5 of Our Favorite Secret SF Bay Area Beach Hikes

Lace up your hiking shoes and go enjoy a view overlooking the ocean (before more rain comes our way).

One of the best ways to soak up everything grand and pure in the SF Bay Area is to find yourself along a sand-swept beach underneath an orange sunset. If the past few years have proven anything, it’s that people are reacquainting themselves with our almost ancestral love affair with walking. And you can that many of the Bay Area’s dozens of beaches.

But why not also enjoy the extra-secretive scenic trails that get you to them?

Here are five of Underscore’s favorite lesser-known passageways to some of the most beloved beaches in the Bay Area.

1. Mickey’s Beach Trail

A short there-and-back trail, Mickey’s Beach Trail shoulders nearby Stinson Beach, but it offers something the latter doesn’t: very little foot traffic. Taking the passageway puts hikers in the way of beautiful viewsheds, places to birdwatch, and, come wildflower season, an array of au natural pigments. The trail is easily accessible from Highway One and leads you right down into Mickey’s Beach — where you can properly lay out a blanket and synthesize some vitamin D, all while properly social distancing. The rock faces hugging the shoreline are also phenomenal spots for novice climbers and boulderers to practice their skills.

Visit AllTrails for more details.

2. Palomarin Beach Trail

With sweeping panoramas of nearby bluffs, the 1.6-mile trail across the bridge at Bolinas is a sublime pick for an impromptu, serotonin-releasing nature walk that will help you get out of Dodge for a bit. Though Palomarin Beach itself isn’t ideal for plunging down a beach umbrella—the black-rock beach is quite rugged and notoriously swept by strong gusts — it’s a perfect place to do a bit of marine watching: Tide pools here often contain sea stars, sea urchins, and other ocean aliens. Parking is hella easy at the roundabout on Mesa Road, and there’s a public restroom right off the parking lot should nature be calling in a different tongue.

Visit AllTrails for more details.

3. Point San Pedro Beach to Devil’s Slide

Ready your foam roller, because a hike from Point San Pedro Beach to Devil’s Slide is a lower-body-straining 6.7 miles that climbs some 1,100 feet in elevation. The out-and-back loops come through Pacifica. A portion of the Arroyo Trail places you smack dab at the height of the Pedro Point Headlands, roughly 450 feet above the uninterrupted Pacific shoreline to the west. After all that calf tensing and heavy breathing up Devil’s Slide, you’ll be rewarded with a long stretch of sandy beach that’s rarely populated by more than a dozen or two people at once. Hungry? What’s considered the world’s most scenic Taco Bell is a skipping stone’s throw away.

Visit AllTrails for more details.

4. China Beach

Baker Beach, usually a carousel of humans every weekend during the summer, is a nightmare to navigate these days. All the more reason to visit nearby China Beach to commune with Mother Nature. The short hiking trail from Sea Cliff’s residential streets takes you down a gregarious flight of stairs, through a welcome amount of urban greenery, and right onto the small seashore. Beachgoers can enjoy ample space to stretch out and socialize. Communal barbecue pits and picnic tables line the area, along with arguably the best tide pools one can explore anywhere in San Francisco.

Visit Golden Gate National Park Conservancy for more details.

5. Bay Trail to Albany Beach

The Bay Trail, now stretching more than 500 miles in its entirety, is our local version of the lengthier Pacific Crest Trail. As the trail continues to expand — its newest span snakes through East Palo Alto — a new mile-long section runs behind the Golden Gate Fields racetrack and merges Berkeley with Albany, which includes access to the freshly renovated Albany Beach at the Albany Bulb. Hikers can take in jaw-dropping views of the Bay Bridge and wiggle their toes in the sand. The beach is backed by low dunes. Kayakers and kiteboarders frequent the calm waters when conditions are ideal. Dogs are welcome at Albany Beach, and the new restrooms stay blessedly clean.

Visit San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail for more details.

Feature image: Courtesy of Pixabay

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