It's a beachgoing tradition both timeless and simple: a small bonfire to gather around with family and friends at the end of a long, busy day of jumping in waves and combing the sands. September means prime beach weather here on the West Coast―days are clear and balmy, and summer fog's a distant memory. So as sunset sweeps across the sky, settle down to listen to the fire crackle and watch its glow light up the faces around you. It's one evening at the beach you'll never forget. Here are three destinations to get you started. ―Lora J. Finnegan

California Point Reyes National Seashore (pick up free fire permit); or 415/464-5100

Oregon Sunset Beach near Fort Stevens State Park, Hammond; 503/861-3170

Washington Golden Gardens Park, Seattle; or 206/68-4075

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