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by Jill Loeffler •
Published: July 6, 2022
Mile Rock Beach in San Francisco is a secluded beach in a small cove off the Lands End Trail. On a clear day, its spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, and the Pacific Ocean are hard to beat.
The rocky beach is full of large boulders, stones, and old cement barriers. The location of the boulders offers you the chance to take more interesting shots of the bridge.
The cement barriers are covered with colorful graffiti, and the stones make the beach even more stunning.
These are just a few of the reasons it’s a fun place to explore for photographers, locals, and visitors from around the world.
Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.
One of the reasons fewer people visit Mile Rock Beach compared to other San Francisco beaches is that it does take some effort to get down to it. The short path back up to the Lands End Trail (part of the larger Coastal Trail) is steep, with a few dozen stairs.
This keeps it as more of a hidden gem.
To get to Mile Rock Beach in San Francisco, you will need to hike to the mid-point of the Lands End Trail.
You have three options.
Eastern Trailhead: This trailhead is on the eastern end of the Lands End Trail. It’s just under a mile from here to Mile Rock Beach.
Western Trailhead: This trailhead starts near the Lands End Lookout Visitor Center by Sutro Baths. If you hike from here, it’s about a mile down to Mile Rock Beach.
El Camino del Mar Parking Lot: This option is the shortest distance. From this parking lot, it’s just over a half-mile to the beach.
As you near the turn-off for Mile Rock Beach, you’ll want to look out for this sign.
Follow the sign on the main path until you see another path on your left. The stairs and path will look like this as you enter this section.
You’ll get some views as you climb down the stairs. This is one example.
Continue down the trail. This is another photo from the walk down.
This is the next set of steps on the trail leading you down to Mile Rock Beach.
You'll finally get to the clearing, where you can see a full view of this San Francisco gem from the path.
The hike off the main path down this steep, short trail is only about .01 of a mile. It isn’t long, but it’s steep.
Once you get to the beach, this is the type of photo of the Golden Gate Bridge you’ll be able to get. It’s just one of the reasons people like to make this trek.
You’ll also get some views of the Pacific Ocean and the Mile Rock Lighthouse.
This is the view of the Marin Headlands from Mile Rock Beach. I got lucky to capture this as a sailboat cruised into my photo.
Here are some photos of the graffiti on the old concrete barriers. At times, they change out, so there is always new artwork to explore.
This is an excellent shot of one of the balanced rocks works you'll see here.
Mile Rock Beach is free and dog friendly. Most people spend about an hour here exploring the beach, soaking in the views, and taking photos. It’s a fun place to see.
If you are in decent shape and don't mind the stairs, getting down to the beach is easy. However, you will find it isn't too busy most days as it does take some effort to get down to it.
Here is a map of Mile Rock Beach. The beach is the green star.
The red star is the entrance to the eastern trailhead. The blue star is the western trailhead. The pink star is the El Camino del Mar Parking Lot.
Each one is about a mile or less to the turn-off to Mile Rock Beach. The round trip to get there and back is around a mile and a half to two miles.
You can also learn more about what to see and do on the way on my Lands End page. You can learn about how to see some shipwrecks off the trail, tips to visit the Sutro Baths, and where to park.
This area is also, at times, where you will find the Lands End Labyrinth. It's been destroyed a few times, including during the pandemic.
You’ll find the overlook by staying to the right once you leave the main trail. It will take you down a small set of stairs that will clear to a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Below, you will see a small area where some art is usually made from rocks. This is where the labyrinth is usually found. You also might see a small heart here.
Either way, if you are coming to see the labyrinth, note that it comes and goes. There is no guarantee that it will be here (or any art will be on the overlook) when you arrive. However, it does offer gorgeous views of the bridge.
I mentioned above that you'd need to enter through the Lands End Trail. You can get to the trailheads by bus, car, or Uber/Lyft.
While driving is the easiest, you can also access it through public transit. Here are the options for each one.
Eastern Trailhead: To get to this trailhead, the best option is to take the 1 California to the stop at 32nd Avenue and California Street. They will drop you off in front of the gorgeous Lincoln Park Steps. Climb the steps and take a right at the top. Follow this for about 5 minutes, cross over Lincoln Highway, and you'll be at the eastern trailhead.
Western Trailhead and the El Camino del Mar Parking Lot: The best way to get to these options is by the 38 Geary Bus. Take it to the stop by 48th and Point Lobos Avenue. You’ll then head north and cross Point Lobos Avenue.
If you want to visit Sutro Baths, head toward the waterfront and enter the trail near the Lands End Lookout Welcome Center. If you're going to go to Mile Rock Beach, you can walk up El Camino Del Mar, through the parking lot, and enter the trail.
Ocean Beach: This long beach covers the western shoreline of San Francisco. It’s just over three miles long and is just to the south of the former Cliff House Restaurant. Here, you can enjoy the outdoors, watch the surfers, and relax. More about visiting Ocean Beach.
Note: The San Francisco Cliff House closed due to a rent increase during the pandemic. They will not reopen the Cliff House but plan to open a different restaurant in this space.
China Beach: Another great place to check out is China Beach. Here, you will also find gorgeous views of the bridge and plenty where you can sit and hang out with friends. It's also family-friendly and a great place to take your kids! More about it here.
Baker Beach: If you want to explore another popular spot, head over to Baker Beach. It's also a dog-friendly beach with stunning views of the bridge. More about it here.
Legion of Honor: You can also stop the Legion of Honor. This fine arts museum features works from Europe and the ancient world. It’s one of my favorites. Learn more about visiting here.
California Coastal Trail: The Coastal Trail is a 1,200-mile trail that takes you from Mexico to Oregon. You can hike the section here or continue with it to increase your hiking mileage.
Sutro Baths: This is another exciting place to stop and explore. It's the ruins of an old bathhouse built in the late 1800s. It's a great place to take pictures for Instagram too! Learn more about visiting.
More about the Richmond District: Mile Rock Beach is just one of the many attractions in the Richmond District. On this page, you’ll also find some great places to eat, drink, and hang out either before or after your visit here. Learn more here.