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12 National Parks Within Driving Distance of San Francisco

Looking for an outdoor escape 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 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 sf alcatraz island
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1. Alcatraz Island

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. Admission: Tour options starting at $25 per person; includes ferry transportation by Alcatraz City Cruises and cellhouse audio tour; advance reservations required

national park sf the presidio
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2. The Presidio

  • Distance from SF: 20-minute drive from downtown
  • Why We Recommend It: free, hiking and walking trails, art, views
  • Where to Stay: Lodge at 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. This summer, be one of the first to check out Presidio Tunnel Tops, the long-awaited public park connecting the Main Post at the Presidio to Crissy Field, which opens to the public on July 17. 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. Admission: free

national parks sf rosie the riveter national historic park
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3. Rosie The Riveter National Historic Park

  • Distance from SF: 25 minutes
  • Why We Recommend It: free, educational, hidden gem
  • Where to Stay: The Claremont

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. Admission: free

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4. Golden Gate National Recreation Area

  • Distance from SF: 30 minutes
  • Why We Recommend It: free, views, hiking and walking trails
  • Where to Stay: Cavallo Point

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. Admission: free

national parks sf muir woods national monument
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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

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. Admission: advance $9 parking reservation required to enter park, plus $15 per person entry fee

national parks sf point reyes national seashore
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6. Point Reyes National Seashore

  • Distance from SF: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Why We Recommend It: free, water activities, wildlife, beaches, seafood, views
  • Where to Stay: Olema House

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. Admission: free

national parks sf pinnacles national park
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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

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. Admission: $30 vehicle entrance fee

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8. Yosemite National Park

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. Admission: $35 vehicle entrance fee; advance reservations required to enter the park May 20 to September 30 unless you have camping or lodging reservations

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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

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. Admission: $35 vehicle entrance fee includes both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Editor’s Note: The recent KNP Complex Fire threatened some of our great giants, and many parts of Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and surrounding forests remain closed. But the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon is back open for day use! Always check the latest news about weather alerts and closures from the National Park Service before you plan your trip.

national parks sf sequoia national park
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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 (re-opening May 2022)

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! Admission: $35 vehicle entrance fee includes both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Editor’s Note: The recent KNP Complex Fire threatened some of our great giants, and many parts of Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and surrounding forests remain closed. Always check the latest news about weather alerts and closures from the National Park Service before you plan your trip.

national parks sf lassen volcanic national park
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11. Lassen Volcanic National Park

  • Distance from SF: 4 hours
  • Why We Recommend It: less traveled, hiking trails, water activities, natural wonders
  • Where to Stay: Highlands Ranch Resort

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. Admission: $30 vehicle entrance fee

Editor’s Note: While 2021’s Dixie Fire damaged the east and southeast portions of the park, most of the highlights and attractions are expected to be open for the summer/fall 2022 season. Check for the latest updates here before you plan your trip.

national parks sf redwood national park
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12. Redwood National Park

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. Admission: free entry to Redwood National Park; day-use fees vary for Jedediah Smith, Del Norte Coast and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks