, but offered on a first-come, first-serve basis at 10:15 AM, 12:15 PM and 2:15 PM.
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial
Drive time: 40-minutes East via the I-80 E and CA-4 E to the John Muir National Historic Site. All visitors are shuttled to and from the site aboard a National Park Service vehicle.
Located inside the Concord Naval Weapons Station, the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial was dedicated in 1994. The memorial recognizes the 320 sailors and civilians killed on during the Port Chicago munitions disaster on July 17, 1944. Known as the largest domestic loss of life during WWII, its aftermath led to the largest mutiny in US Navy history.
Reservations are required to visit the memorial on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They must be reserved at least two weeks in advance through the park’s official email or telephone number. Visitors must submit their full legal name, phone number, date of birth and government issued identification number. All visitors are shuttled from John Muir National Historic Site and must be there by 12:30 PM on the day of their visit.
National Parks Within 2 Hour of San Francisco
Pinnacles National Park
Drive time: 2-hours South via the US-101 S
Pinnacles National Park is located 80-miles southeast of San Jose, CA in northern California. Originally a monument established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908, it was redesignated a national park on January 10, 2013. The Pinnacles are part of the Neenach Volcano that were split away during an eruption along the San Andreas Fault 23-million years ago near the city of Lancaster, 200-miles to the south.
The park can be accessed from the west entrance near Soledad and from the east entrance near Hollister. Camping facilities are available in the east side of the park and reservations can be made through the concessionaire Pinnacles Recreation. 30-miles hiking trails are located within the park boundaries ranging from moderate to strenuous. Pinnacles offers a variety of challenging climbing activities for experienced climbers. Visitors looking to explore the seasonal Bear Gulch Cave and Balconies Cave should check the official park website prior to their visit.
Get help planning your trip to Pinnacles National Park
National Parks Within 4 Hour of San Francisco
Yosemite National Park
Drive time: 3-hours 45-minutes East via the I-580 E to the CA-99 S and CA-41 N to the South Entrance.
Yosemite National Park is located in the western Sierra Nevada near the city of Oakhurst, CA and Bass Lake. Originally created by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864, the Yosemite Grant marked the first example of parkland being set aside for preservation and public use. It eventually set a precedent for the creation of the first national park in 1872, Yellowstone National Park.
Through the efforts of naturalist and Sierra Club founder, John Muir in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt returned the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to the federal government for the creation of Yosemite National Park. The park is a favorite among climbers for its challenging routes ascending up park icons El Capitan and Half Dome. The Yosemite Valley Shuttle provides free transportation to 21 stops along the Yosemite Village at popular hiking trails, the visitor center, Ahwahnee Hotel and Yosemite Falls.
Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Park
Drive time: 4-hours 15-minutes South via I-80 E to I-580 E to the CA-99 S to CA-180 E to Hume.
Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks are located in Northern California near the city of Fresno, in the southern Sierra Nevada. Jointly administered since 1943, and connected by the Generals’ Highway, each national park were found separately. America the Beautiful National Park Passes are accepted, as are 7-day passes permitting entrance into both parks. There are no gas stations within the park boundaries. The nearest stations are in Three Rivers near Sequoia’s Ash Mountain Entrance and in Dunlap, 19-miles from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center.
Sequoia National Park was established on September 25, 1890 to protect over 404,000 acres of forest. The largest tree on earth, the General Sherman is located in the Giant Forest section of the park that is home to five of the ten largest trees in the world. Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States at 14, 505 feet above sea level is located within the park. Visitors return to the park each Spring as the heavy snowpack has melted away to experience driving through Tunnel Log and enjoy the views of the Great Western Divide from the 6,725 foot granite dome, Moro Rock.
Kings Canyon National Park was originally in 1890 as General Grant National Monument, before it was expanded and renamed on March 4, 1940. Located above Sequoia National Park, it is the least accessible of the parks but rich in hiking trails, most notably the combined Pacific Crest and John Muir Trail which traverses the entire park. The park contains two tourist locations: Grant Grove, home to the General Grant Tree, the second largest tree in the world by volume and Cedar Grove. Two visitor centers are located at Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. The only vehicle entrance to the park is also located at Grant Grove.
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Drive time: 3-hours 45-minutes Northeast via I-80 E, I-505 N, I-5 N to CA-36 E
Lassen Volcanic National Park originally began in 1907, designated as two monuments, Cinder Cone National Monument and Lassen Peak National Monument before becoming a National Park in August 1916. Lassen is open everyday and it experiences all four seasons throughout the year. Spring and Summer see the higher amount of park visitors, while park access and roads are limited from December – March. Only one gas station is located within the park near the Manzanita Lake Campground, open from mid-May through mid-October.
Hydrothermal areas are located throughout the park for visitors to enjoy. A three-mile roundtrip hike takes you through Bumpass Hell, a 16-acre bowl of mudpots, boiling pools and roaring steam vents. The popular location is accessible by a boardwalk. Please exercise caution while in the area and remain on the trail.
The four-mile rountrip Cinder Cone hike allows visitors to experience the volcano first hand. The colorful Painted Dunes are located along the trail, a sight that is sure to be a photographers dream.
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
Drive time: 3-hours 30-minutes Northeast via the I-5 N
Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is located within the historic California Gold Rush area of Northern California, 8-miles West of the city of Redding. The visitor center is open daily, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Years. It provides a historical introduction to the development of Whiskeytown and information related to panning for gold. Multiple hikes to see any of the four falls, Whiskeytown, Boulder Creek, Brandy Creek and Crystal Creek Falls are located within the park.
Camping options along the lake are available and are operated by multiple companies, each with their own reservation system in place. Plenty of outdoor activities are available that include fishing, hiking, kayaking, boating and swimming during the summer months.
National Parks Within 8 Hour of San Francisco
Channel Islands National Park
Drive time: 5-hours 30-minutes South via the US-101 S to the Visitor Center in Ventura harbor
Channel Islands National Park consists of five of the eight Channel Islands – Anacapa, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel island, located off the coast of California. Transportation to the islands are accessible by boat and can range from 1-hour to 3-hours in length depending on the island destination.
Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands are open year-round and can be reached via Islands Packers ferry service from their locations in Oxnard harbor and Ventura harbor. Camping is available on the islands but campgrounds must be reserved before your arrival. There are no services available, so you must pack-out what you packed-in with you. Each island provides a unique experience for its visitors – Anacapa provides impressive views of the other islands from Inspiration Point, while Santa Cruz offers unique kayaking and beach experiences from Scorpion Beach.
Get help planning your trip to Channel Islands National Park:
- National Parks of California
- The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Channel Islands National Park
- 14 Things Not to Miss on Your First Visit to Channel Islands National Park
Redwood National Park
Drive time: 5-hours 25-minutes Northwest via US-101 N
Redwood National Park is located along the Northern California coastline. With over 40-miles of rugged coastline, giant Redwood trees, rivers and vast prairies, the National Park was established in 1968 to preserve the area after multiple decades of unrestricted logging following the prospectors turned loggers at the end of Gold Rush. Due to its expansive boundaries, there are multiple visitor centers available to learn about the recovery and preservation efforts. The ecosystem of the park protects multiple endangered species such as the Chinook salmon, Northern spotted owl and Steller’s sea lion. With over 200-miles of trails, wildlife viewing opportunities and picturesque scenery, there is something for everyone to enjoy throughout their visit.
Cinematic history was made inside of the park through the years. It served as the forest moon planet of Endor in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and was also featured in E.T. and Jurassic Park: The Lost World.
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Crater Lake National Park
Drive time: 6-hours 30-minutes North via the I-5 N
Crater Lake National Park is located in Southwestern Oregon Formed over 7,700 years ago following a violent eruption that collapsed Mount Mazama which would become Crater Lake measures 1,949 feet deep. It is the fifth oldest National Park and the deepest lake in the country. Open year-round, the park there are numerous observations points located along the 33-mile Rim Drive trail. Multiple hiking trails traverse the lake. The 4.5 mile Cleetwood Cove is located on the northern edge of lake traversing East until accessing the lake. For those choosing to hike the Cleetwood Cove Travel, please keep in mind that it is strenuous, dropping 700-feet within the first mile. Garfield Peak trail is a 1.7 mile moderate hike that is popular in the late afternoon due to the shift of colors over the lake.
Due to heavy snowfall every Winter, the North Entrance and Rim Drive are closed to cars. The roads are generally closed beginning in late-October.
Lodging is available from mid-May through mid-October and can be made up-to 365 days in advance online or by telephone. Crater Lake Lodge and The Cabins at Mazama Village are open from mid-May through mid-October.
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Death Valley National Park
Drive time: 7-hours 30-minutes Southeast via the I-80 E, I-5 S, CA-58 E, CA-14 N to CA-190 E
Death Valley National Park is located along the California/Nevada border. Made-up of an area that is 91% wilderness, the national park is originally began as Death Valley National Monument in 1933 until it was upgraded to a national park on October 31, 1994. In 2013, it was designed a “dark sky park” by the International Dark-Sky Association. The fictional planet of “Tatooine” in the Star Wars universe, Death Valley National Park is home to many unique natural elements created through its rich geographic history.
The national park provides visitors with many unique activities along its boundaries. Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America lies near the southwestern area of the park, a short drive from the city of Baker, California. Nearby are popular hiking trails through Golden Canyon, Mosaic Canyon and Natural Bridges Canyon. Scotty’s Castle, Racetrack Playa and the Ubehebe Crater are located in the northern most are of the park.
Get help planning your Death Valley National Park Trip
- National Parks of California
- National Parks of Nevada
- Death Valley Jeep Rental – Farabee’s Jeep Review
Joshua Tree National Park
Drive time: 8-hours South via the I-80 E, I-580 E, I-5 S, I-210 E, I-10 E to CA-62 E/29 Palms Hwy
Joshua Tree National Park is located within the Coachella valley near the city of Palm Springs and Twentynine Palms. Originally declared a national monument in 1936, it was redesignated as a national park on October 31, 1994.
The park is made-up of the Mojave Desert and Colorado Desert and is a popular weekend getaway for those living in Los Angeles and San Diego counties with three visitor centers open year-round. Slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island, the park is home to Joshua Tree forests and large rock formations that are popular among rock climbers.
Park visitors fill-up the campgrounds and popular hiking trails such as Skull Rock during the cooler Spring months. Keys View. on the eastern boundaries of the park is an observation point notable for sunset viewing opportunities of the Coachella Valley and Mt. San Jacinto, home to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The park is also famous for astronomy and stargazing for views of the Milky Way on clear evenings.
Get help planning your trip to Joshua Tree National Park
- National Parks of California
- All about Joshua Tree National Park
- One Day in Joshua Tree National Park
- 10 Things to Miss on Your First Visit to Joshua Tree National Park
- The Ultimate Guide to Camping in Joshua Tree National Park