Article Summary: National Parks Near San Francisco
National Parks near San Francisco. There’s so much more to this beautiful state than the city by the bay. In this article, we’ll familiarize you with the incredible national park sites that are within a six hour drive of San Francisco.
There are 11 national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the Golden State.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as well as full-fledged national parks.
San Francisco’s geography alone secures its spot on this list. Set on a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, the steep city offers beautiful hilltop views of skyscrapers, bridges, mountains, and surrounding water.
So, What Is A National Park?
We get asked that question a lot because there’s a difference between a “national park” and a “national park site.” To help you understand that difference you might want to check out our article titled: What Is A National Park Really?
If you’re planning a trip to the Golden State then one book I highly recommend is: California Bucket List Adventure Guide & Journal: Explore 50 Natural Wonders You Must See & Log Your Experience!
Now let’s go ahead with 8 reasons why you’ll want to make a drive of six hours (or less) from San Francisco to one of these amazing places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near San Francisco
National Parks Near San Francisco
- Best National Parks Near San Francisco
- More National Parks Near San Francisco
- Top 10 National Parks Near San Francisco
- Watch Our Award-Winning Redwood Video
- National Parks Near San Francisco FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of National Parks Near San Francisco
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Best National Parks Near San Francisco
1. Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Distance from San Francisco: 0 minutes (it’s basically in the city)
Resources: Where to Stay
I retired as a full-time history teacher so that I could join my two sons on an incredible adventure bringing America’s national treasures to life.
Starting with the closest national park to San Francisco, this national park site is located within sight of San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate National Recreation Area chronicles two hundred years of history.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) was established in 1972 and encompasses over 80,000 acres of land, including iconic sites such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.
The area has a rich history that spans over thousands of years, with the Ohlone people being the earliest known inhabitants. Spanish explorers and missionaries arrived in the late 18th century, followed by American settlers in the mid-19th century.
During the 20th century, the area faced major changes, including the construction of military fortifications during World War II and the expansion of urbanization. The idea for the GGNRA was first proposed in the 1960s as a way to protect the area’s natural beauty and historic sites, and in 1972, it was officially established as a National Recreation Area by Congress.
Today, the GGNRA is one of the most popular National Parks in the country, attracting millions of visitors each year. It offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing, as well as cultural and historical experiences.
While You’re There Check Out the Big Lockup, Alcatraz
The Big Lockup: Mass Incarceration in the United States, is an exciting new exhibit which examines Alcatraz Island as a military prison and federal penitentiary within the context of incarceration in the U.S. where currently 2.3 million people are behind bars, more than any other country in the world.
The exhibit takes a look at the disproportionate number of people of color, low literacy and those born into poverty that are in jail and prison. It looks at who is harmed, who bears the costs and how we can deter and prevent people from being put back into the system. Finally, The Big Lockup asks: Is there a better way? (Source: NPS)
CHECK OUT: 20 MUST-SEE Historic Sites In California
2. John Muir National Historic Site
Distance from San Francisco: 45 minutes
The John Muir National Historic Site was established in 1964 to commemorate the life and work of naturalist and conservationist John Muir.
John Muir was born in Scotland in 1838 and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1849. He spent much of his life exploring the natural world, and became a passionate advocate for the preservation of America’s wilderness areas.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Muir played a key role in the creation of several National Parks, including Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. He was also the co-founder of the Sierra Club, a grassroots organization dedicated to protecting the environment.
The John Muir National Historic Site was established in 1964 to preserve Muir’s home and the surrounding property. The site includes Muir’s Victorian mansion, as well as the surrounding gardens and orchards. It also features exhibits and interpretive programs that highlight Muir’s life and work, and the role he played in the American conservation movement.
Today, the John Muir National Historic Site is a popular destination for visitors who are interested in the history of conservation and the life of John Muir. It provides a unique opportunity to learn about the man and his legacy, and to experience the beauty of the natural world that he worked so hard to protect.
To learn more about John Muir check out 10+ GREAT John Muir Facts.
3. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Distance from San Francisco: 4 hours
Resources: Where to Stay
Lassen Volcanic National Park is approximately 235 miles from San Francisco. It you take the I-5 South it’s an estimated drive time of three hours and 51 minutes. It’s well worth the trip, however, especially if you enjoy examining the effects of volcanoes from roiling fumaroles to dramatic jagged peaks.
The park is located on the southern rim of the Cascade Range, and is home to the largest plug dome volcano in the world, Lassen Peak. The park’s volcanic activity began about 27,000 years ago, and the most recent eruption took place from 1914 to 1917.
The Park Offers A Variety Of Recreational Opportunities
Lassen Volcanic National Park offers a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Visitors can also explore the park’s volcanic features, including Bumpass Hell, a 3-mile trail that leads to a large geothermal area, and the Lassen Peak hike, which offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
In addition to its geological wonders, Lassen Volcanic National Park also contains diverse landscapes, including forests, meadows, and lakes, providing habitats for a wide range of wildlife, including bears, deer, and birds.
Today, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a popular destination for visitors seeking to experience the unique volcanic landscapes of the Cascade Range and learn about the geology and natural history of the region.
4. Muir Woods National Monument
Distance from San Francisco: 45 minutes
Muir Woods National Monument is located 16 miles from San Francisco. It’s a driving time of approximately 45 minutes along U.S. Highway 101.
If you like the great Redwoods of California then you’ll love exploring Muir Woods. The park contains 6 miles of trails. There is a 1/2 hour loop, a 1 hour loop, and a 1 1/2 hour loop as well as longer hikes on trails that extend into surrounding Mount Tamalpais State Park.
Situated just off California’s coastline and named for the legendary conservationist, Muir Woods National Monument is home to some of the most beautiful stands of old-growth redwoods on the planet.
Now, I must say, compared to the redwoods you’ll find in Redwood National & State Parks, or the Sequoias you’ll see at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, these specimens leave something to be desired. However, they’re still worth a visit, especially for nearby San-Franciscans.
Getting into the national monument requires advance reservation so be sure to check in prior to visiting. Once you’re there just follow the Main Trail (yes, that’s its name) which takes hikers through the grove.
Along the way you’ll see bridges which cross to the other side of the loop allowing hikers to do a .5, 1, or 2 mile loop.
More National Parks Near San Francisco
5. Point Reyes National Seashore
Distance from San Francisco: 1 hour 20 minutes
Resources: Where to Stay
Point Reyes National Seashore is a protected area located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, California. The park covers over 71,000 acres and is one of the largest and most diverse national seashores in the United States, offering a stunning mix of rugged coastal landscapes, rolling hills, and verdant valleys.
Point Reyes is known for its stunning scenery, which includes rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and rolling hills dotted with dairy farms and ranches. The park is also a wildlife haven, with over 375 species of birds, including several species of threatened seabirds, as well as gray whales, harbor seals, and sea lions.
The Park Offers A Wide Range Of Recreational Opportunities
The park offers a wide range of recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
There are over 150 miles of trails, ranging from easy, accessible walks to strenuous backcountry adventures, offering opportunities to explore the diverse landscapes of the park, from windswept beaches and rocky cliffs to lush forests and rolling grasslands.
In addition to its natural beauty, Point Reyes National Seashore is also rich in cultural history, with a long history of human habitation and use, from the Miwok and Coast Miwok peoples, who lived in the area for thousands of years, to the European settlers who established dairy farms and ranches in the 19th century.
Visitors can explore historic sites, such as the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse and the historic village of Stinson Beach, and learn about the region’s rich cultural heritage.
Point Reyes National Seashore is a true gem of the National Park system and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in nature, history, or simply seeking a peaceful and rejuvenating escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Its breathtaking scenery and diverse wildlife offer a window into the beauty and complexity of the natural world, making it a truly special and unforgettable place.
Top 10 National Parks Near San Francisco
6. Redwood National Park
Distance from San Francisco: The 337-mile drive from San Francisco to Redwood National Park will take you around 6 hours. The fastest route is by taking the US-101 all the way there. It’s doable in a day, but splitting it into 2 days will let you make some stops along the way.
Redwood National and State Parks is a complex of protected areas located along the coast of northern California. The parks were created to preserve the ancient coast redwood forest, one of the tallest and most iconic tree species in the world, as well as to protect the diverse array of wildlife that depends on this unique ecosystem.
The history of Redwood National Park begins in the 19th century, when California’s coast redwoods were being heavily logged for their valuable timber.
By the early 20th century, only a small fraction of the original redwood forest remained, and conservationists and environmentalists began advocating for the creation of a national park to protect the remaining redwoods.
In 1968, the state of California established Redwood National Park, and in 1978, Congress designated the park as a National Park. At the same time, several state parks were established to protect redwoods in the surrounding area, and these parks were later combined with Redwood National Park to form Redwood National and State Parks.
Redwood National & State Parks Today
Today, Redwood National and State Parks encompass over 133,000 acres, protecting not only the magnificent coast redwoods, but also a diverse array of other habitats, including prairies, oak woodlands, and riparian areas.
The parks are also home to a rich diversity of wildlife, including threatened species such as the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet.
Redwood National and State Parks are a testament to the power of conservation and the importance of protecting our natural heritage.
The parks offer visitors the chance to explore one of the world’s most magnificent forests, to learn about the biology and ecology of these ancient trees, and to appreciate the rich diversity of life that depends on them.
Watch Our Award-Winning Redwood Video
MTJP | Redwood is the culmination of several weeks spent exploring Redwood National and State Parks. Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California are home to the tallest trees in the world, the mighty Redwood, which can reach staggering heights of over 360ft and weigh more than 500 tons.
These parks feature magical forests, miles of spectacular beaches, stunning overlooks, and the largest herd of Roosevelt elk on the planet.
This film was shot entirely in 4K. Redwood National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for good reason.
A trip to this magical place is a must for every human on the planet. Redwood National Park features the tallest trees on the planet (not to be confused with the largest in Sequoia National Park).
7. Rosie The Riveter National Historical Park
Distance from San Francisco: 40 minutes (19 miles)
Resources: Where to Stay
Rosie The Riveter National Historical Park is located 19 miles from San Francisco. It’s a 40 minute drive along I-80 West.
The Rosie The Riveter National Historical Park honors the efforts and sacrifices of American civilians on the World War II home front.
At the Visitor Education Center there are a variety of educational and interactive exhibits. It’s a wonderful place to learn about how the contributions of men and women on the home front helped America to win World War Two. This National Park was established in 2000.
While you’re there, places that you should see include the Ford Assembly Plant, Rosie The Riveter Memorial, Shipyard #3, the SS Red Oak Victory Ship and the Richmond Museum of History.
It was none other than Winston Churchill who said, “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” Visitors can learn the stories and see the places where the tools which helped to win the war were actually made.
Rosie The Riveter Meets Betty Reid Soskin
Betty Reid Soskin graduated from Castlemont High School in Oakland during the World’s Fair at Treasure Island.
Betty worked in a segregated Union hall, Boilermaker’s A-36, during World War Two as a file clerk. In 1945, Betty and her husband, Mel Reid, founded one of the first black-owned music stores — Reid’s Records, which closed in the fall of 2019.
Betty went on to hold positions as staff assistant to a Berkeley city council member and as a field representative serving West Contra Costa County for two members of the California State Assembly: former Assemblywoman Dion Aroner and Senator Loni Hancock.
America’s Oldest Park Ranger
In the early 2000s, Betty participated in meetings with the City of Richmond and the National Park Service to develop the general management plan for Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park.
She worked with the NPS on a grant funded by PG&E to uncover untold stories of African-Americans on the Home Front during WWII, which led to a temporary position working with the NPS at the age of 84.
In 2007, Betty became a permanent NPS employee and has been leading public programs and sharing her personal remembrances and observations at the park visitor center.
In early 2019, a film produced by the Rosie the Riveter Trust, “No Time To Waste: The Urgent Mission of Betty Reid Soskin,” was released.
This documentary tells the story of Betty’s involvement with Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park and the influence she has had on the NPS in telling untold stories, and in sharing her history in ways that inspire and challenge current social norms. (Source: NPS)
8. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
Distance From San Francisco: It’s in San Francisco!
Resources: Where to Stay
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is located in San Francisco, California and is dedicated to preserving the history of the city’s maritime heritage. The park was established in 1988 and is made up of a collection of historic ships, buildings, and artifacts.
The park’s origins can be traced back to the 1930s, when a group of San Francisco residents began to work towards preserving the city’s maritime history. In 1936, the National Park Service established the Hyde Street Pier as a museum, and over the next several decades, the park grew to include additional ships, buildings, and artifacts.
Today, the park is home to several historic ships, including the square-rigged sailing ship Balclutha, the steam ferryboat Eureka, and the scow schooner Alma.
In addition to the ships, the park also includes the historic Aquatic Park Bathhouse, the Maritime Museum, and the Maritime Research Center, which hold a wealth of artifacts and documents related to San Francisco’s maritime history.
The park offers a variety of educational programs and opportunities for visitors to learn about the city’s rich maritime heritage.
9. Yosemite National Park
Distance From San Francisco: 3 hours (167 miles)
Yosemite National Park is a protected area located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. It covers over 747,000 acres and is widely considered one of the most beautiful and iconic national parks in the United States.
Yosemite is known for its breathtaking scenery, including towering granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and lush meadows dotted with wildflowers. Some of the park’s most iconic features include El Capitan, a massive granite monolith that is one of the world’s most popular destinations for rock climbers, and Half Dome, a distinctive granite dome that rises nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor.
In addition to its spectacular scenery, Yosemite is also home to a diverse array of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, and a variety of bird species, such as the peregrine falcon and the California Condor.
The park also contains several ecosystems, including old-growth forests, high-elevation meadows, and alpine tundra, providing habitat for a rich diversity of plant and animal species.
Yosemite National Park offers a wide range of recreational opportunities, including hiking, camping, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing. There are over 800 miles of trails, ranging from easy, accessible walks to strenuous backcountry adventures, offering visitors the chance to explore the diverse landscapes of the park.
The park also contains several historic sites, such as the historic Ahwahnee Hotel and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, offering visitors the chance to learn about the rich cultural history of the area.
A Park With A Rich Cultural History
Yosemite has a rich cultural history, with Native American inhabitants for thousands of years. It was set aside as a protected area in 1864, making it one of the first protected wilderness areas in the United States, and was later established as a National Park in 1916.
The park attracts millions of visitors each year, who come to hike, camp, rock climb, and take in the stunning natural beauty of the area. In addition to recreational activities, the park also has a strong tradition of conservation and scientific research, making it a valuable resource for both current and future generations.
10 & 11. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Distance from San Francisco: 5 hours 30 minutes
Kings Canyon Resources: Facts
About these National Parks Near San Francisco
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, and together they form one of the largest and most biologically diverse protected areas in the world.
The parks are known for their towering sequoia trees, some of which are over 3,000 years old and are among the largest and tallest trees on Earth, as well as their rugged granite cliffs, lush meadows, and crystal-clear streams.
The history of the parks dates back to the mid-19th century, when the first settlers arrived in the area and began logging the ancient sequoias for their valuable lumber.
By the late 1800s, concerns about the depletion of the sequoia forests led to the creation of several small national parks and reserves, including General Grant National Park in 1890 and the King’s Canyon National Park in 1940.
In the mid-19th century, the parks were expanded and combined to form Sequoia National Park, and later merged with King’s Canyon National Park to form the modern-day Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Sequoia & Kings Canyon Today
Today, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks cover over 865,000 acres and protect some of the most stunning and unique landscapes in the world. The parks offer visitors the chance to explore the ancient sequoia forests, hike through rugged backcountry wilderness, and admire the stunning scenery of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
In addition to its towering sequoias and breathtaking scenery, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are also home to a rich and diverse array of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, and a variety of bird species.
The parks also contain several historic sites, including the Grant Grove of giant sequoias, the site of General Grant’s famous “Nation’s Christmas Tree,” and the historic Cedar Grove Lodge, offering visitors the chance to learn about the rich cultural and natural history of the area.
The Largest Trees In The World – Sherman & Grant
Of course, you’re going to want to be sure to visit the two stars of these two parks.
The world’s largest tree measured by volume is the General Sherman Tree. The tree stands 275 feet (83 m) tall, and is over 36 feet (11 m) in diameter at the base. It’s located in Sequoia National Park.
The world’s second largest tree is the General Grant Tree. It’s located in Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park. The General Grant Tree is the second-largest tree in the world, standing 267 feet tall, and nearly 29 feet wide at the base.
National Parks Near San Francisco FAQ
Yosemite is about 170 miles away from San Francisco and about a 4-hour drive. So, we recommend starting your day as early as 5 AM or 6 AM to have full experience in the park.
Located at the Golden Gate, the Presidio is a national park site like no other, with surprising adventures for everyone. Get away from it all on a trail and enjoy the view from a scenic overlook.
Yosemite is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. Located about 140 miles southeast of Sacramento in northern California, Yosemite National Park welcomes millions of visitors per year thanks to its unique geology and bevy of adventure activities.
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near San Francisco?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Summary Of National Parks Near San Francisco
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area
- John Muir National Historic Site
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Muir Woods National Monument
- Point Reyes National Sea Shore
- Redwood National Park
- Rosie The Riveter National Historical Park
- San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Pinnacles National Park
- Sequoia National Park
- Kings Canyon National Park
Map Of National Parks Near San Francisco
- 9 EPIC CALIFORNIA NATIONAL PARKS (Beautiful Photos + Video)
- 15 (STUNNING) Things to Do in Redwood National Park
- An Expert Guide to REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK (Epic Video + Photos)
- 10 [EPIC] Things to Do at Pinnacles National Park (Expert Guide)
- JOSHUA TREE National Park: A (Very) Helpful Guide with Photos + Video
- 20 (BEST) West Coast National Parks – Ranked by Experts
- Why DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK is Worth the Trip (Photos + Video)
- 15 EPIC HIKES in JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK (+ Photos)
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!
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