The Top Nine NPS Activities Within Driving Distance of SF

Get packed: the National Parks are all free this weekend

By Diane Rommel

Get Packed: The National Parks Are Free This Weekend
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17 April 2017

You know what we love more than anything, including a campsite under a solar eclipse

America's National Parks. 

This weekend, they're gonna love us back: they're free* in celebration of National Park Week. (Asterisk: entrance fees only. You're still responsible for your own souvenirs and stuff like that.) 

So pack up your protein bars: these are our top nine National Park activities — all within driving distance, and weighted toward oddballs. 

1. Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront National Historic Park
Do you have a daughter/niece/young charge? Do you love her? Then take her to see this tribute to Rosie the Riveter and the thousands of workers (in particular, women and people of color) who took the place of white men in Richmond's workforce — not coincidentally, the site of 55 war industries and the most productive shipyards in history. 

2. Pinnacles National Park
Come see the condors — they're waiting at Pinnacles, our newest national park. Our choice: the High Peaks to Balconies Cave — a loop that gets the up done early and is flat or down the rest of the way. 

3. Lassen Volcanic National Park
We might be creeping up on Memorial Day but plenty of Lassen is still under snow — drive up and go back a couple months, weather-wise, for a snow-shoe tour of some basic trails

4. John Muir National Historic Site
Pay tribute to the man who made this all possible with a visit to his home in Martinez. On Saturday, 4/22, come for a special celebration, marking Earth Day — and Muir's 189th birthday. 

5. Point Reyes National Seashore
Fact: Point Reyes is our favorite place on Earth. What to do you when you've done nearly everything? It's not too late for whale sighting off Chimney Rock. Box up a picnic, find a spot and wait. It's magic. 

6. Alcatraz Island/GGNRA
Alcatraz is the S.F. version of Manhattan's Empire State Building: you can live here forever without going. And then you do go, and it's great, and you say: Why did I wait so long? 

7. Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial
It is an unbelievable pain to access this site — not only do you need to make reservations, but you need to make them two weeks in advance, with government-issued ID, and then take a shuttle, all because it's located on an active military base — but all Americans should know about Port Chicago tragedy, and pay respect to the servicemen who lost their lives here. 

8. Yosemite National Park
You don't need us to tell you that Yosemite's worth seeing — and true, the gratis entrance fee means it's going to be a popular choice. All we can say is: waterfalls. It's worth it for the waterfalls. 

9. Muir Woods National Monument
We like this park best when you walk there from Mill Valley — just save some energy for the redwood tour, which is extremely charming. Otherwise, start at the parking lot and head for the ocean — up and over Cardiac Hill. 

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