Standing in sand and listening to the sound of waves, it’s hard not to feel a sense of calm and rejuvenation, as if nature is giving us a pass to slow down and breathe in. So when a hike includes a beach—even in foggy weather—it feels like an added bonus, an extra sensory experience in addition to land-based flora and fauna.
Lucky for San Franciscans, there are many beaches that border the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean. In the hikes below, you can enjoy a beachy sunrise and sunset, bird watch, sink your feet into cold water, marvel at boats drifting in and out of the Bay like fish in an aquarium, or go tide pooling to spot starfish and anemones.
Here are eight hikes with sandy beaches near San Francisco.
Stats: 2.5 miles round-trip, 2.0 hours hike time, 100 feet elevation gain
Kehoe Beach is a dog-friendly hike to an ocean beach on the northwestern edge of Point Reyes National Seashore. Aside from a beautiful beach, Kehoe has cool geology and Native American grindstones. Just south of the trail, Kehoe Marsh is a good spot to look for Great Blue Herons.
Stats: 3.3 miles round-trip, 2 hours hike time, 125 feet elevation gain
Abbotts Lagoon is just south of Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore, a mostly flat hike to a sheltered, 282-acre lagoon and the ocean. Aside from the lagoon life that you might spot—I saw a river otter family there once—there is a small hill you can climb to see wildflowers and ocean views. Past a wooden bridge, a sandy path leads 0.5 miles west to Abbotts Lagoon Beach. You can explore the beach for miles in either direction, even up to Kehoe Beach.
Stats: 13.9 miles round-trip, 7 hours hike time, 1950 feet elevation gain
Alamere Falls, on the center-west edge of Point Reyes National Seashore, lies at the end of a 1.2 mile one-way walk along Wildcat Beach. After hiking 5.7 miles to the beach, the frigid ocean feels refreshing on hot, tired feet. The tricky part is timing your hike when the tide is low, leaving enough beach walking space to get there and back without being pushed to the cliffs. It’s a worthy quest to see a one-of-a-kind tidefall.
Stats: 15 miles round-trip, 8 hours hike time, 2900 feet elevation gain
The East Peak Fire Lookout on Mount Tamalpais is one of my favorite long day hikes just because you can lay down on your towel and cool off at Stinson Beach afterwards. The hike itself is a journey through coastal, redwood, chaparral, and grassland habitats to wide-angle San Francisco Bay views. Stinson Beach is a wonderful swimming and recreational beach, with showers, picnic tables, and grills. There are snack shacks and restaurants in the town of Stinson Beach too for a cold treat.
Stats: 5.5 mile loop, 4 hours hike time, 700 feet elevation gain
Angel Island State Park is the ultimate day trip from San Francisco. The woodsy, ghost-town like island has a paved road encircling its perimeter. Although cars are not allowed, you can hike or bring your bike to circle the 5.5-mile route on rolling hills, stopping at 180 degree overlooks of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz. One of my favorite hidden beaches is Quarry Beach, a narrow strip of sand on the island’s eastern side, where you can laze away an hour or two.
Stats: 1.7 miles round-trip, 1 hour hike time, 500 feet elevation gain
Batteries to Bluffs, southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge, is that rare hike that hits all the sweet spots. Golden Gate Bridge views? Historic batteries? Short and doable for your out-of-town guests? Yes, yes, aaaand yes. And perhaps my favorite: a secret beach. Yes, Marshall’s Beach for me is the real highlight of this hike. It’s where you get a shoreline view of the Golden Gate Bridge and get some tide-pooling action during a super low tide. Just be prepared—it’s also a spot where nudists roam.
Stats: 4.5 miles round-trip, 2.5 hours hike time, 100 feet elevation gain
Family-friendly East Beach glazes the northern tip of San Francisco in The Presidio, with windy views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point, a Civil War era fort. Hiking west, I love watching kiteboarders in the San Francisco Bay and frisbee-throwers in historic Crissy Field. Pick up a coffee at the Warming Hut and look up underneath the Golden Gate Bridge on Fort Point’s top tier.
Stats: 7.5 mile loop, 5 hours hike time, 400 feet elevation gain
Ocean Beach, on the west coast of San Francisco, is a relaxing start to visiting Golden Gate Park. Though asphalt sidewalks are the order of the day on loops throughout the park, there is something soothing about it being right next to Ocean Beach. Catch a sunrise and take in the views of Mount Tamalpais and the Point Bonita Lighthouse. Cliff House is just over a half mile walk north if you’re hankering for brunch.
A Note about Safety
Friends, please check local guidelines before you hit the beach. Some beaches have rough surf that makes swimming dangerous, and some have sensitive wildlife communities. Some have seasonal closures, and some have sections closed to dogs. Thank you for helping keep our beaches and yourself safe. Happy beach hiking 🙂
Tags: Abbotts Lagoon Beach, Alamere Falls, Angel Island State Park, East Beach, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, golden gate park, Marshall's Beach, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Ocean Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, Quarry Beach, Stinson Beach, The Presidio, Wildcat Beach