California has a fantastic state park system, with magnificent parks all around the state.
Numerous gorgeous California state parks around San Francisco offer nature-focused day outings or week-long vacations.
Whether you want a fun road trip with the family, an active couple’s getaway, or a quiet solo retreat, the state offers something for everyone.
Among the state parks, you can find many state beaches with camping and stunning views.
We’ve collected the best state parks near San Francisco for easy road trips.
Take a look and find some time to step away from daily life to reconnect with nature to refresh your thoughts.
Map of State Parks Near San Francisco CA
Here is a map of the California state parks covered in this post:
List of State Parks Near San Francisco
Here are each of those state parks, including their distance from San Francisco and special features they offer.
1. Mount Tamalpais State Park
Location: 3801 Panoramic Hwy, Mill Valley, CA 94941
Mt. Tamalpais, or Mt. Tam, is a popular recreation area just fifteen miles south of San Francisco and allows you to cross Golden Gate Bridge. Tourists can overlook the Farallon Islands, the bay, and the occasional snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains from its pathways.
Find endless activities such as hiking, rock climbing, swimming, fishing, and wildlife.
Volunteers at the East Peak Visitor Center provide information, sell products, and serve snacks on most weekends up top.
The Mountain Theater, a stunning outdoor theatre a few miles below, hosts outdoor plays and astronomy activities.
Spend a few nights to enjoy the gorgeous Alpine Lake views, rolling hills, and another waterfall by camping for a few nights. With two campgrounds and a historic inn with sweeping views, you can find an oasis from the city.
Spots are limited, so plan ahead. This is not a park to be missed as you can enjoy parasailing to get the best panoramic views of the city.
2. Angel Island State Park
Location: Tiburon, CA 94920
A ferry ride away from downtown San Francisco, Angel Island State Park offers a wonderful blend of wildness and California history.
Close to the Golden Gate Bridge, the park offers history of the Mikwok Native Americans and World War II. As most visitors prefer to visit Alcatraz, this park is often less crowded and more affordable.
With tons of outdoor activities, a cafe by the water, and views of the mountains, you can find a refreshing place to camp. With only eleven campsites, you will need to plan ahead to reserve a spot.
After settling in, take a tour of the US Immigration Station similar to Ellis Island. Take a tour of the island on a tram that follows the perimeter with incredible views.
The park offers several trails allowing you to stretch your legs and soak in nature. After, head out to the water for a swim or spend a night or two, although the amenities are sparse. Reserve a spot ahead as the island only provides a few campsites.
3. Mount Diablo State Park
Location: Summit Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598
Mt. Diablo State Park has 20,000 acres of explorable topography and a variety of outdoor recreational activities, distinctive geological, geological monuments, and landmarks.
Throw in some uncommon plant and animal species for an adventure about fifty miles away from the city. Once there, spend your vacation viewing rolling hills covered in wildflowers or hiking the trails, and more to restore your love for nature.
Ancient wind caves, breathtaking vistas of the surrounding foothills, and visible fossils in outcrops can all be found in Rock City. An observation deck provides awe-inspiring panoramic views of the Bay Area.
Enjoy the hills by foot, horse, bike, or even by rocking climbing to take in the full scope of the land. Take in the caves and sandstone caves close to the Boy Scout and Sentinel Rocks before climbing to the highest peak to visit the Summit Visitor Center.
With over fifty campsites in the park, you can forget about city life and reconnect with your thoughts. A group horse campground invites many adventurers, as does drinkable water and other amenities.
Reserve a spot for a single-family or a group up to six months in advance. Keep the high altitude in mind when planning your stay by packing warm clothing in layers and packing necessities for asthmatic family members.
4. Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Location: 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006
The Big Basin Redwoods State Park is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, about 60 miles from San Francisco. Big Basin is the oldest State Park in California and a Historic Landmark filled with enormous redwood trees.
Add in crisp mountain air along with moss, mushrooms, and babbling creeks for a fairytale-worthy location.
Rock-lined waterfalls make the perfect location for camping or staying in a cabin for a less rustic stay. However, an absolute must on a trip to this park is a backpacking trip to the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail, which is thirty miles long and provides views of the ocean and mountains.
In addition, try a few less aggressive activities, such as biking, hiking, horseback riding, or geocaching.
Big Basin is also a great place to do kitesurfing, windsurfing, and surfing. Waddell Beach, which is also a part of Big Basin State Park, is the local surfers’ favorite place.
Pack plenty of bug spray to combat the mosquitos common in the dam park, whether staying for the day or overnight. It’s worth it to camp under the might redwood trees with options for camping in tents, cabins, or equestrian sites all open year-round.
5. Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
Location: 3801 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515
About seventy miles north of San Francisco, find one of California’s best-kept secrets named Bothe State Park. It’s located in the Napa Valley and offers a pleasant respite from the area’s many wine-related attractions and luxury lodgings.
The park offers the farthest inland coastal redwoods found in a California state park, some of which are over 100 years old.
With ten miles of well-maintained hiking trails, a public swimming pool, and a plethora of wildlife, you can find refuge from the hustle and bustle of daily life. No matter the season, you can find incredible views from rolling hills peppered with wildflowers or escape the heat under the umbrella of the redwood forest.
Plan to encounter a variety of wild animals such as coyotes, raccoons, woodpeckers, mountain lions, and much more.
Spend the night under the stars at 45 tent campsites and one group site, and ten furnished yurts. Each yurt can hold up to six people, making them a great choice for families.
Nearby you will find bathrooms, showers, and a fun area for children, including a pool. From there you can spend your days exploring and children can even attend a summer camp. It’s the perfect location for peace and leisure.
6. Castle Rock State Park
Location: 15451 CA-35, Los Gatos, CA 95033
Castle Rock State Park displays beautiful sandstone formations in the Santa Cruz Mountains about 55 miles from San Francisco. The park offers spectacular views of the countryside and connects to the Big Basin State Park via the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail.
The park has miles of hiking trails for hikers and backpackers at every level, along with horseback riding and biking options on designated trails.
Climbers can test their skills on many rock formations, including Castle Rock. Serenity and a variety of wildlife await nature lovers in the park. In the summer, naturalists lead backpacking trips for adventurous individuals with several trails covered in lush trees and flora.
A seventy-foot waterfall makes for a wonderful attraction ready to impress, along with the rock formations and gorgeous views making this a necessity on your stat park bucket list.
The park has two campgrounds. Camping at Castle Rock Trail Camp is free and open to all. It has six primitive campsites that can be reserved in advance. Each campsite provides a table, fire ring, drinkable water, and toilets, making it great for year-round adventures outside.
They even offer a camp shelter for inclement weather. At the other campground, you will find more primitive campsites nestled in the redwood forest with fewer amenities making this a perfect place for those who want to forget about the world.