Best Beach Hikes In California

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You can’t beat a good beach hike. The fresh air, the sea, the sunshine—it could be just what you need to clear your head. If you’re lucky enough to live in California, you could have some of the country’s best beach hikes right on your doorstep.

Sand Ladder Trail

  • Location: Presidio, San Francisco
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Length: 200 Steps

A short but tough trail that serves as the perfect morning or afternoon workout. It starts near Lincoln Boulevard and ends at the north end of Baker Beach.

There are a couple of hundred steps through sand and you’ll have varying levels of elevation to contend with.

Enjoy sweeping ocean views and cool wilds, as well as all the sounds, smells, and sights of the seaside. Be aware that some of those sights may include naked beachgoers, as north Baker Beach, where the trail ends, is a “clothing-optional” beach.

Point Dume State Beach

  • Location: Malibu
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Length: Varies

Point Dume sits between Westward Beach and Dume Cove. There are ocean views and wildflowers along the route and you can choose how far you want to go and how long you want the hike to be.

Muir Beach Overlook

  • Location: North of Muir Beach
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Length: 0.3 Miles

Although Muir Beach Overlook is one of the shortest coastal trails on this page, it’s also one of the most scenic. You’ll get clear views of the ocean and there are places where you can relax and soak up the scenery.

Take your camera with you and spend some time watching over the great blue, as you might just spot some whales.

Tomales Point Trail

  • Location: Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Difficulty Level: Advanced
  • Length: 9 Miles

Located at Point Reyes National Seashore, which offers some of the best coastal hikes on the California coast, Tomales Point Trail takes you along the crest of a narrow peninsula and offers some beautiful ocean views. It passes alongside Tule Elk Preserve and you’ll likely see a few wild animals on your hike.

At around 9 miles, it’s not the best trail for inexperienced hikers and will take you the better part of a day to traverse.

Andrew Molera Loop, Big Sur

  • Location: Andrew Molera State Park
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Length: 8.8 Miles

Andrew Molera State Park is home to numerous short hikes, but this is one of the longer ones. It’s not too difficult, but it’s nearly 9 miles, so you’ll need to be pretty fit and experienced to make it from the start to the finish.

Visit during spring to enjoy coastal views and see blooming wildflowers.

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

  • Location: Hearst San Simeon State Park
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Length: 2 Miles

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is a bluff trail that stretches for about two miles, with Pacific Ocean views every step of the way. Start on the beach, loop around, and return. Visit during sunrise or sunset for the best views.

Fort Funston

  • Location: Southwestern San Francisco
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate to Advanced
  • Length: 2.5 Miles

The Fort Funston coastal trail is a looping trail with very windy conditions. You’ll find sand dollars on the beach and will pass old military installations. It’s a trek of around 2.5 miles and the strong winds and bumpy terrain mean it’s better suited to more experienced hikers.

Fort Funston is a good hiking trail for dog walkers and there are areas where pups can be let off the leash. Keep an eye out for hang gliders and make sure you wrap up warm.

San Clemente Beach Trail

  • Location: Orange County
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Length: 2.5 Miles

One of the best hiking trails in OC, the San Clemente beach trail takes you along the state’s scenic coastline, beginning at North Beach and extending to San Clemente Beach.

At 2.5 miles, it’s not the shortest trail, but it’s a relaxed walk and is suitable for hikers of all experience levels. There are also numerous stops along the way, so you can relax and take a break if you’re too hot or tired.

The San Clemente Beach Trail is popular throughout the year and you’ll find tourists, locals, and plenty of dog walkers along the trail.

With Pacific Ocean views and a friendly atmosphere, this Southern California coastal trail is also ideal for runners.

Gray Whale Cove Trail

  • Location: Gray Whale Cove Beach
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Length: 2.3 Miles

The Gray Whale Cove Trail leads you on a moderate hike spanning over 2.3 miles. It can be steep in places, but with blissful ocean views, beach access, and a nearby parking lot, it’s a good step-up for hikers seeking more than a leisurely stroll.

The trail begins at Montara Beach and stretches to Gray Whale Cove Beach. It’s best walked during the spring and summer when the trail is lined with blooming wildflowers, making for a beautifully picturesque hike.

Devil’s Slide Trail

  • Location: Between Pacifica and Montara
  • Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate
  • Length: 2.6 Miles

The Devil’s Slide Trail takes you on a challenging trail that was once part of the Pacific Coast Highway. It runs along a rocky cliff and is open to dog walkers (keep dogs on a leash) and bikers, as well as hikers.

How to Prepare for a Coastal Hike In California

Most Californian coastal hikes will take you along scenic and short routes. If it gets too much, you can always turn around and return, and in some cases, there are multiple stops along the way. If you’re preparing for a long or particularly arduous hike, keep the following in mind:

  • Observe Hiking Trail Etiquette at All Times: Leave no trace, be friendly, and don’t venture too close to wild animals.
  • Don’t Leave the Trail: Venturing too far from the trail could take you perilously close to the edge and may lead to injuries.
  • Take Water: Keep yourself hydrated throughout your hike and make sure you have plenty of water with you.
  • Take a Friend: It’s always more entertaining to hike with a friend or family member. They can also help you if you get into trouble and need assistance.
  • Wear Hiking Shoes: Choose hard-wearing hiking boots that suit the terrain.
  • Stay Clear of Wildlife: Don’t be tempted to feed or touch wild animals and always keep your distance.

Last but not least, stick to the trails that you know you can handle. Understand your limits and if you’re going to push yourself to walk further or for longer, make sure you choose a trail that isn’t too challenging and wait for breezy and cool weather conditions.