Hike to A Secret Black Sand Beach near San Francisco: A Day out in Black Sands Beach, Sausalito

Home » Hike to A Secret Black Sand Beach near San Francisco: A Day out in Black Sands Beach, Sausalito

Are you looking for a secluded, secret and oh so unique Black Sands Beach near San Francisco? Then you’ve come to the right post, i.e. a guide to finding this black sands beach in Sausalito, Marin county which is a mere 30 minute drive from San Francisco. Find out how to get to this black sands beach in the Bay Area and other fun things to do around there on your day trip!

hiking to black sands beach sausalito, black sands beach near San Francisco




There is so much of natural beauty around San Francisco that it feels almost criminal to not explore it.  One of the hidden gems super close and north of the city is a secluded black sands beach in Sausalito, a charming Northern California coastal town in Marin Headlands and one of the best winter destinations in California.


During one of our many visits to Sausalito as weekend getaways from San Francisco, we decided to explore this hidden beach with our dog Babu. We left San Francisco in the morning, stopped by Sausalito to get sandwiches from Sausalito Gourmet Delicatessen  and then went off to find this secret beach in the Bay Area.


This Marin Headlands black sands beach is super close to the city and makes for an excellent day trip from San Francisco. Finding the location and hiking to black sands beach can be a bit challenging, so read details below on how we found our way to this secluded black sands beach near San Francisco.

For those interested in dog friendly hiking and beaches, check out some of my top posts here:

The best dog friendly hiking trails in San Francisco Bay Area
Dog friendly hikes leading to waterfalls in SF Bay Area
The ultimate dog friendly guide to San Francisco
The best dog friendly beaches in California
The best dog friendly beaches in San Francisco
A dog friendly guide to Half Moon Bay, Bay Area’s charming beach town
The best dog friendly weekend getaways in Northern California
Dog friendly hiking Marin County with gorgeous views: Muir Beach Lookout and Tiburon Ridge Trail

Black Sands beach, a secret hidden beach in Sausalito

black sands beach near San Francisco, weekend getaway to a secret beach in Sausalito




The black sands beach at Sausalito is indeed very secluded and hidden from prying eyes (thank goodness for that since heaven knows how crowded SF and Marin beaches are) since its off a dirt trail which comprises a good, steep hike of 0.3 miles. 


If you’re planning to come to this beach in Sausalito, then arrive early cause the parking lot is not only tricky to find but can also get filled quickly. The lot is directly off of Conzelman Road, past Hawk Hill (one of the best places to see the Golden Gate Bridge), and down the hill along the coast. Keep your eyes peeled for dirt parking lot on your left. Pro-tip: look out for the for Upper Fisherman’s trail signage to spot the parking lot.


We followed these instructions in 2015 while looking for this secret Black Sands Beach near San Francisco. However, things have changed a bit since then and Google maps does show you the exact location (see below). The parking instructions are still helpful though since Conzelman road is pretty popular with tourists and there are very few areas where you can turn around in case you’ve gone too far. 



Black Sands Beach is in Marin Headlands, which is about a 20-30 minute drive from San Francisco and right across the Golden Gate Bridge. Here is how to plan a trip to this secret beach near San Francisco (which by the way has its own share of hidden beaches):



Hiking to black sands beach can be a bit daunting for newbies since the descent to the beach is pretty steep and it is also a high surf zone. Dress in layers  while hiking to the beach since it might get cold there. Wear proper footwear and do not lug anything heavy (although an empty beach is very tempting to carry a picnic hamper to have a good time) since you have to hike down quite a bit to get to the beach, i.e. about 0.3 miles of 250 rickety wooden stairs! 



Black Sands Beach, Sausalito is not dog-friendly but we missed the small sign (we were a wee bit excited to discover the entrance in one go and in 2015 the sign was a small one; things might have changed after that) and found out on our way back, so I do NOT recommend taking your pooch since we made an honest mistake.


However, if you Google “black sands beach San Francisco“, you will find several reviewers stating that they have seen dogs at the beach simply because it is so empty and desolate that the few there do not seem to mind. 


The black sands beach, Sausalito is not an ecologically fragile area, so I am guessing the reason pets are not allowed on the hiking trail is because it is so steep and the beach area is a high surf zone. Babu was on a leash almost all the time and we sat very close to the stairs leading to the beach in one corner so that he wouldn’t disturb anybody.


You can read about my dog friendly beaches in California post or dog friendly beaches in San Francisco post to find out about all other beaches where dogs are allowed!



This beach is also nudist friendly due to its secluded nature, so if you want to avoid the clothing optional memo, do not venture towards the ends where they are resting/nesting in the rocks/alcove.


During our visit, there were very few people on the beach. Plus, it was also very windy so we did not venture out too far to spot any nudist beach bunnies.

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hidden black sands beach near San Francisco and how to get to it
hidden black sands beach near San Francisco and how to get to it




After hiking through flights of super steep stairs and rickety wooden planks, we finally descended on this beautiful beach. Lush black sand greeted us, along with tranquil waves and beautiful vistas of the ocean and rocks, with a silhouette of Point Bonita lighthouse in the distance.


The best part of this black sands beach in Marin Headlands was the desolation-there was hardly a soul around. We sat close to the stairs leading down to the beach and Babu, the beach bum, sat pretty tight next to us most of the time or was under strict parental supervision when he ventured afar. I highly recommend this black sands beach near San Francisco as a secluded place for picnics since we had a nice , quiet lunch there.


The hike back from black sands beach  was pretty uneventful. As we walked back up, we saw a steady stream of people hiking down (perhaps the secret is no longer safe and this beach too will get super crowded in future), most of them pretty excited to see Babu huffing and puffing up the trail. 

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Downtown Sausalito is a short drive from this beach. You can read about our staycation in Sausalito for more details, but this charming little town is a must stop if this is your first time in Marin county or if you’re driving from San Francisco to Mendocino. Bridgeway is the main road that runs through downtown Sausalito and has some really nice restaurants and stores lining the marina, along with some of the best views of San Francisco at a distance.


If you’re feeling hungry after all that hiking at Black Sand Beach, I recommend Sushi Ran, Bar Bocce or my favorite seafood place Scoma’s for amazing food and excellent views. Sausalito is also known for its many art galleries-Galerie Elektra is one of my favorites to visit. 


Sausalito is also known for the very popular dog friendly Rodeo beach where off leash dogs are welcome. The Rodeo Beach coastal hike is one of the many dog friendly scenic hikes in the Bay Area which you must check out if visiting Sausalito with your pup.

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Beside this black sands beach near San Francisco, California is blessed with several more that are way up north in Humboldt County which we visited in 2021 during our road trip through the Giant Redwoods. 


I am talking about Shelter Cove, the remotest beach town in southern Humboldt County which boasts of not one but three amazing black sand beaches. Unlike this black sands beach in Sausalito, those have shiny round pebbles instead of sand and are very gravely, but they are a sight to behold sans the crowds and offer the most beautiful sunsets on the lost coast!

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Want to escape to a secret, black sands beach in Northern California,USA for a romantic picnic? Even better, want to dip your toes in black sand? Read this post to discover a Black sand beach in Sausalito which is a local's secret and super hidden from touristy eyes. A short drive from San Francisco, this beach is one of the best kept secrets of the Bay Area! Pin this to your California board for a great day trip to Sausalito! #blacksandbeach #beach #california #bayarea #daytrip #californiatravelguide





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