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12 Best National Parks Near San Francisco

Let’s check out a few national parks near San Francisco…

San Francisco, California, has many things to do and see. It is enjoyable for many tourists to experience nature when they are in a big metropolis. San Francisco contains some of the best national parks nearby if you live in the greater San Francisco Bay area. The top 12 national parks near San Francisco are listed below.

San Francisco, one of the most recognizable cities in the country, is the ideal site to begin a road trip to one of the national parks in central or northern California. It was once a beatnik hangout and is now a center for technology.

Even a short trip will get you to a National Park Service location. In actuality, a national park contains some of San Francisco’s top attractions. This extends to well-known sites like Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Within a short distance of San Francisco, you may also find some fantastic forests, a stunning stretch of coastline, and the old residence of one of America’s most influential and pioneering environmentalists.

San Francisco
By: Meriç Dağlı/ Unsplash Copyright 2022

Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, among others, are gorgeous national parks that are a little further out but still only a few hours from San Francisco.

Our first stop will be the top six National Park Service locations in the Bay Area. All those are accessible by car from the city center and are simple to see while visiting San Francisco.

The second section features all six northern California national parks close to San Francisco. Since these parks are at least a couple of hours outside the city, they demand more preparation and time.

Pinnacles National Park, the closest national park to San Francisco, can be visited in a single day, while the other parks need—and merit—at least two days. Giving yourself plenty of time will allow you to fully tour famous parks like Yosemite national park, Sequoia national park, and Redwood national park.

National Parks Close To San Francisco

1. Golden Gate National Recreational Area

Large views and excellent hiking may be found in Golden Gate Park, free of cost. Only special exhibits require fees. It is open for visitors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. It takes 20 minutes to travel from San Francisco and only 7 kilometers to cover; activities to do are hiking and historical learning.

If you own a pet, you must leave your buddy either at home or with nearby relatives as the entry of pets is not allowed. Meanwhile, nearby attractions include The Walt Disney Family Museum, Exploratorium, and Bay Area Discovery.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the best urban national parks in America, is located just across the Golden Gate Bridge yet is a world away from the city’s traffic, structures, and commercial activity.

There is a good reason why this particular National Park Service location is the most popular. City inhabitants come here to rest, work out, and enjoy the stunning natural environment.

This is a sizable national park that is located in San Francisco.

By far, the most visited and well-known national park in the Bay Area is Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Presidio of San Francisco, which protects a wealth of Hispanic heritage, are just a few of the famous San Francisco sites that can be found inside the limits of this wonderful park.

Enjoy Golden Gate National Recreational Area’s conserved and protected landscapes. A great hike can be in the hills. Lush green surroundings complement beautiful views of the harbor and the Golden Gate Bridge. It is simple and worthwhile to travel to Golden Gate due to its proximity to San Francisco.

The national recreation area is home to remarkable 19 diverse ecosystems and over 2,000 types of flora and animals.

2. Muir Woods National Monument

Redwoods and other lovely vistas are found in Muir Woods National Monument. It costs only $15 for adults (i.e., 16 and above) and is free for kids (i.e., 15 and under). It is open for visitors from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

One of San Francisco’s finest natural gems is Muir Woods National Monument, which is just across the Golden Gate Bridge from the city’s central business district. On Mount Tamalpais, in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is Muir Woods.

It takes 40 minutes to travel from San Francisco and only 26 kilometers to cover; hiking trails and unusual tree vistas are activities to enjoy.

national parks near San Francisco
By: Daniel Halseth/ Unsplash 2022

Redwood trees have a remarkable beauty found only in Muir Woods National Monument which has been protected as a national monument since 1908. The old-growth redwood forest is covered in a network of winding hiking routes.

This park is very popular and requires reservations for parking and shuttle buses.

No pets are allowed, and nearby attractions include Marin Theatre Company and Sweetwater Music Hall. Other national park sites include stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, treetops, and hikes to the hillside.

3. Point Reyes National Sea Shore

Point Reyes National Seashore offers a wide variety of activities and sights that lies just beyond the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It takes no cost to visit the Point Reyes National Sea Shore, although you have to pay for camping, and a shuttle bus, and it is open for visitors from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.

The majority of the Point Reyes Peninsula is taken up by this vast coastal preserve, which features lovely sand beaches, commanding cliffs and headlands, wooded slopes, and rolling grasslands.

Native Americans lived in this lush region on the Pacific Coast for thousands of years. You may learn more about their stories and legacy at the visitor center.

It is 37 miles from San Francisco and takes nearly 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach the national sea shore. Activities to enjoy are trail treks, mountain hiking, beach vistas, and waterfall views.

Point Point Reyes National Seashore
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The good news for pet owners is that their pets can accompany them to the park. Jack Mason Museum and Bolinas Museum are nearby attractions. Point Reyes National Seashore is the place for you if you’re looking for a range of activities!

There are routes for hiking trails and stunning waterfalls to see, from Wildcat Beach to Mount Wittenberg. This protected coastline offers a distinctive array of vistas, including the Alamere Falls cliffs and the whales migrating close to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, elephant seal populations, sea kayaking, and the Tule Elk Reserve are further highlights.

The Bear Valley Trail, the Chimney Rock Trail, the Tomales Point Trail, and the brief Earthquake Trail—all of which track a stretch of the San Andreas Fault—are all well-liked hikes.

4. Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park

Entry to the historical park is free. The parks are open at 10 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. It takes only 25 minutes to travel from San Francisco and nearly 18 miles to cover from San Francisco to reach Riveter National Historical Park.

Pet-friendly activities include historical instruction, and yes, the WWII Home Front National Historical Park allows pets. Attractions close by the History Museum of Richmond. The famous flexing picture from the World War II recruiting posters is Rosie the Riveter.

This historical exhibit describes the state of the home front during the conflict. There are sights and areas to discover inside and outside, as well as a lot of fascinating history.

5. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Alcatraz Island is a notable landmark close to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

The cost per visit is $15 for adults (age 16 years and over), while kids are free (that age 15 and under). It is open 24 hours a day.

It is only 2 miles from San Francisco, and it takes only 5 minutes to reach the destination. The activities prominent during the visit are two museums, two historical ships, and one library. Now the question from the pet owners is – Is it pet friendly? Yes, it is a pet-friendly park.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park allows you to fully immerse yourself in the world of Pacific shipping in the nineteenth century and is situated close to Fisherman’s Wharf, one of San Francisco’s main tourist destinations.

This many-attraction park protects a richness of cultural assets and gives visitors the chance to personally experience Pacific Coast maritime heritage.

The fleet of vintage ships berthed at Hyde Street Pier is arguably its primary draw. The square-rigged sailing ship Balclutha from 1886, the timber schooner C.A. Thayer from 1895, the steam ferry Eureka from 1890, and the steam tug Hercules from 1907 are all part of the collection.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers a historical experience. You can examine historical ships from various eras in the park and also discover the fascinating past at the Maritime Museum, which is housed in the former Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building.

Additionally, the park features a Maritime Research Center of its own. It was founded in 1939 and has since grown to be the premier Pacific Coast and San Francisco source for nautical history.

As you board each of these vessels and observe them at the docks, relive a different era and feel the past standing tall before you. It also includes 6,000 archaeological objects, 3,000 charts and maps, 150,000 drawings of marine architecture and naval engineering, 35,000 published books, and 500,000 pictures, among thousands of other items.

6. John Muir National Historic Site

Visiting the John Muir National Historic Site is free as there are no entry fees. The entry of visitors starts at 10 a.m., and the gates close for the visitors at 5 p.m. Distance from the San Francisco is 32 miles, and it takes a short and smooth ride of 36 min from San Francisco to reach this beautiful and glorious historic site.

Activities you can enjoy in the park includes hiking and historical attraction; meanwhile, your pets are also allowed to enjoy with you as the park is entirely pet friendly.

Famous sites like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon were made safer thanks largely to Muir. Nearby attractions include Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concorde.

  • Know a little about John Muir

John Muir, often known as the “Father of the National Parks” and “John of the Mountains,” was one of the most ardent and tenacious defenders of the preservation of wildness in the United States.

He was born in Scotland in 1838, and when he was 11 years old, he and his family moved to America. Muir sailed to California almost two decades later and arrived in San Francisco. He went on a week-long excursion to Yosemite Valley soon after and fell in love with the cliffs, waterfalls, wildlife, and wildflowers there right away.

Muir traveled from Utah to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, where he reached the top of Mount Rainier, as he quickly developed an obsession with the geology and history of the American West’s landscapes.

This park gives insights into the life of America’s most famous conservationist- John Muir. You can also explore his home and where he took hikes with his daughters.

Every admirer of nature should visit the John Muir National Historic Site, which has the Muir house as its focal point.

National Parks far from San Francisco

Now we will discuss six more national parks, but the following parks require more of a planned trip from downtown San Francisco as they have located some distance from San Francisco, Ca. However, these beautiful national parks are worth the trip!

7. Redwood National Park

Some of the largest and oldest trees in the world can be found in the Redwood National Forest. Redwood national park is free of cost to visit. It is an always-open park, while the tourist center and campground have varying hours of operation.

One of the most distant national parks on the American West Coast might be Redwood National Park. Major cities are not close by.

It is a quiet distance from Downtown San Francisco and takes a good amount of time to reach there. It is 311 miles and takes 5.5 hours to get there, but you won’t regret it once you reach there as it has a majestic view of old historic trees. Drive, bike, stroll through the beautiful forests or go camping.

The Redwood National and State Parks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are undoubtedly a location worth seeing, even if it necessitates a lengthy drive.

Accepts Pets? Yes, it takes pets. Nearby Attractions include Crater Lake and Oregon Caves.

Redwood
By: Maria Jose Oyarzun/ Unsplash Copyright 2022

It’s a gorgeous and interesting woodland to explore in Redwood National Park. There are four parks in the complex: Redwood National Park, Jedediah Smith State Park, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Del Norte Coast State Park.

The parks also protect vast swaths of prairie, oak woods, wild rivers and streams, and nearly 40 miles of breathtaking shoreline in addition to the coastal redwood trees.

These unspoiled woods, beaches, and grasslands are home to an abundance of wildlife, including Chinook salmon, Steller’s sea lions, black bears, Roosevelt elk, mountain lions, and river otters.

One of the main reasons Redwood National and State Parks is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is because of the richness of wildlife there as well as the magnificent vegetation.

There are excellent camping possibilities and fantastic adjacent national parks as well if you intend to remain for a longer period. The basics, such as camping, and hiking, as well as road cycling on the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway and other park roads, are popular Redwood activities. Redwood National Park is also one of the few in the United States where backcountry mountain biking is permitted.

 8. Lassen Volcanic National Park

One of the many stunning sights in Lassen Volcanic National Park is the volcanoes. Lassen Peak is actually one of the most active volcanoes in the country. It is counted in some of the great national parks.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, located where the Great Basin desert, Sierra Nevada mountains, and Cascade Range volcanoes converge, provides you with natural thrills unmatched anyplace else in California.

This stunning undiscovered NorCal national park has few visitors. Every year, just over 500,000 people go to Lassen Volcanic.

It costs $30 for a seven-day pass, and in the winter, it’s $10, and on some holidays, it’s free.

Summer offers full access to activities and services every day. It is 235 miles, i.e., 4 hour drive from downtown San Francisco. More activities include hiking trails, boating, fishing, skiing, and sightseeing. Now the question is it pet-friendly?

The answer is yes; it is pet-friendly. Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is a nearby attraction.

The Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to cinder cones, ancient lava beds, and dazzling lakes. Lassen Peak, the southernmost active volcano in the Cascade Range, which runs north through Oregon and Washington, is the park’s main draw and its namesake.

The largest plug dome volcano on the earth, it is flanked by numerous lesser volcanoes, fumaroles, boiling mud pools, pristine lakes, hot springs, and meadows full of wildflowers. Additionally, you can hike to the top of Lassen Peak.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is the only national park in America to rival Yellowstone in terms of hydrothermal phenomena due to its unique volcanic variety.

9. Pinnacles National Park

A range of unusual landscapes is available for exploration in Pinnacles National Park. Entrance fees for bikes and cars are $15 and $30, respectively, and passes are valid for seven days only. While trails are accessible 24 hours a day, not all buildings and services are.

It is 123 miles (2 hours) from downtown San Francisco; activities include bird watching, hiking, rock climbing, cave exploration, and camping, and yes, it is pet friendly. Bear Gulch Reservoir is one of the most uncommon cave types in the network of national parks which is the most visited nearby attraction.

In just a few hours, after a tranquil trip through the Salinas Valley farmlands, you’ll arrive at this extraordinary park.

On the San Andreas Fault, Pinnacles National Park includes a portion of an old volcanic landscape. The fault divided the field in two, with one half staying put and today located about 195 miles to the southeast and dragging the monoliths and rock formations of Pinnacles National Park to the north.

A trip to Pinnacles National Park is interesting because of its various distinctive sceneries. It takes an entire day to enjoy this park. With so many outdoor pursuits available, Pinnacles will keep you occupied and amused. You can choose hiking, rock climbing, visiting volcanic caverns, and more.

For instance, the High Peaks Trail is a great day hike. Since Pinnacles is one of only a handful of places in America where captive-bred California condors are released into the wild, it may also be of interest to birdwatchers.

10. Sequoia National Park

From mountains to caverns, Sequoia National Park offers a variety of opportunities for exploration as it lies next to southern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The trip costs $35 with a car and $20 for entry by foot or bicycle. The hours of operation? It is open round the clock.

It is at a distance of 275 miles and takes 5 hours from San Francisco to reach the national park. You can also enjoy cave exploration, horseback riding, hiking, wildlife viewing, and rock climbing.

Is it pet friendly? Yes, you can take your pets with you.

National Park
By: Dave Herring/ Unsplash Copyright 2022

The largest living tree on the earth, General Sherman, may be found in Sequoia National Park. This enormous tree is found in the aptly named Giant Forest, which is also the location of five of the ten largest trees in the world.

In addition, Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States with a height of 14,505 feet, is located in Sequoia.

Visit Sequoia National Park to see redwoods, mountains, canyons, and caverns. Sequoia National Park offers enough entertainment and exploration for a week.

There is a lot to see and discover whether you are traveling for a day trip or a weekend getaway, from caves to mountains. The Devil’s Postpile, the Manzanar National Historic Site, and the Sierra National Forest are nearby attractions during your visit.

The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are connected by the spectacular Generals Highway. On a road trip across the San Francisco national parks, this is unquestionably one of America’s most breathtaking national park roads.

 11. King’s Canyon National Park

Hiking in King’s Canyon is a stunning experience. The entry cost is $35 for a car and $20 for entry by foot or bicycle. It is open 24 hours a day, and King’s Canyon national park’s distance is 245 miles from downtown San Francisco. It takes 4.5 hours from downtown San Francisco to reach there.

Other activities include hiking, cave exploration, and rock climbing. Are pets allowed in the park? Yes, pets can accompany you in the exploration. Inyo National Forest and Mojave National Preserve are nearby attractions that are must-visit places meanwhile you trip.

King’s Canyon provides stunning trekking opportunities. You’ll also get to observe some of California’s wildlife, including cougars, bears, and rattlesnakes.

 12. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of the most well-known and best national parks. Yosemite lives up to its reputation with a week’s worth of activities and sights to visit. This sizable national park can get as close to nature as you like. A trip to Yosemite lives up to its reputation with views like this.

A kaleidoscope of fall color and incredibly gorgeous drives, wildlife and waterfalls, spectacular valley vistas, and enormous granite walls. The idea of what a national park ought to be is perfectly embodied by Yosemite National Park.

The preservation of this park, one of the country’s first, was one of John Muir’s life’s ambitions and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

When is it open? It is open 24 hours a day and costs $35 for a vehicle pass and $20 for a pedestrian or bicycle pass. It is 167 miles away and takes 4 hours by car from downtown San Francisco to reach the national park.

Yosemite national park, San Francisco
By: Madhu Shesharam/ Unsplash Copyright 2022

Yosemite Valley, which contains El Capitan, Half Dome, Tunnel View, the Merced River, Yosemite Falls, and Bridalveil Falls, is the focal point of Yosemite National Park.

Other locations include Tuolumne Meadows, home to wildflowers, lakes, and beautiful high-country landscapes, and Mariposa Grove, an old stand of enormous sequoias.

Activities include tours, camping, hiking, bicycling, bird viewing, horseback riding, fishing, rock climbing, stargazing, skiing, and boating which you can do along with the trip, and your pets can also accompany you on your trip as the park is pet friendly.

  • In addition, Yosemite is not far from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. This makes the trio of national parks in close proximity to San Francisco an incredibly well-liked multi-day road trip.

Many more…

Other national park sites include Bass Lake, a Variety of wineries, Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad / Thornberry Museum.

So, there you go, the perfect list of national parks to visit.

 

Suggested Reads

5 Best El Capitan Camping Areas For A Perfect Outing

 

6 Unusual Attractions In San Francisco
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