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12 Best National Parks Near San Francisco

July 19, 2021

There is so much to do and see in San Francisco, Ca. For many travelers, it is nice to experience the outdoors when visiting a major city. If you’re in the greater San Francisco bay area, there are many great national parks around. Here are the 12 best national parks near San Francisco.

National Parks Close To Downtown San Francisco

1. Golden Gate National Recreational Area

Grassy valley in Golden Gate Park.

Golden Gate Park features expansive views and great hiking.

Enjoy the preserved and protected landscapes at Golden Gate National Recreational Area. The hills make for a fun hike. Lush green landscapes accompany the gorgeous backdrop of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. The proximity to San Francisco makes for an easy and worthwhile trip to Golden Gate.

2. Muir Woods National Monument

Stream in Muir Woods

Muir Woods National Monument features redwoods and beautiful sights like these.

  • Price: $15 per adult (16 and older), free for children (15 and under).
  • When Is It Open? 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 16 miles / 40 minutes
  • Activities: Hiking trails, unique tree sights
  • Pet Friendly? No
  • Nearby Attractions: Sweetwater Music Hall, Marin Theatre Company

Muir Woods National Monument contains the unique beauty of redwood trees. Winding hiking trails sprawl throughout the natural old-growth redwood forest. Hike to the hillside for gorgeous views of the treetops and the Pacific Ocean.

3. Point Reyes National Sea Shore

Lighthouse in Point Reyes, CA

There is so much to do and see in Point Reyes National Sea Shore.

  • Price: Free (fees for camping, shuttle bus, etc.)
  • When Is It Open? 6 a.m. – 12 a.m.
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 37 miles / 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Activities: trail walks, mountain hiking, beach views, waterfall views
  • Pet Friendly? Yes
  • Nearby Attractions: Jack Mason Museum, Bolinas Museum

If you are looking for a variety of experiences, Point Reyes National Sea Shore is for you! From Wildcat Beach to Mount Wittenberg, there are trails to climb and beautiful waterfalls to see. This protected shoreline gives a unique variety of views like the cliffs of Alamere Falls and the migrating whales near Point Reyes Lighthouse.

4. Rosie The Riveter National Historical Park

  • Price: Free
  • When Is It Open? 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 18 miles / 25 minutes
  • Activities: Historical education
  • Pet Friendly? Yes, pets are allowed at the WWII Home Front National Historical Park
  • Nearby Attractions: Richmond Museum of History

Rosie the Riveter is the iconic flexing image from the World War II recruiting posters. This historical museum highlights how the home front was during the war. There are things to see and explore inside and outside, and a lot of fascinating history to learn. 

5. San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is a noteworthy attraction near San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

  • Price: $15 for adults (16 and older), free for children (15 and under)
  • When Is It Open? Open 24 hours
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 2 miles / 3 minutes
  • Activities: museum, historical ships, library
  • Pet Friendly? Yes
  • Nearby Attractions: Alcatraz Island

Enjoy a historical experience at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Explore multiple eras of historical vessels. Learn the exciting history in the museum. Experience the feeling of another time when you step on to each of these boats and see them at the docks.

6. John Muir National Historic Site

  • Price: Free
  • When Is It Open? 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. 
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 32 miles / 36 minutes
  • Activities: Hiking, historical attractions
  • Pet Friendly? Yes
  • Nearby Attractions: Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concorde

John Muir National Historic Site gives insight into one of America's most popular conservationists. Muir was instrumental in protecting famous parks like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Here, you can explore his home and where he took hikes with his daughters. 

Plan Your Visit To These Beautiful National Parks

The following parks require more of a planned trip from downtown San Francisco. However, these beautiful national parks are worth the trip!

7. Redwood National Park

Redwood trees and bench

Redwood National Forest features some of the world's oldest and largest trees.

  • Price: Free
  • When Is It Open? Always open, visitor center and campground hours vary
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 311 miles / 5.5 hours
  • Activities: Drive, bike or walk through the scenic woods, camp
  • Pet Friendly? Yes
  • Nearby Attractions: Oregon Caves, Crater Lake

Redwood National Park is a beautiful and unique forest to explore. You can walk, bike or drive through the forest to enjoy beautiful scenic views of some of the world's oldest and largest trees. If you plan on staying longer, there are great camping options and wonderful nearby national parks as well. 

 8. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Mountain reflected in water in Lassen Volcanic National Park

Volcanoes are just one of many beautiful things to experience in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

  • Price: $30 entrance fee valid for seven days, $10 in winter, free on some holidays
  • When Is It Open? All day every day, summer features the most access to activities and services
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 235 miles / 4 hours
  • Activities: Hiking, boating, fishing, skiing, sight seeing
  • Pet Friendly? Yes
  • Nearby Attractions: Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

 Volcanoes are just one of many experiences at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Summers are great for hiking and fishing while winters feature great skiing and other snow sports. The sights at this park are some of the best in the country. 

9. Pinnacles National Park

Rocks in national park

Pinnacles National Park features of a variety of unique landscapes to explore.

  • Price: Vehicle entrance fee is $30, walk in or bike entrance fee is $15 -- passes are good for seven days
  • When Is It Open? Trails are open 24/7, other buildings and services have varying hours
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 123 miles / 2 hours
  • Activities: Bird watching, hiking, rock climbing, cave exploring, camping
  • Pet Friendly? Yes
  • Nearby Attractions: Bear Gulch Reservoir

Various unique landscapes make a visit to Pinnacles National Park interesting. This park is an all-day experience. With so many outdoor activities, Pinnacles will keep you busy and entertained with your choice of exploring volcanic caves, rock climbing, hiking and more! 

10. Sequoia National Park

Mountain view in Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park offers many different ways to explore from mountains to caverns.

  • Price: $35 with vehicle, $20 walking or biking entrance
  • When Is It Open? Open 24/7
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 275 miles / 5 hours
  • Activities: Backpacking, hiking, wildlife viewing, cave exploration, horseback riding, rock climbing
  • Pet Friendly? Yes
  • Nearby Attractions: Devil's Postpile, Manzanar National Historic Site, Sierra National Forest

Experience redwoods, mountains, canyons and caverns in Sequoia National Park. Sequoia National Park offers week's worth of fun and exploration. If you're going for a day trip or a weekend, you will have plenty to see and explore from caves to mountains. 

 11. Kings Canyon National Park

View of King;s Canyon

King's Canyon makes for a beautiful hiking experience.

  • Price: $35 with vehicle, $20 walking or biking entrance
  • When Is It Open? Open 24/7
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 245 miles / 4.5 hours
  • Activities: Hiking, exploring caves, rock climbing
  • Pet Friendly? Yes
  • Nearby Attractions: Inyo National Forest, Mojave National Preserve

King's Canyon offers beautiful hiking possibilities. Plus, you'll have the opportunity to see some of California's wildlife like rattlesnakes, bears and cougars. 

 12. Yosemite National Park

View of waterfall in Yosemite.

With views like these, a visit to Yosemite lives up to its reputation.

  • Price: $35 for vehicle pass, $20 for on foot or bicycle
  • When Is It Open? Open 24/7
  • Distance/Time From Downtown San Francisco: 167 miles / 4 hours
  • Activities: Tours, camping, hiking, biking, bird watching, horseback riding, fishing, rock climbing, star gazing, skiing, boating
  • Pet Friendly? Yes
  • Nearby Attractions: Bass Lake, Variety of wineries, Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad / Thornberry Museum

Yosemite National Park is among the most famous national parks in the country. With weeks worth of things to do and see, Yosemite lives up to its reputation. Experience nature however you like to in this vast national park. 

2 Ways To Donate And Help Make San Francisco A Better Place

Experiencing one of San Francisco’s national parks can be inspirational. They show that investing in something for the betterment of a community is worthwhile. If you’re looking to help San Francisco, here are two impactful ways to do so.

  • Donate to your favorite national park. Any of these 12 San Francisco area national parks would be worthy recipients of your donation. If you enjoyed your time, your donation can help maintain and protect these beautiful parks.
  • Donate your car to Wheels For Wishes Greater Bay Area. Your vehicle donation to Wheels For Wishes benefits Make-A-Wish kids in San Francisco. These children are facing critical illness. Your donation helps fund a life-changing wish for kids in your community. Donating your car is a great alternative to donating money. This is because your donation makes a huge impact even if it’s an old or unwanted vehicle. Plus, you get a great tax deduction. On top of that, we make the whole process easy when we come to you with FREE pick up and towing. Donate your car today by calling 1-855-278-9474 or fill out our online donation form.

Donating to the parks or donating your car to Wheels For Wishes are two fantastic ways to benefit your community.

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