11 Top National Parks Near San Francisco

yosemite valley view during sunny day

Visiting a National Park near San Francisco is one of the best things to do in the Bay Area. Whether you want to walk among the giant trees in Muir Woods, get the perfect photo of Half Dome in Yosemite, or learn about the famous prisoners of Alcatraz Island, the National Parks near San Francisco have it all!

Below is a guide to the top 11 National Parks near San Francisco. All 11 parks are within a 6 hour drive of the City by the Bay, making them reasonable day or weekend trips for visitors and locals alike. 

Before we dive in, we want to explain that we have included both National Parks and National Historic Sites in this list. The National Historic Sites are also managed and staffed by the National Park Service. These often overlooked parks share important and fascinating cultural history that visitors of all ages will enjoy. And most of them are even free to visit! We hope you will explore the ones in this list.

1. Redwood National Park

green forest of redwoods
  • Cost: Free, except the state park locations, which require a small day use fee
  • Park Hours: 24 hours per day/365 days a year. Visitor centers and campground registration hours vary depending on the season
  • Distance from San Francisco: 311 miles, approximately 6 hours
  • Activities: Hiking, cycling, camping, scenic drives, wildlife viewing
  • Pet Friendly? Yes, on leash and in designated areas. Service dogs only on trails. 
  • Attractions Nearby: Oregon Caves, Crater Lake

Even though it is the furthest drive to reach this National Park from San Francisco, the Redwoods make this list because the giant trees of California are simply iconic. The trails offered in the Redwood National and State Parks complex are among the best redwood hikes near San Francisco.

Redwood National and State Parks together include Redwood National Park, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods, and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Parks. These parks are located on the Northern California and Southern Oregon coasts. They protect some of the last remaining stands of coast redwood trees, California’s state tree. 

These parks are very popular, and it is easy to see why. The parks offer hundreds of miles of trails, exploring several coastal redwood ecosystems, the most photographed scenic drives in the country, and a massive herd of Roosevelt elk.

Whether you plan to stay for the weekend (or the week!) at one of the fantastic campgrounds, or just do a quick hike as you pass through during a longer road trip, the Redwoods National and State Parks will not disappoint.

2. Yosemite National Park

a man with his hands up in the air showing peace sign in front of yosemite valley view
  • Cost: $35 for a vehicle pass (7 days). Reservations are required for entry on peak days/times. Visit the National Park’s website for details.
  • Park Hours: Open 24 hours per day/365 days a year. Entrance gate and road closures occur during winter.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 169 miles, approximately 4 hours
  • Activities: Camping, tours, cycling, hiking, horseback riding, bird watching, fishing, star gazing, rock climbing, skiing, boating, photography, museums, dining
  • Pet Friendly? Yes, on leashes only in designated areas. Service animals only on trails. 
  • Attractions Nearby: Bass Lake, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, a variety of wineries, Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, Thornberry Museum, historic Mariposa, and much, much more!

Yosemite National Park is one of the most well-known national parks in the country, with millions of visitors each year from all over the world. Yoemite’s star attractions include Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridal Veil Fall, Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, and Mariposa Grove. 

A visit to Yosemite is incredible any day of the year. Whether you go in spring for the rushing waterfalls, summer to swim in the Merced River, fall for the beautiful colors, or in winter for the magical white wonderland, Yosemite will live in your memories forever. 

The activities available in Yosemite are so numerous they are almost impossible to list. Check out our detailed article on the best things to do in Yosemite for a better idea. If you know you want to take pictures of all of the famous landmarks, check out our picks for the best photo spots in Yosemite

If you wish to stay the night in Yosemite, you have options ranging from walk-in tent camping at the legendary Camp 4, to an elegant stay at the Ahwahnee Hotel, and everything in between. Maybe try Curry Village for cabins or canvas-sided tents and an incredible central valley location. 

A day trip from San Francisco to Yosemite is doable, especially if you book an arranged Yosemite One Day Tour. Relax on your transportation to the park, and sit back as your guide deals with park entry details. Visit all of the best viewpoints in the park, including the famous Tunnel View, and take some free time to do a hike or two on your own. Walk amongst the giant sequoia in Tuolumne Grove, before heading back to San Francisco. If you want to spend some more quality time in Yosemite, Extranomical Tours has great options for multi-day overnight Yosemite tours too! Extend your trip to 3-4 days, or even more. Whether you book one of our wonderful partner accommodations, or find a play to stay on your own, let us take care of your transportation to and from San Francisco for a worry-free Yosemite vacation.

a couple standing at the tunnel view

Yosemite and Giant Sequoias One Day Tour from San Francisco

  • 15 Hours
  • 209+

The only 1-day Yosemite tour from San Francisco to deliver more than you dreamed at Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and on a hike to Giant Sequoias.

More Info
10% OFF Summer Offer
yosemite tunnel view lookout in the winter

Yosemite Winter One Day Tour from San Francisco

  • 15 Hours
  • 209+

Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Yosemite Falls make dramatic appearances during this winter tour of Yosemite from San Francisco.

More Info
October – April

3. Muir Woods National Monument

two people walking though Muir woods park entryway
  • Cost: $15 for an adult (16 and over). Additional fees and reservations are required for parking and shuttles, visit gomuirwoods for details. 
  • Park Hours: 8 am – 5-8 pm (seasonal), 365 days a year
  • Distance from San Francisco: 16 miles, 40 minutes
  • Activities: hiking amongst the giant trees, Visitor Center
  • Pet Friendly? No
  • Attractions Nearby: Sweetwater Music Hall, Marin Theatre Company, Stinson Beach, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Sausalito

Muir Woods National Monument is another National Park near San Francisco where you can experience the giant coastal redwoods. This park is relatively small and very close to San Francisco, so you will not be alone. But the trees are worth it, trust us.

The main trail from the Visitor Center is a flat, accessible trail amongst the old growth redwoods along Redwood Creek. Four bridges cross Redwood Creek and allow for you to make loop hikes of varying lengths. You can even hike all day by taking the trails up and out of Muir Woods and into neighboring Mt. Tamalpais State Park. 

There are several ways to reach Muir Woods from San Francisco. One of the best is on a Muir Woods Tour. Let your driver deal with reservations and parking, while you explore the magical redwoods. 

You can combine a Muir Woods tour with a trip to the charming beach town of Sausalito in just half a day. Or take the full day and do a tasting tour of wine country after you visit the trees. Either way, a trip to Muir Woods always makes for the perfect day trip from San Francisco.

Muir Woods National Monument is technically one of the sites within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Let’s see what else GGNRA has to offer!

4. Golden Gate National Recreation Area

golden gate park

  • Cost: Varies by site, but many are free
  • Park Hours: Vary by season and site, visit the GGNRA NPS website for up-to-date hours
  • Distance from San Francisco: 7 miles, 20 minutes
  • Activities: Hiking, history, views, birding, ranger tours, Alcatraz Island tour 
  • Pet Friendly? Generally yes! Varies by site
  • Attractions Nearby: The Walt Disney Family Museum, Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts, Bay Area Discovery Museum

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area was established in 1972. It is the closest National Park site to San Francisco, with several park locations even on the peninsula itself. The GGNRA is a huge protected area which includes too many sites to detail here. Here are the not-to-miss sites within the Golden Gate Recreation Area and why you should visit:

  • Alcatraz Island: Don’t pass up a chance to visit this infamous prison island. Tickets to the island include two beautiful ferry rides, the popular jailhouse audio tour, and free reign to explore the island on your own. Here is an article on everything you need to know about visiting The Rock
  • Golden Gate Bridge: You can’t visit San Francisco without at least getting a selfie with this famous landmark. Take it a step further by walking or biking across.
  • Fort Point National Historic Site: Speaking of the bridge, one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge is from beneath at Fort Point. And entry is free! Join a ranger talk to learn about the history of the fort, then head to the roof for a unique perspective of the bridge.
  • The Presidio: This army post turned park is huge, and offers everything from scenic sandy beaches to great hiking (try the batteries to bluffs trail), to a Disney Museum. Not to mention the incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge around every turn.  
  • Land’s End: Perched on the western edge of San Francisco, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, is Land’s End. Do the beautiful hike, and don’t miss the ruins of the Sutro Baths. 
  • Point Bonita Lighthouse: Across the bridge in Marin County, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes extensive natural and historic sites including the Point Bonita Lighthouse and Stinson Beach. 
  • And more!

To experience many of these locations in one amazing day, consider this Alcatraz Island and guided San Francisco city tour. This tour takes you to the Golden Gate Bridge, Land’s End and Sutro Baths, the top of Twin Peaks for the best view of the city, and the most iconic neighborhoods in San Francisco. Cap off the day with an afternoon trip to Alcatraz Island.

5. Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore during sunny day
  • Cost: Free (fees for shuttle buses, camping, and so on.)
  • Park Hours: 6 a.m. – 12 a.m. (Visitor Center and Lighthouse hours vary)
  • Distance from San Francisco: 37 miles, approximately 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Activities: Hiking, ocean and beach views, kayaking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, whale watching
  • Pet friendly? Yes, leashed and on designated trails and beaches
  • Attractions Nearby: Jack Mason Museum, Bolinas Museum, Point Reyes Lighthouse

Explore the protected coastline of Point Reyes National Seashore for dramatic natural landscapes. Point Reyes is just a quick hour drive from San Francisco and offers some of the most beautiful coastal views in California. 

Hike on over 150 miles of trails, keeping your eye on the horizon for migrating gray whales. If visiting during the spring, also keep an eye and ear out for elephant seals, sunning their huge bodies on the sand. 

Ambitious hikers can take on the 13-mile round trip hike to the stunning Alamere Falls. Or if you want to get out on the water, rent kayaks and paddle around, surprisingly calm, Tomales Bay. 

Point Reyes is a huge park with tons of available activities. It is always a great idea to start your visit with a trip to the Bear Valley Visitor Center. Rangers can help you plan your day, including any free programs offered that day.

6. Rosie The Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park

Rosie the Riveter Stamps We Can Do It!
  • Cost: Free
  • Park Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Visitor Center hours, many sites can be visited anytime)
  • Distance from San Francisco: 19 miles, approximately 25 minutes
  • Activities: Historical education and exploration
  • Pet Friendly? No. Service animals only inside Visitor Center
  • Attractions Nearby: Richmond Museum of History

You probably recognize the famous flexing image of Rosie the Riveter. Well did you know she has a National Historical Park named for her? This free historic site is just across the Bay from San Francisco in Richmond, CA, and is well worth a visit. 

The museum focuses on the important contributions and sacrifices made by Americans at home during World War II. The park includes varied sites related to the WW II Home Front, including the Ford Assembly Plant, Rosie the Riveter Memorial on the waterfront, and the SS Red Oak Victory ship. 

Be aware that each site has different accessibility. Some can only be viewed from the outside as they are active schools or businesses. The SS Red Oak can be boarded only on Sundays, for example. It is best to begin your exploration at the Visitor Center to receive an explanation and map of the sites from rangers. 

7. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Pirate ship docked at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park
  • Cost: $15 per adult aged 16+ (7 days)
  • Park Hours: Vary depending on attraction
  • Distance from San Francisco: 2 miles, right on the waterfront
  • Activities: Museums, historic ships, libraries
  • Pet Friendly? Yes, leashed in Aquatic Park Historic Landmark District. Service animals only on historic ships
  • Attractions Nearby: Fort Mason, Powell/Hyde cable car, Fisherman’s Wharf, Musee Mechanique, Marina Green

Begin your exploration of San Francisco’s seafaring past at the Hyde Street Pier ticket booth, open 7 days a week, from 10-4pm. Here you can buy tickets to board the historic ships and learn more about park offerings, including ranger programs. 

This San Francisco National Park is all about the history and culture of the ocean and its deep connection to San Francisco. Learn all about the hardy vessels and stout hearts it took to traverse the high seas throughout history. 

There is much to learn and see here, but the highlight of San Francisco Maritime National  Historical Park is the historic ships. Whether you board them or not, the ships docked at Hyde Street Pier are memorable to see. They include Balclutha, an 1886 3-masted square rigger so complicated it took 26 men to operate as it carried cargo around the tip of South America. 

8. Lassen Volcanic National Park

tall pine trees in front of a clear blue water
  • Cost: $30 per vehicle (April 15-Nov 30), $10 per vehicle (Dec 1-April 15)
  • Park Hours: 24 hours per day/365 days a year. Seasonal closures affect roads and activities, see Lassen NPS website for updates.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 247 miles, approximately 4 hours
  • Activities: Hiking, cycling, camping, fishing, wildlife viewing, skiing, sledding, scenic drives
  • Pet Friendly? Yes, but only where cars can go. Service animals only on trails and inside visitor centers.
  • Attractions Nearby: Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Lake Shasta Caverns

The southern edge of the Cascade Mountain Range lies just a half day’s drive from San Francisco, and this is where you can find Lassen Volcanic National Park. The park is home to Lassen Peak, the largest plug dome volcano in the world. 

The surrounding park lands include 4 watersheds of rivers and lakes, including beautiful Manzanita Lake, and all 4 types of volcanoes found in the world. While the area sleeps quietly for now (Lassen last erupted about 100 years ago), the variety of hydrothermal activity in the park suggests that the volcanic era of the park is not over. 

The activities offered at Lassen Volcanic National Park are as varied as the seasons. Summer and fall offer hiking, boating, and fishing, while winter brings snow-covered hills for skiing and sledding. Just make sure to check out the seasonal information available on their website to avoid unexpected closures.

9. John Muir National Historic Site

John Muir national historic site building
  • Cost: Free
  • Park Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 32 miles, approximately 36 mins
  • Activities: hiking, Victorian mansion, historic exhibits and film, ranger programs
  • Pet Friendly? Yes, leashed on the grounds. Service animals only within the mansion.
  • Attractions Nearby: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Martinez Regional Shoreline

The next National Park near San Francisco is especially for those interested in conservation. The John Muir National Historic Site chronicles the life and contributions of the “father of the National Park Service,” and cofounder of The Sierra Club. Who knows, If not for Muir, would any of the parks on this list exist?

Make sure not to miss the introductory film at the Visitor Center. Then head out on the audio tour of the grounds, pausing to walk in and around Muir’s 10,000 square-foot Victorian mansion. Those that wish to linger on the property are welcomed to hike Mt. Wanda. The rolling hills were often walked by Muir and his daughters. Today they provide dog-friendly hiking and ranger-led programs.  

10. Pinnacles National Park

a rock formation in Pinnacles National Park during sunset
  • Cost: $30 per vehicle (7 days)
  • Park Hours: Varies by location. See the Pinnacles NPS website for details. 
  • Distance from San Francisco: 123 miles, just over 2 hours 
  • Activities: Hiking, camping, birding, caving, rock climbing
  • Pet Friendly? Yes, but only in paved and picnic areas
  • Attractions Nearby: Carmel-by-the-sea, Monterey Bay Aquarium

South of San Francisco lies another National Park created by volcanic activity. Pinnacles National Park is a popular park for hiking, rock climbing, and birding. Several species of hunting bird, including the peregrine falcon, golden eagle, and endangered California condor call the craggy cliffs of Pinnacles home. Resident mammals include the pronghorn, tule elk, and several species of bat.

Pinnacles National Park is naturally divided by the landscape into East and West divisions. The two sides are only connected via trails, and each side offers a distinct landscape. In the East division, you will find more water features, shade, and development such as the campground. The West division attracts rock climbers with a good variety of routes including bouldering and single pitch.

Rock climbers, casual hikers, families, and wildlife enthusiasts can all find something to do at Pinnacles. This leads to busy parking lots and trails during high season. Especially if visiting on the weekend or a holiday in spring (wildflowers!), be sure to arrive early to secure a spot. The intense heat in summer keeps the crowds down, but can be a major factor in your enjoyment of the area.  

11. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

a woman in a black cap standing beside a giant tree
  • Cost: $35 per vehicle (7 days, both parks)
  • Park Hours: 24 hours per day/ 365 days a year. Seasonal closures of roads/services.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 240 miles, 4 hours
  • Activities: Hiking, camping, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, rock climbing, world’s biggest tree
  • Pet Friendly? Yes, leashed in paved areas and campgrounds only
  • Attractions Nearby: Mount Whitney, Yosemite National Park

Our final National Park near San Francisco is the combined powerhouse of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. While separate parks, they are managed and referred to as one, so we will do that here too. 

The massive trees are one of the main draws to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and they are one of the best giant redwood forests close to San Francisco. The giant sequoia here are a cousin species to the coastal redwood, and grow inland on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Definitely don’t miss the hike to General Sherman, the largest tree in the world measured by volume. The slightly smaller, but equally impressive General Grant tree is another worthy stop. Other activities in the park include nearly every outdoor activity your heart can imagine.

From scenic drives and granite dome hikes, to horseback riding and fishing, the activities in Sequoia and Kings Canyon are as varied as in Yosemite. The wide range of elevation and huge size of the parks means activities are available year round. Transition from a snowshoe adventure through redwood groves to a wildflower picnic in the foothills in a single day. 

How much do the National Parks near San Francisco cost?

a group of hikers standing in front of the giant sequoia tunnel tree

Individual fee information for each park can be found under each section, but there are a few special days each year when all National Parks are free! Those days for 2024 are as follows:

  • January 15th: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • April 20th: First Day of National Park Week
  • June 19th: Juneteenth National Independence Day
  • August 4th: Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
  • September 28th: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11th: Veterans Day

The last thing we want to mention here is the America the Beautiful Pass. This magical pass costs just $80 and grants you entry to all 2,000 National Park sites in the country for a full year, as well as many other public lands managed by the US Fish and Wildlife and Forest Services. 

If you plan to go to at least 3 major National Parks within the next year, this pass will pay for itself. Plus entry is super easy, since you will already have your pass and will be ushered right into the park.

As you can see, each of these National Parks near San Francisco has something unique and wonderful to offer. These parks have it all, from WWII history to the biggest tree in the world. Enjoy your outdoor adventures near the City by the Bay, and maybe stop by John Muir National Historic Site and throw out a little thank you for all of the protected wilderness land in this country we get to enjoy! 

Published on: March 31st 2024
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