12 National Parks Within Driving Distance of San Francisco

Trips from 30 minutes to 5 hours away

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naational parks near san franciscoz: Yosemite vista
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San Francisco has no shortage of gorgeous views and outdoor spaces (with and without rooftop cocktails). However if you're looking for an outdoor, out-of-the-city escape—in addition to biking through wine country, always a good time—with plenty of room to roam and no shortage of spectacular scenery you’re in luck. From San Francisco, you’re within driving distance of 12 national parks, monuments and museums. Check out our list, from closest to farthest from downtown SF, and get ready to hit the road.

Editor’s Note: Wildfires and floods have threatened (and continue to threaten) many of California’s national parks. Always check the latest updates from the National Park Service about affected areas and closures before you plan your trip.

12 Amazing Glamping Spots in Northern California

National Parks Near San Francisco at a Glance


Most Dramatic

Alcatraz Island

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Most Arty Spot

The Presidio

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HIdden Gem

Rosie The Riveter National Historic Park

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Tops for Tree Huggers

Muir Woods National Monument

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Local Weekending Favorite

Point Reyes National Seashore

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national parks near San Francisco: Aerial view of Alcatraz
Brandon Sloter / Getty Images

Most Dramatic

1. Alcatraz Island

  • Distance from SF: 15-minute ferry ride
  • Why We Recommend It: educational, views
  • Where to Stay: Mission Statement ($340/night, sleeps 7), Rosehips Palms (from $580/night, sleeps 4), Beacon Grand (from $185/night)
  • Admission: Tour options starting at $25 per person; includes ferry transportation by Alcatraz City Cruises and cellhouse audio tour; advance reservations required

The Rock’s rich history as a federal prison, including stories about the infamous mob boss Al Capone, brings locals and visitors alike to this bucket-list attraction. Plus, learn about the American Indian Occupation of 1969, when Indigenous activists occupied the island for 19 months in the name of freedom and Native American civil rights.

national parks near San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridge view
Michael Lawenko Dela Paz/Getty Images

Most Arty Spot

2. The Presidio

SF’s very own national park offers nearly 50 miles of hiking trails winding through lush eucalyptus groves, historic military batteries, numerous beaches and three site-specific installations by British artist Andy Goldsworthy. Don't miss the Presidio Tunnel Tops, a long-awaited public park that opened in July 2022 and connects the Main Post at the Presidio to Crissy Field. Designed by the firm behind NYC’s wildly popular High Line, the 14-acre open space promises picnic areas, walking trails, meadows and gardens featuring 98 plant species native to the Presidio and…you guessed it…spectacular waterfront views of the Golden Gate bridge.

national parks near san francisco rosie riveter
Facebook/Rosie The Riveter National Historic Park

At this hidden gem of a museum, you’ll learn all about the women who inspired the iconic Rosie the Riveter posters from World War II. Sign up for a virtual talk with the now famous Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest park ranger for the National Park Service. Bonus: On most Fridays, you can visit with real Home Front workers from WWII, who live to tell the story of what life in the Bay Area was like in the 1940s.

national parks near san francisco golden gate
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Golden Gate National Recreation Area spans a whopping 82,000 acres of land surrounding the Bay Area, including the breathtaking Marin Headlands just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Snap the requisite selfie from the overlook (take the exit just as you cross into Marin) before heading up into the hills for a hike promising unparalleled views of the city, the Pacific Ocean and the bay.

National Parks near San Francisco: Muir Woods path
John Wylie / EyeEm / Getty Images

Tops for Tree Huggers

5. Muir Woods National Monument

  • Distance from SF: 40 minutes
  • Why We Recommend It: great outdoors, natural wonders, hiking and walking trails
  • Where to Stay: The Pelican Inn (from $285/night), Acqua Hotel Mill Valley (from $263/night), Muir Wood Lodge (from $199/night)
  • Admission: advance $9 parking reservation required to enter park, plus $15 per person entry fee

It may be one of the top tourist attractions for anyone visiting San Francisco, but we still love Muir Woods for its peaceful beauty. The accessible main boardwalk trail winds its way along Redwood Creek and past Cathedral Grove and Bohemian Grove, where you’ll soak up the tranquility of the primeval forest. Locals know to take the back entrance through trails from Mt. Tam State Park…no reservations required.

national parks near san franciscoz: Pt. Reyes
Conrad J Camit / Getty Images

Local Weekending Favorite

6. Point Reyes National Seashore

It’s no secret that Point Reyes is a favorite weekend jaunt for San Franciscans. Whether you’re in the mood for slurping oysters at Hog Island and window shopping at Point Reyes Station or kayaking on Tomales Bay and searching for elephant seals at Drake’s Beach, the Point Reyes National Seashore has no shortage of ways to while away the afternoon. The lighthouse is a long trek (but worth checking out at least once) and the cypress tree tunnel is not to be missed.

National parks near San Francisco: Pinnacles State Park
zrfphoto / Getty Images

Ideal Camping Spot

7. Pinnacles National Park

  • Distance from SF: 2 hours
  • Why We Recommend It: adventure activities, hiking and walking trails, wildlife
  • Where to Stay: Pinnacles Campground
  • Admission: $30 vehicle entrance fee

Formed from volcanoes 23 million years ago, Pinnacles offers a unique landscape of talus caves, towering rock spires, vast canyons and oak woodlands. Bring your headlamp and go adventuring through the park’s network of caves. And even if you’re not a birder, see if you can spot a California condor, the nearly extinct North American bird that has been re-introduced to Pinnacles through a species recovery program.

National Parks near San Francisco: Yosemite water view
Mimi Ditchie Photography/Getty Images

Essential Bucket List Destination

8. Yosemite National Park

  • Distance from SF: 3 hours, 30 minutes
  • Why We Recommend It: hiking and walking trails, great outdoors, wildlife
  • Where to Stay: The Ahwahnee (from $395/night), A-Frame Cabin (from $455/night, sleeps 6), Starlight Lodges (from $585/night, sleeps 14)
  • Admission: $35 vehicle entrance fee; advance reservations required to enter the park May 20 to September 30 unless you have camping or lodging reservations

With the most incredible views at every turn, it’s easy to see why Yosemite ranks as one of the most famous parks in the country. Chasing waterfalls in the springtime, late-afternoon hiking during long summer days, leaf peeping in the fall and skiing a snowy wonderland in winter—Yosemite is an essential weekend getaway any time of year. Admire the grandiosity of Half Dome and El Capitan, feel the cold spray of the gushing Lower Yosemite Falls on your face, stroll around the glassy Mirror Lake and don’t miss a self-guided tour of the historic Ahwahnee Hotel.

National Parks near San Francisco: Kings Canyon
bennymarty / Getty Images

Topnotch Scenic Drives

9. Kings Canyon National Park

  • Distance from SF: 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Why We Recommend It: great outdoors, scenic drive, fishing, horseback riding
  • Where to Stay: John Muir Lodge (from $288/night), Wuksachi Lodge (from $188/night), The Darling Hotel (from $169/night)
  • Admission: $35 vehicle entrance fee includes both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Named for the deepest canyon in North America (deeper than the Grand Canyon!), you’ll go to this park for a long, scenic drive through its diverse and varied landscape—from dense forest to rushing river to chaparral to desert cacti and General Grant, the world’s second largest tree.

National parks near San Francisco: Sequoia trees
PhotoAlto/Jerome Gorin / Getty Images

Most Unique Landscape

10. Sequoia National Park

  • Distance from SF: 4 hours
  • Why We Recommend It: natural wonders, great outdoors, hiking and walking paths,
  • Where to Stay: Cedar Grove Lodge (from $178/night), River Inn & Cabins (from $72/night), Three Rivers Bed & Breakfast (from $467/night)
  • Admission: $35 vehicle entrance fee includes both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia or redwood? In California, we’re lucky enough to have both. In Sequoia, you’ll find the park’s namesake trees (which are larger and thicker than redwoods) in giant sequoia groves that connect it to the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park. Don’t miss a stroll through the Giant Forest where you’ll find General Sherman, the world’s largest tree by volume, and a tunnel log you can walk through!

National Parks near San Francisco: Volcano caldera
Posnov / Getty Images

Steaming fumaroles, prismatic thermal waters, dormant volcanoes, sparkling glacial lakes and 10,000-foot mountain peaks—these are just some of the stunning natural features you’ll find at this hidden gem of a park that’s less traveled than famed California parks like Yosemite.

national parks near san francisco: Redwoods
Stewart Watson / Getty Images

Fantastic Hiking

12. Redwood National Park

  • Distance from SF: 5 hours, 30 minutes
  • Why We Recommend It: free, scenic drive, natural wonders, hiking and walking trails
  • Where to Stay: Trinidad Bay Bed & Breakfast (from $490/night), Garage House (from $275/night), Crow’s Nest (from $235/night, sleeps four)
  • Admission: free entry to Redwood National Park; day-use fees vary for Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks

Home to some of the world’s tallest trees (measuring in at 370-plus feet!), this sprawling network of national and state parks in far northern California has a trail system spanning 200 miles of jaw-dropping terrain. Protected as a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, this is where you’ll go to get lost in nature (Grove of Titans! Fern Canyon! Gold Bluffs Beach!) and marvel at the West Coast’s wonders of the world. Trust us, it’s worth the long drive.

allison mccarthy

San Francisco Editor

Allison McCarthy is a writer and editor with 15 years of experience in the industry. She's currently the San Francisco editor at PureWow, where she covers the best of what's...

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...

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