When you think of California National Parks, Yosemite probably comes to mind. But Northern California has plenty of stunning federally-protected parks, monuments, and public spaces that are a lot closer to home.
California National Parks
- Muir Woods National Monument: A stunning old-growth redwood forest in Marin County that was donated to the federal government and named after the legendary Western conservationist, John Muir.
- Golden Gate National Recreation Area: The park that stretches up the Peninsula and across San Francisco includes 19 separate ecosystems and home to more than 1,200 plant and animal species.
- Alcatraz Island: You might be surprised to learn that this historic prison and popular tourist attraction off the coast of San Francisco is home to a U.S. National Park. Alcatraz Island is federally protected under the Golden Gate National Recreation Area but it doesn't charge a National Park admission fee. The only way to get to Alcatraz Island is by booking a ferry ride on the park contractor, Alcatraz Cruises.
- Presidio of San Francisco: For over 218 years, San Francisco's Presidio served as an army post for Spain, then Mexico, then the United States.
- Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park: A memorial to the diverse, hard-working Americans who managed the homeland industries during World War II, including the women (collectively called "Rosie the Riveters") who took over traditionally male-dominated industries. The monument and visitors center is on the waterfront in Richmond, California.
- Fort Point National Historic Site: A defensive outpost overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site: A national historic site in Danville, CA celebrating America's only Nobel Prize-winning playwright, Eugene O'Neill. The acclaimed writer lived in Northern California at the height of his writing career when he penned some of his most memorable plays. The park is in a remote location so visitors are required to take a free National Park Service shuttle from downtown Danville.
- Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail: A 1200 mile trail from Arizona to California marking this site where de Anza led 240 men, women, and children to establish the first non-Native settlement at San Francisco Bay.
- Point Reyes National Seashore: A 33,373 acres national coastal wilderness preserve founded by John F. Kennedy. It's the only national seashore on the West Coast.
- San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park: A memorial to San Francisco's long maritime and seafaring history.
- Pinnacles National Park: A mountainous landscape 60 miles southeast of San Jose. Pinnacles is Northern California's newest national park, signed into law by President Obama in 2013.