San Francisco may be a tiny city but is filled with locals secrets, under the radar spots and of course, hidden beaches. Being a San Francisco resident, I have combed several of these lesser known beaches in the city in search of secluded spots to witness a tranquil sunset. So here are two of my recommendations for two super special, relatively unknown and locals favorite beaches in the city which double up as the best San Francisco sunset spots. These two are also easily some of the best beaches in the Bay Area due to their golden-pink sand and gorgeous views of the Golden Gate bridge in the distance. Remember, San Francisco beaches are chilly and windy and you need to be dressed appropriately to counter all these crazy microclimates in our tiny city!
Best San Francisco sunset spots #1. MILE ROCK BEACH
Mile Rock beach, a small rocky beach jutting out into the Pacific ocean, overlooks the Golden Gate bridge in one corner of the Land’s end coastal trail. This is one of the best beaches in Bay Area and is also one of the best spots to watch a sunset in San Francisco. All you need is a good jacket (does get windy and chilly), a camera + tripod (if you are a photography nerd) and the will to climb down and up a few hundred flight of stairs to witness the best San Francisco sunset! Best of all,this is a dog friendly beach (here is my dog friendly hiking guide in San Francisco for more dog friendly attractions in the city)
How to get to Mile Rock Beach?
Getting to this secluded beach in San Francisco is pretty easy and you can either drive to or take the Bus 38 to Land’s end, specifically park at or start from El Camino del Mar and Point Lobos Avenue, just up the hill from the Cliff House and the Sutro Bath ruins, which is the trailhead. Then start your journey along the coastal trail, which follows the steam railroad route established by Adolph Sutro (owner of the Sutro Bath house, the ruins of which still persist at Land’s End) to bring in people from downtown San Francisco to enjoy the bath house. Steam train later gave way to electric cars but the route was constantly plagued by landslides and finally after the torrential rains of 1925, where huge portions of the route caved into the ocean, these tracks were deemed too costly for repair and abandoned.
The trail also has several curved rest areas where you can sit and enjoy a beautiful view of the ocean and listen to the fog-horns. 0.6 miles of hiking along the trail will lead you to a sign for the beach towards the left. What follows after that is several flights of sandy steps (there are quite a few of them) as you descend into the rocky, sandy cove providing a spectacular view of the Golden Gate bridge. This hidden beach in San Francisco is a great spot to catch a sunset as it offers different crimson ad pink hues of the setting sun against the backdrop of the bridge, the passing ships and waves furiously crashing against the big rocks jutting out of the water.
Best of all, since very few people know of this under the radar beach, you will be witnessing a beautiful San Francisco sunset with only a few people around! Another attraction is a cylindrical object jutting out of water that used to be a once functioning lighthouse, named the Mile Rock beach lighthouse. Its defunct now and there is an automated light to guide the ships. If it’s not too foggy you might also catch the flashing lights of Point Bonita lighthouse in Marin headlands (Sausalito), one of the remaining active lighthouses in California.
Piles of stones and rocks, neatly arranged (the remnants of the famous San Francisco “labyrinth”), will greet you once you are at the beach along with photography aficionados with their cameras and tripods to catch the best San Francisco sunset. Not too many people descend all the way down, so sit here, relax for a while and watch the sun go down in solitude. This is a dog friendly beach and so pups are welcome. After leaving the beach, you may continue up the coastal trail that leads you the beautiful museum Legion of Honor and finally the China Basin (dogs are not allowed here) or make your way back to the parking lot with the twinkling lights of the GG bridge glittering away in the fading evening light. You can stop by for dinner at the famous Cliff House or in one of the many restaurants in the Richmond neighborhood.
Best San Francisco sunset spot #2 CHINA BEACH
China Beach, another secluded beach in San Francisco is also one of the best San Francisco sunset spots. This beach is pretty much one of the lesser known beaches in San Francisco Bay Area and is a sandy patch at the very end of Sea Cliff Avenue. It is essentially a small cove in the San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood and lies between Baker beach and Land’s End, overlooking Marin Headlands. The name comes from it’s past as a camp for Chinese fishermen. In case you are interested in public transportation, San Francisco’s MUNI has you covered. Board the Bus # 38 (which also takes you to Land’s End) and hop off at Geary Blvd and 30th Avenue in Outer Richmond, after which a brisk 15 minute walking will take you to this hidden beach in San Francisco. Enjoy a beautiful (albeit chilly and windy) San Francisco sunset with another breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the horizon.
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