The Best Outdoor Escapes Within Driving Distance of SF
Nature’s looking pretty good this time of year
This month our National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday—which means it’s time to get outside. Here, five unforgettable national park adventures, each within driving distance from the city, plus what not to miss while you’re there. Yosemite or bust, people.
POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE (1-HOUR DRIVE)
It’s the perfect distance for a day trip. Make a pit stop at Point Reyes Station to stock up on provisions from Cowgirl Creamery.
Don’t miss: Tomales Point Trail, a quiet out-and-back day hike with stunning views on all sides, plus the chance to see tule elk up close and personal
PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK (2.5-HOUR DRIVE)
California’s newest national park, Pinnacles, is an adventurer’s paradise with miles of trails leading to cliffs, crags and caves formed by an ancient volcano.
Don’t miss: Bear Gulch Cave for a spelunking adventure. It’s also home to the largest colony (between here and Mexico) of Townsend’s big-eared bats.
YOSEMITE National Park (4-HOUR DRIVE)
In the famous words of John Muir, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” The granite cliffs of Yosemite are some of the most memorable in the world.
Don’t miss: The valley’s gushing waterfalls in the spring; the arduous 12-mile trek to the top of Half Dome (for adrenaline junkies only) or a more grounded view of the monolith from Sentinel Bridge
SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON National Parks (4.5-HOUR DRIVE)
These national parks are right next to each other, so you can kill two birds with one stone (but don’t actually kill anything). Sequoia is home to General Sherman, the largest tree (by volume) in the world, so head here if size matters to you.
Don’t miss: Drive to Road’s End via Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon and then take the short trail to Muir Rock. It’s one of the few places where the swift-moving Kings River settles into a quiet wading pool.
LASSEN VOLCANIC NATIONAL PARK (5-HOUR DRIVE)
Lassen is a long drive but well worth the trip. Its colorful geothermal features and jewel-toned lakes are reminiscent of Yellowstone.
Don’t miss: Bumpass Hell, for the name alone. The short trail to its hot springs and fumaroles is highly trafficked, but it’s a must-see. Cinder Cone is the coolest hike into the mouth of an actual volcano.