Article Summary: National Parks Near San Jose
National Parks near San Jose! Do you know the way to San Jose? Well if you do then what’s stopping you!
There’s so much more to this beautiful city than the Winchester Mystery House. In this article, we’ll familiarize you with the incredible national park sites that are within a five hour drive of San Jose. There are 7 national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the Golden State.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
San Jose is notable for its innovation, cultural diversity, affluence, and sunny and mild Mediterranean climate. Its connection to the booming high tech industry phenomenon known as Silicon Valley sparked Mayor Tom McEnery to adopt the city the motto of “Capital of Silicon Valley” in 1988.
But it also has some amazing national parks that are within a day’s drive (or less) of the city.
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 7 wonderful reasons why you’ll want to make a drive of five hours (or less) from San Jose to one of these amazing places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near San Jose
National Parks Near San Jose
- Best National Parks Near San Jose
- More National Parks Near San Jose
- Check Out Our Award-Winning Film
- National Parks Near San Jose FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of National Park Sites Near San Jose
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Best National Parks Near San Jose
1. Capitola Beach
Distance From San Jose: 43 minutes vis CA-17 S.
Capitola Beach is a popular beach located in the town of Capitola, California. It is situated along the Monterey Bay on the central coast of California and is known for its clear blue waters and scenic coastline.
The beach features a wide, sandy shoreline and is surrounded by vibrant and colorful buildings, making it a popular tourist destination.
Visitors to Capitola Beach can enjoy a variety of activities such as sunbathing, swimming, surfing, fishing, and beach volleyball. There are also several restaurants and shops nearby, offering a variety of dining and shopping options. In addition, the beach hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Capitola Art & Wine Festival, the Wharf-to-Wharf Race, and the Begonia Festival.
Capitola Beach is also a great spot for scenic walks and picnics, with plenty of grassy areas and parks nearby. Whether you are looking to relax and soak up the sun or enjoy some outdoor activities, Capitola Beach has something for everyone.
2. John Muir National Historic Site
Distance from San Jose: 59 minutes via I-680 N.
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.
3. Lassen Volcanic National Park
Distance from San Jose: 4 hours & 15 minutes via I-680 N & I-5 N.
Visitors to the park can find all four types of volcanoes (shield, composite, cinder cone, and plug dome) within the boundaries of the more than 100,000-acre park. While you’re there be sure to check out Boiling Springs Lake. It’s one of the largest hot water lakes in the world. The sea green lake is heated to a hot 125 degrees by steam vents so don’t get too close.
If you’re more comfortable travelling by car than by foot than there’s a 30-mile park highway known as Lassen Volcanic National Highway. It’s a great way to enjoy the scenery without ever having to leave your vehicle.
If you prefer walking to driving Lassen boasts 150 miles of trails. Hikers can see waterfalls, a bubbling lake, and lava beds. There’s something for everyone.
You can take a leisurely stroll along the half-mile Devastated Area Interpretive Trail or, if you’re looking for more of a challenge, take the Brokeoff Mountain Trail. It’s a 7.4-mile strenuous that leads to fabulous views at the top of the mountain.
Things To Do
Lassen Volcanic National Park, located in northeastern California, offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. Some of the most popular things to do at the park include:
- Hiking: With over 150 miles of trails, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a hiker’s paradise. Visitors can explore the park’s diverse landscapes, including forests, meadows, and volcanic features.
- Camping: There are several campgrounds within the park, offering a variety of camping experiences, from car camping to backpacking.
- Wildlife viewing: Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and several species of birds.
- Volcanic features: The park is famous for its volcanic features, including geysers, boiling mud pots, and steaming fumaroles. Visitors can take a scenic drive through the park to see these features, or hike to them for a closer look.
- Boating and fishing: The park has several alpine lakes, where visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, and other water-based activities.
- Snow sports: During the winter months, Lassen Volcanic National Park is a popular destination for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding.
- Ranger-led programs: The park offers a variety of ranger-led programs, including guided walks, talks, and campfire programs, providing visitors with an in-depth understanding of the park’s history, geology, and ecology.
Interested in learning more about great national parks along the West Coast?
More National Parks Near San Jose
4. Muir Woods National Monument
Distance From San Jose: One hour & 35 minutes via U.S. 101 N.
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.
5. Point Reyes National Seashore
Distance From San Jose: 2 hours via I-60 N & I-580 W.
When it comes to national seashores, there are few places in the world which compare to California and what it has to offer. Point Reyes National Seashore is a case in point.
Point Reyes offers visitors over 1500 species of plants and animals to discover. You’ll also experience ocean breakers crashing against rocky headlands and expansive sand beaches to its open grasslands, brushy hillsides, and forested ridges.
I recommend beginning your visit at the Bear Valley Visitor Center where you’ll be treated to several ecological and historical museum exhibits, along with a weather station.
You should also check out the Point Reyes Lighthouse. And don’t forget to take a stroll along the Woodpecker Trail where you’ll experience beautiful local forest and meadows.
6. Redwood National Park
Distance From San Jose: The 337-mile drive from San Jose 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 combined area in California that protects the ancient coast redwood forest and its diverse wildlife.
The history of the park dates back to 1918 when the first parcel of redwood forest was set aside as a state park. Over the next several decades, additional lands were added to the park, and in 1968, the Redwood National Park was established to protect the remaining old-growth redwoods along the coast of northern California.
In 1994, the National Park was expanded to include lands from nearby state parks to create the Redwood National and State Parks, which now covers over 140,000 acres. The park is known for its towering redwoods, scenic coastline, and diverse wildlife, including the threatened California condor.
Check Out Our Award-Winning Film
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).
If you’re visiting the park be sure to check out our full Guide!
7. Rosie The Riveter National Historical Park
Distance From San Jose: One hour & 15 minutes via I-680 N & I-580 W.
As a retired history teacher, I love being able to pack up and go off in search of America’s past. The Rosie The Riveter National Historical Park honor 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)
National Parks Near San Jose FAQ
Joseph D Grant County Park. 6.0 miles
Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. 22.6 miles
New Brighton State Beach. 22.7 miles
Ardenwood Historic Farm. 22.0 miles
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The nation’s first national park, established in 1872, has so many iconic features it’s almost impossible to list them all.
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near San Jose?
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
List Of National Park Sites Near San Jose
- Capitola Beach
- 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
Map Of National Park Sites Near San Jose
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- JOSHUA TREE National Park: A (Very) Helpful Guide with Photos + Video
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- Why DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK is Worth the Trip (Photos + Video)
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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!