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Best National Parks Near San Francisco

The best thing about the national parks near San Francisco is the impressive redwoods. In any of the national parks you can see these majestic trees.

Andressa García

Andressa García

9 min read

Best National Parks Near San Francisco

San Francisco | ©Michael Gwyther-Jones

In and around San Francisco, California, you can visit multiple national parks that are preserved as a great natural reserve, open for people like you and me to visit. This is one of the essential things to see and do in San Francisco.

This is an adventure to do with family, friends and even the little ones. Parks like Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park await you on your visit to San Francisco. Read on to learn more about other natural destinations you can visit near the city.

1. Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park| ©Mike McBey
Yosemite National Park| ©Mike McBey

This is undoubtedly the most popular national park located near San Francisco. I even think it is the most important park in all of California. Most of its attraction is the great existence of sequoias. It is also the first national park in the nation to be designated as such. It was given that name in 1890 and since then it laid the foundation for what would become the national parks of the future.

Yosemite National Park is a place for fun and recreation for all visitors. If you go to this national park you will be able to see countless natural attractions that are worth visiting again and again. The best time to visit this majestic park is in spring, when you can see the Yosemite waterfall, which is the largest waterfall in North America and its maximum beauty is appreciated when the snow melts over it in spring.

You can't miss the opportunity to visit the 7-mile canyon also within the protected natural complex, and the main destination for climbing a rock that is the granite monolith located in the park. This is a favorite place for hiking and for you to attend with your whole family. It is one of the activities that I would definitely recommend among the things to do in San Francisco with kids.

Details of interest

  • How to get there? By vehicle only via US-101 S.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 268.76 kilometers.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 3 hours and 16 minutes.

Book your tour in Yosemite National Park

2. San Francisco Maritime Historical Park

Maritime Historical Park| ©Doug Kerr
Maritime Historical Park| ©Doug Kerr

The park, commonly known as the San Francisco Maritime Museum, ceased to be called that way in 1951 when it was acquired by the National Parks Association and has since been called a national park. Whatever the case may be, this is a must-see if you are a history buff and especially interested in the history of men at sea.

It is a space completely dedicated to telling the story of the Pacific Coast and how the U.S. Navy has been a part of that history. The national park includes the National History Museum and the Aquatic Park Historic District. Inside you will see six historic ships as well as Navy artifacts that saw the most important moments in history.

Details of interest

  • How to get there? The best way to get there is by private car. By bus it would take approximately 32 minutes.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 4.5 kilometers.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 13 minutes

Reserve your tickets to the Aquarium of the Bay

3. Redwood National Park

Redwood National Park| ©Jeremy Weate
Redwood National Park| ©Jeremy Weate

If there is something that identifies San Francisco, beyond the Golden Gate, is its large number of sequoias, these trees of great size and dimensions that also have the reputation of being the most voluminous in the world. In Redwood National Park you have the opportunity to see a large number of them, because this nature reserve is also called the redwood forest.

Knowing this, it is obviously a mandatory place to visit, also because it is very close to the city and you can get there in a few minutes by private car. This park is part of a natural complex that also includes others such as Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek.

Details of interest

  • How to get here? By car is the easiest way to get there. By bus it can take up to an hour and 20 minutes.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 48.44 kilometers.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 37 minutes.

4. Muir Woods Parking

Muir Woods Parking| ©Jason Toff
Muir Woods Parking| ©Jason Toff

If what you want is a quiet and serene walk to appreciate the majesty of nature, do not hesitate to take a trip to Sausalito and Muir Woods from San Francisco. I assure you that the experience of hiking in direct contact with nature and the imposing redwoods is an activity that you will want to repeat on your next visits to the city.

It is a park that extends along the Pacific coast and was named after the father of national parks, John Muir. You can hike up into the mountains via the hiking trails that extend throughout the Muir Woods Parking Park.

Details of interest

  • How to get there? By private car is the best way to get there. By bus you must take route 130 and it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 16.40 miles.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 36 minutes.

Book your tour to Muir Woods

5. Angel Island

Angel Island| ©ray_explores
Angel Island| ©ray_explores

If you are looking for the best views of San Francisco and the entire bay, you definitely have to visit Angel Island. It is the most secluded island in San Francisco Bay, so from there you can appreciate 360-degree views of the city.

It is one of the activities you can include among the things to see and do in San Francisco at night. Of course, when the sun goes down, the lights of San Francisco illuminate the scene, and what better place to see the spectacle than from Angel Island?

On top of all that, it's a place rich in history, where you can learn a little more about the contemporary history of the United States. Among the historical stories you can find on the island are those from the Civil War that took the lives of thousands of Americans.

Details of interest

  • How to get there? To get to the pier by bus on route F and take a ferry to Angel Island.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 8.70 kilometers by water.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 1 hour and 50 minutes.

6. Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park| ©oliver.dodd
Pinnacles National Park| ©oliver.dodd

An interesting place to visit and admire is the Pinnacles National Park. It is a place that has been sculpted by the volcanic nature of the terrain. It is composed of hundreds of structures that are actually remnants of an ancient volcanic eruption that happened here millions of years ago.

Among the attractions to see in the national park are its vertical walls, towers and monoliths. It is a place you have to see especially in spring, which is when the flowers of its prolific vegetation open. It is a charming landscape and a real gem for those who study the terrain and the history of the soil.

This national park, which was described as such since 2013 by the work of the then President of the United States, Barack Obama, is crossed in its entirety by about 30 trails. These trails will make it much easier for you to exceed the monoliths that are arranged throughout the site.

Details of interest

  • How to get there?: You can only get there by car on US-101 S. You can park on site.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 197.94 kilometers.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 2 hours and 14 minutes.

7. Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molera State Park| ©USFWS Pacific Southwest
Andrew Molera State Park| ©USFWS Pacific Southwest

This is one of the largest parks in all of Southern California. It is not so close to San Francisco, but you can reach it from that city, either by bus, train or private car. You can even go to this park by hiring a guided tour. It is a place with a great diversity and many things to see. If you like nature, this is the kind of place you would love to go to among the things to do in San Francisco in summer.

This is the best time of the year to appreciate all the splendor of Andrew Molera Park. On your walk you will see, besides a lot of coastline, redwood forests, meadows and winding trails that will lead you throughout the national park, taking you to see the most beautiful places it has to offer.

In summer you can enjoy the coasts that are suitable even for surfing and multiple recreational activities to pass the heat. If, on the other hand, you prefer to include a visit to the park among the things to see and do in San Francisco in winter, you will surely love camping outdoors and following the hiking trails, taking advantage of the fact that winter in this area is not as hostile as in other parts of the United States.

Details of interest

  • How to get there? By private car only via US-101 S. You can park on site.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 231.74 kilometers.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 2 hours and 33 minutes.

8. Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park| ©Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park| ©Lassen Volcanic National Park

Since 1916 Lassen Volcanic is a national park. It is located in the northernmost part of the state of California, a bit removed from San Francisco but definitely a place worth visiting if you are passing through that city. What stands out most about the park is its peaceful forest and truly wild nature.

It is a place with high volcanic activity, in addition to having different waterfalls and meadows covered with wildflowers that give it a particular charm. It is definitely a place for a full day visit. If you have time left in your itinerary of things to see and do in San Francisco in five days, this is definitely a trip you have to make at least one of those days.

Although it is not currently an active volcanic place, in the past it was, and part of its characteristic vestiges can be noticed throughout the extension of the land that shows how volcanoes did their thing in ancient times to mold the earth and give it the shape it has now.

Details of interest

  • How to get there? By car only via US-101 S/Central Fwy.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 379.80 kilometers.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 4 hours.

9. Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon National Park| ©Matthew Dillon
Kings Canyon National Park| ©Matthew Dillon

King's Canyon is part of Sequoia and King's Canyon National Park, although both have a boundary that ultimately differentiates them from each other. In King's Canyon you can find giant sequoias and a pleasant climate, as well as roads and trails to walk through the park and get to know each of its landscapes. This national park was designated as such in 1940.

As it is part of the Sierra Nevada, like Sequoia National Park, it is an ideal landscape to appreciate during the winter. If you enjoy hiking and spending time with your family or children, this is the perfect place to do it. It is also right next to Sequoia National Park, a place you can also visit during the same day you take to go to King's Canyon.

Details of interest

  • How to get there? By car only via US-101 S/Central Fwy.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 383.02 kilometers.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 4 hours and 3 minutes.

10. Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park| ©Matt Machin
Sequoia National Park| ©Matt Machin

It is part of an extensive natural complex in the U.S. Sierra Nevada, which extends for thousands of miles and contains an immense amount of endemic fauna of that area. Within the park is the highest mountain formation of all the states in the nation, Mount Witney, at just over 14,000 feet high.

In addition to the immensity of the Sierra Nevada, the national park also consists of a treasure within the earth, composed of multiple marble caves. This is the second oldest national park in the United States having been established in 1890 like its peer, Yosemite National Park.

It is an attraction not to be missed at any time of the year. Of course, part of what you will see on your visit to this interesting park is the wonder of the giant sequoias found throughout Sequoia National Park.

The number of different ecosystems that can be seen in every part of the park make it a unique place for explorers and nature lovers. Above all, it is a place for reflection and family enjoyment. Children love to visit the park and marvel at the impressive sequoias that can be seen throughout the park.

Details of interest

  • How to get there. By car only via US-101 S/Central Fwy.
  • Distance from San Francisco: 421.64 kilometers.
  • Estimated time from San Francisco: 4 hours and 14 minutes.