For a wonderful day of entertainment and history, nearby national parks are a natural for visiting. They all have something unique to the American dream. Some are dipped in mystery, others are bathed in wonder. What they all have in common is accessibility, fun and a day or two that will create memories forever.
Fort Point
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Fort Mason, Building 201
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 556-1693

This little-known spot of history has an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It literally sits under the southern span of the bridge, and is a beautifully preserved part of the history of the area. Built by the US Army in 1861, it was to guard the entrance to the bay and is part of the Presidio of San Francisco. It never saw any military action. The setting is remarkable and the brick work alone is worth seeing. If you know what to look for, the cannon and gun ports are readily visible. Take a tour and imagine being stationed here. It must have been a sought-after post.

John Muir National Historic Site
4202 Alhambra Avenue
Martinez, CA 94553
(925) 228-8860

John Muir is a California icon and is known as the Father of the National Park Service. Because of him, we have a rich inventory of wild and wonderful national parks. His drive to preserve nature and what was in the sights of developers is legendary. Take a short trip to Martinez, a town rich with history, and visits Muir’s home. It is free. Because of Muir, the nation enjoys over 400 national parks. Muir was a naturalist, writer, teacher and visionary, among many other talents. Take a tour, enjoy this wonderful spot and think of Muir whenever you are in a national park.

King Range National Conservation Area
1695 Heindon Road
Arcata, CA 95521
(707) 825-2300

There isn’t one jump-off spot here. The King Range NCA is known as The Lost Coast. It is big. It encompasses 68,000 acres, spanning over 35 miles of Northern California coastline. From the mouth of Mattole River head north. When you get to the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, you’ve reached the other end. This is rugged, and often remote country. The beauty of the ocean and mountains here is staggering. Take your time, pack your gear and get ready for an experience that will make a lasting impression on your understanding of what The Lost Coast really means.

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Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mineral, CA 96063
(530) 595-4480

The 166.3 square miles of incredible views is just a start here at the park, and Lassen Peak is just one of those views. It is the largest plug dome volcano in the entire world. Lassen Peak also marks the southernmost volcano in the Cascade Range of mountains. It’s not the only volcano in the park. The camping, history and sheer beauty make the trip here just one of many that you may make. Deep snows in winter close the road through it, and the opening of the roads in spring are eagerly awaited. A Yahi Native American, Ishi, and his tribe inhabited the forests here. Make reservations early if you plan to stay. Its beauty makes it a popular place to visit.

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Village, CA 95389
(209) 372-0200

We have John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt to thank for this stunningly magnificent National Park. Within the 1,200 square miles of the park are some of the most recognized natural icons in the world. El Capitan, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls are a tiny sampling of what is here. There just isn’t a big or beautiful enough word to adequately describe this place. Hike to some awe-inspiring lakes with equally wonderful views, or wander the valley. Enter the park from Tioga Pass, from Highway 395, when it is open, or head to the entrance east of Merced. Either entrance will do just fine. Plan on taking the valley shuttle when you can. During summers, it is very busy here. Once you get to the park, you’ll understand the reasons for the popularity of one of the most spectacular national parks in the entire system.

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Charles Ferris is a freelance writer who has lived in the Sierra, halfway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, for the last 41 years. In 2010 he retired from teaching after 36 years . He and his wife hike, kayak, cross country ski, snow shoe, ride mountain bikes and road bikes, year round. His work can be found at