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Bay Area Hikes
Bay Area Hikes

Coastal Hikes in Bay Area

Coastal hikes listed below are all along the Pacific Ocean, meandering among hills and occasionally going through beaches. For hikes going through only one beach, see Beach Walk Hikes. For hikes that offer awesome views of the ocean but don't go along the coastline, see Ocean View Hikes. For hikes that may be done only in low tide conditions, see Low Tide Hikes. For hikes that offer awesome views of various bays like San Francisco Bay, see Bay View Hikes. Hikes below are listed geographically, from north to south.

Coastal trails are described in great detail in the book Hiking the California Coastal Trail, Volume 1: Oregon to Monterey (2nd Edition, 320 pages, 2002) by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols. For a multi-day backpacking trip along the coastline, you may have to walk along Highway 1 because the coastal trail is not contiguous. No hike listed below goes through paved roads.

Salt Point

7.0 miles
800 ft
Coastal Trail in Salt Point State Park
Terrific hike! The first couple of miles in the north are along unmaintained trails. South of Fisk Mill Cove, the trails are well marked. To successfully do this hike, it is important to read its description in the book by Lorentzen and Nichols.

Fort Ross

An adventurous hike in Fort Ross Historic Park in Sonoma County. The route alternates between long rocky beaches and sandy beaches. The hike is feasible only in low tide conditions. Few people go along this route, so great solitude is available.

7.1 miles
1000 ft
Sonoma Lost Coast
The hike is described in detail in Section 5 (Sonoma County, pages 184—187) of the book "Hiking the California Coastal Trail, Volume 1: Oregon to Monterey" (2nd Edition, 320 pages, 2002) by Bob Lorentzen and Richard Nichols. According to the authors,there are two spots that require low tide: about 1.5 miles into the hike, crossing a rocky spot requires tides lower than 3 ft; about 3 miles into the hike, a spot requires tides lower than 4.5 ft.

Point Reyes

4.5 miles
100 ft
Unknown Coast in Point Reyes
An absolutely fantastic 'adventure' hike that may be done only in minus low tide conditions. It is described in the book "Point Reyes - Secret Places & Magic Moments" by Phil Arnot (1993, 224 pages). The route takes you through Elephant Rock, Elephant Cave, Ribbon Falls and Keyhole. About half of the route was along rocky beaches and half was along quiet sandy beaches. We had to wade in water using a hiking pole on three occasions. At one point, we were waist deep in water. The hike requires careful planning and execution. Phil's book has details. In May 2011, I joined a hike organized by Paul Grammens for the group 'North Bay Hikes'. According to Paul, very few days in an entire year allow this hike to be possible. Only a few of these days fall on weekends, so very few attempt this hike.
9.5 miles
1000 ft
Alamere Falls from Palomarin Trailhead
Alamere Falls in Point Reyes is one of the two waterfalls in CA that pour directly into the Pacific Ocean. The waterfall is 40 ft tall. The final descent to the beach requires a scramble. In 2012, there was a rope to make the descent safer. During low tide, one may walk half a mile to the south of the beach and several miles to the north to reach Wildcat Camp. The beach walk adds character to the hike.

Close to the junction of Alamere Falls Trail and Coastal Trail, there is an unmarked junction with a trail that goes to Stormy Stack. This side trip is about one mile round trip. The views from Stormy Stack are pretty awesome. This trail is not shown on the official Point Reyes map. It is shown on trail maps sold by Tom Harrison.

16.8 miles
2300 ft
Coastal Trail in Point Reyes
A beautiful hike traversing the entire Coastal Trail in Point Reyes through two long beaches and Alamere Falls, a waterfall that pours directly into the ocean. No section of this route is particularly steep. The first five miles are shared with the hike to Alamere Falls described above.
10.0 miles
1200 ft
Tomales Point
Tomales Point is the northernmost point in Point Reyes. It is famous for tule elk which number in the hundreds and occupy the northern sections of Point Reyes. The hike offers fantastic ocean views and plenty of wildflowers as well. Quite windy throughout the year.
2.1 miles
400 ft
Chimney Rock
A short, sweet hike to a promontory which offers great views of Point Reyes coastline both to the north and the south. There is an unofficial trail that meanders very near the cliff edges for over a mile. From this trail, one gets views of beaches down below. In the right season, elephant seals come to rest at these beaches.

Mt Tamalpais State Park

Mt Tamalpais State Park is a huge park, about 30 minutes north of San Francisco. A part of the park adjoins the Pacific coastline.

2.8 miles
400 ft
Steep Ravine Campground Loop from Highway 1
Nice walk along the Pacific coastline, through rocky and sandy beaches. Great views of the Pacific ocean and cabins at Steep Ravine campground.

Slide Ranch

From Official website: Founded in 1970, Slide Ranch is a non-profit teaching farm located at a historic coastal dairy perched above the ocean in the Marin Headlands within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). Slide Ranch staff operate the farm using a turn of the century farmhouse, old creamery and several outbuildings situated along a scenic coastal bluff. Organic gardens, goats, sheep, chickens and ducks, along with numerous coastal trails, tide-pools and pocket beaches, provide an ideal outdoor venue for teaching about healthy foods, healthy living and environmental awareness.

3.8 miles
600 ft
Muir Beach Overlook to Slide Ranch
Gorgeous, secluded walk along the Pacific coastline to Slide Ranch with farm animals. The views at Muir Beach Overlook are fantastic. Owl Trail then meanders between the coastline and Highway 1, offering majestic views of the ocean. In about a mile, it reaches Slide Ranch, where sheep, goats and ducks may be seen. There are short trails leading to two rocky beaches at Slide Ranch.

Marin Headlands

11.5 miles
2600 ft
Coastal Trail in Marin Headlands
A spectacular hike from the northern end of Golden Gate Bridge in the south to Muir Beach in the north. The hike has several interesting sections. At the very beginning, Coastal Trail quickly climbs up a hill, offering great views of Golden Gate Bridge, the Tiburon peninsula and Angel Island. The route then meanders down to Rodeo Beach. The approach to Rodeo Beach goes along the southern bank of Rodeo Lagoon. The views of Rodeo Beach sandwiched between Rodeo Lagoon and Pacific Ocean are quite interesting. The route climbs up hills to the north of Rodeo Beach where there are several side trails next to the coastline. The next interesting spot is Hill 88, which requires a side trip up a paved road. Here, the views of San Francisco Bay and various valleys in Marin Headlands are fabulous. Coastal Trail then meanders along the coastline with great views of the Pacific, culminating in Muir Beach.

San Francisco

8.0 miles
1200 ft
Coastal Hike from Sutro Heights Park to Crissy Field
A gorgeous hike along the Pacific coastline with several detours to vista points and beaches. Golden Gate Bridge is visible from many of these vista points. In fact, the hike goes under Golden Gate Bridge in the north.

Gray Whale Cove Beach

4.8 miles
900 ft
Gray Whale Cove Trail
A pleasant walk from Montara Beach to Gray Whale Cove Beach with excellent views of the Pacific. The number of distinct wildflowers along this trail is probably the highest among bay area trais. The hike includes two beach walks which lie to the west of Highway 1. The rest of the hike is in hills on the east of Highway 1. The views of the coastline are pretty good all along.

Mori Point

8.2 miles
900 ft
Sharp Park Beach to Pacifica State Beach
One of the best coastal hikes in the bay area from Sharp Park Beach to Pacifica State Beach. Meandering through bluff trails and beach walks, this hike offers great views of the Pacific coastline and rock formations near the coast.
6.1 miles
700 ft
Sharp Park Beach to Rockaway State Beach
Gorgeous hike meandering next to the Pacific coastline, going through Mori Point in Pacifica.

Cowell Purisima Trail

6.4 miles
200 ft
Cowell Purisima Trail
A relaxed easy stroll along the Pacific. Many sections of the route are inland, so coastal views are missing except at a few points. A section of the trail is closed for a few months every year to allow farmlands to spray their fields with chemicals.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

5.0 miles
250 ft
Low Tide Hike in Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
A beautiful hike along the Pacific Coast. The first half of the hike is all along sandy beaches interleaved by short rocky sections. The return trip is all along bluff trails, high up in the cliffs adjoining the ocean. Views from the bluff trails are gorgeous. The last half mile is shaded by trees.

Pillar Point

2.7 miles
100 ft
Pillar Point Walk
Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay offers a short beach walk and a walk along a jetty. Walking on the jetty requires boulder hopping for almost a mile. However, this is potentially dangerous because the boulders are large sized and because big ocean waves may come unexpectedly. There are warning signs in big red letters at the beginning of the jetty informing you of the dangers.

Gazos Creek

9.0 miles
100 ft
Gazos Creek Beach to Table Rock
A fantastic hike through a long sandy beach followed by a bluff trail with great views of the Pacific. In low tide conditions, one may walk almost a mile up north of Gazos Creek parking lot, along the beach. Then walk along the beach south for about a mile to reach Franklin Point, a promontory that offers great views to both sides of the coastline. Hereafter, a bluff trail stays close to the coastline and takes you all the way to Whitehouse Creek. Here, one may walk along a long sandy beach or along a bluff trail to reach Table Rock. Beyond Table Rock, one may not proceed because the area is protected for conservation.
6.2 miles
100 ft
Atkinson Bluff Trail
This is a shorter version of the hike described above. A short walk goes from Highway 1 to Franklin Point, a promontory with great views of the coastline. Thereafter, the route is identical to the route above.

Año Nuevo

4.0 miles
200 ft
Elephant Seals Hike
Popular winter hike to watch elephant seals at Año Nuevo. The best time to visit is winters, especially December to February time frame.

Wilder Ranch

6.2 miles
200 ft
Ohlone Bluff Trail
A beautiful hike along the bluffs next to Pacific Ocean, providing access to multiple beaches en route: Three-Mile Beach, Strawberry Beach and Sand Plant Beach.

Santa Cruz Beach

8.0 miles
350 ft
Twin Lakes to Natural Bridges
An easy walk that goes through multiple beaches and vista points, all along Santa Cruz coastline. The beaches are in the early part of the hike: Twin Lakes State Beach, Santa Cruz Beach. Beyond Santa Cruz Beach, the hike goes along West Cliff Drive, a paved sidewalk that offers multiple side trips down to small beaches or rocky structures jutting into the ocean.
6.1 miles
200 ft
Shoreline Walk along West Cliff Drive
A shorter version of the hike above that goes only along West Cliff Drive, a paved sidewalk with multiple side trips to beaches or rocky structures.

Point Lobos

Point Lobos is a small park with a jagged coastline. A trail meanders along the periphery of the park, providing access to beaches, coves and vista points. The views from these locations are superb.

2.8 miles
100 ft
Whalers Cove - Granite Point
A short hike to Granite Point via Whaler's Cove.
3.5 miles
500 ft
Whalers Cove - Cannery Point - Whalers Knoll
A gorgeous hike through the northern vista points in Point Lobos.

Garrapata State Park

2.6 miles
500 ft
Soberanes Point - Whale Peak
An awesome hike meandering along jagged Pacific coastline in Big Sur. There are several points along the trail from which narrow side trails lead to rocky overlooks with great views of coves and the coastline. On the way back, the hike goes up a small hill called Whale Peak which also offers fantastic views of Highway 1 and the Pacific coastline.
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