Explore hidden coves, radiant views, and roaring surf at these must-see beaches
1 of 8Creative Commons photo by Nathan Borror is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Human visitors are welcome to stroll the beach, but it’s probably best loved by San Francisco’s canines—you’ll be amazed at the number of dogs and dog-walkers roaming it. Skyline Blvd. at John Muir Drive.
2 of 8Creative Commons photo by Amy MacKinnon is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Black Sands Beach
The.75-mile hike down (slightly rickety) steps is sure to put the rosy in your cheeks, and the narrow strip of beach is windy, wild, and stunning. Pro tip: Instead of starting from the beach parking area, drive past the Marin Headlands Visitor Center, turn right on Bunker Road, and start at the historic rifle range. It’s worth the extra 1.5 miles over the ridge for the views you’ll have all to yourself.
3 of 8Creative Commons photo by Angel Ortega is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Kirby Cove Campground
Kirby Cove Campground, just northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge, has four beachside campsites. Open April through October. $25; www.recreation.gov or 877/444-6777.
4 of 8Creative Commons photo by David Horowitz is licensed under CC BY 2.0
If you stand at the base of the bluffs separating the lagoon from the ocean, after awhile the quiet churr of feathers hitting feathers—may announce a pod of seasonally migrating brown pelicans riding the updraft overhead.
5 of 8Creative Commons photo by Jennifer Morrow is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Tennessee Valley Trail winds 2.2 miles (one way) past rolling hills toward this secluded beach awash with green and black basalt pebbles.
6 of 8Creative Commons photo by Frank Schulenburg is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Open again after five months of construction work (parking-lot relocation, and restroom improvements), this very popular beach welcomes only those dogs that are kept on-leash—an unpopular decision with dog owners.
7 of 8Photo by Erin Kunkel
Surfers, sandpipers, and miles and miles of sand that frequently overflows the Great Highway. The waves here can be challenging, even deadly—frequent riptides don’t help. But on the rare hot spring or fall day, everyone in the city seems to be here. Keep an eye out for the dolphins that seem to play hide-and-seek with the surfers.
8 of 8David Mcspadden (Via Flickr Creative Commons)
Back in 1986, a guy named Larry Harvey built a big wooden stick figure here and set it on fire—Burning Man was born. (It’s long since moved to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, of course.)
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