The Best Beaches in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Explore hidden coves, radiant views, and roaring surf at these must-see San Francisco beaches
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Tennessee Valley Trail winds 2.2 miles (one way) past rolling hills toward this secluded beach awash with green and black basalt pebbles.
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.
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.
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.)