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Welcome to June and the heart of the summer travel season. Today we’re writing about the national parks near San Francisco. We continue to hear from our #parkchaser community that it’s one of the most popular destinations for your summer vacations.

How many national park units are within 3 hours drive of San Francisco downtown area? 10 parks in total.

By visiting San Fran, you’ll be able to check off 3 national park units in the city, 6 units within 1 hour of downtown, and 1 national park within a 3 hours drive. If you’re planning to spend time in the Golden Gate City this year, here’s our guide to visiting all the national park units in the city.

National Parks In San Francisco

National Parks in San Fancisco

There are 3 national park units located within the heart of the San Francisco city limits. Each of them has a unique experience to offer your family.

Alcatraz Island at Sunset
Alcatraz Island is one of the areas of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

 NPS Website 
Park Location:
Golden Gate National Recreation Area 
Building 201, Fort Mason 
San Francisco, CA 94123-0022

Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the most popular units in all of the National Park Service. The park protects more than 80,000 acres of UNESCO biospheres and significant historical sites. These include museums commemorating the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, the famous Alcatraz Island, and the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

The park also protects some of the most endangered species of plants, insects, and wildlife in the world. There’s plenty of options for hiking, museums and ranger-led programming at GGNRA. Take your time and spend several days working your way through everything the park has to offer.

Park Chaser’s Guides:  

5 Things We Wish We Knew Before Visiting Alcatraz Island


Fort Point National Historic Site

 NPS Website
Park Location:
Fort Point National Historic Site 
Building 201, Fort Mason 
San Francisco, CA 94123

Located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point National Historic Site commemorates the location of the historic military outpost that defended San Francisco Bay until World War II. Self-guided tours are available all day, however, if you have time, consider joining a ranger-led guided tour or a lantern-lit tour.


San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

NPS Website
Park Location:
Visitor’s Center
499 Jefferson Street (at Hyde)
San Francisco, CA 94109

Located near the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers the best of the Bay area’s shipping history. Restored vessels, a large and diverse maritime museum, and some of the best places to watch the sunset down near the wharf. There’s a ton to see and do here, so plan for at least a half-day of touring the area. If you have time, get on a sailing vessel for a sunset tour of the bay.

 


National Parks within 1 hour of San Francisco

National Parks within 1 Hour of San Francisco

Of all our large urban cities, San Francisco has some of the best access to National Park Service units within a one hour drive. There are 6 different park units to check off your #parkchasing list during your visit to the Bay Area.

Muir Woods National Monument: Redwood Creek Trail

Muir Woods National Monument

 NPS Website
Park Location:
1 Muir Woods Rd
Mill Valley, CA 94941

About 45 minutes north from downtown San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument has become one of the Bay area’s biggest natural attractions. Visitors have been coming here since the park was established in 1908 to hike among the old-growth coastal redwoods, some of the tallest trees in the world. Spend a half-day wandering through the groves, just be sure to arrive early as parking has become a major issue at this park. 

Park Chaser’s Guide:

Hiking Among Giants: Cathedral Grove
14 National Parks with Big Trees


Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site

 NPS Website
Park Location:
205 Railroad Avenue
Danville, CA 94526

Located 36 miles east of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco, Eugene O’Neill National Historic Site is our next destination. The park protects the summer writing home of America’s only Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill. Reserve a ranger-led tour of the home and wander the grounds of this historic American writer.


Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park

 NPS Website
Park Location:
1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 3000
Richmond, CA 94804

Designated in 2000, Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park protects one of the largest collections of World War II history and memorabilia in all of the National Park Service. Visitors can wander through museums and exhibits that describe what life was like on the ‘home front’ for many women and men during the war. On Fridays, visit with volunteers who were actual factory workers on the ‘home front’ during the war. 


John Muir National Historic Site

 NPS Website
Park Location:
4202 Alhambra Ave
Martinez, CA 94553

John Muir National Historic Site protects the historic home of America’s most famous conservationist, John Muir. It was here that Muir raised his family, wrote many influential works persuading the government to protect lands and waters, and where he embarked on many of his famous trips to the Yosemite Valley. 

Visitors can take a guided tour through the home and learn more about how John Muir more than anyone else helped lay the foundation for what is now our National Park Service. 

Park Chaser’s Guides:  

13 Things You Should Know about John Muir


Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial

Martinez, CA — NPS Website

On July 17, 1944, 320 American sailors and civilians were killed instantly when ammunition and bombs exploded at the Port Chicago Naval Magazine. The National Memorial commemorates what would later be the largest loss of life on home soil during World War II.

Visiting the Memorial

The Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial is located on Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO) and is an active base. Due to its location, tours are only available with reservations on a ranger-guided tour. Public access to the memorial is through a two-week advance reservation process and only on Fridays or Saturdays. Allow for 1.5 hours beginning at 12:45 PM. No access Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and during Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO) operations.


Point Reyes National Seashore Shoreline
The shoreline of Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes Station, CA — NPS Website

The next stop on the quest to visit all the national park sites in California is Point Reyes National Seashore. Located about a 1-hour drive from Muir Woods, Point Reyes and the Point Reyes lighthouse are favorites among California hikers and wildlife watchers. The park is home to more than 1500 different species of animals and plants, including a colony of elephant seals and migrating grey whales. 

Park Chaser’s Guides:  

Point Reyes in Pictures
17 National Parks with Stunning Waterfalls


National Parks within 3 Hours of San Francisco

If you’re interested in a farther drive out of downtown San Francisco, you may want to consider a visit to the nearest of the more than 60+ national parks.

Pinnacles National Park

 NPS Website
5000 Highway 146 
Paicines, CA 95043

Located about 2 1/2 hour drive from the Golden Gate Bridge, Pinnacles National Park is famous for its gorgeous climbing and hiking, as well as one of the four places where the endangered California condor is bred and released in the wild.  Visitors to this park are promised some outstanding views from the High Peaks trails, one of the most popular areas of the park.


Looking for other national parks to visit on your trip?

Check out Park Chaser’s other travel guides to national parks in California and parks near our biggest cities:

Visit all the National Park Sites in California

National Parks Near Chicago

 

 

 


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