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Lighthouses are tall white structures with bright lights on top so they should be easy to spot right. Well some of the lighthouses on the California Coast aren’t in plain sight, in fact, a few of them are hidden quite well. Here are five lighthouses that are hidden, but worth trying to find.

Fort Point Lighthouse

A zoomed-in shot of the lighthouse directly under the bridge

The first lighthouse on this list is hidden in a city of nearly a million people. And it is hidden under one of the most recognizable structures in the world. You’ll find the Fort Point Lighthouse right under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This historic lighthouse was erected atop the Civil War era fort in 1864 and was operational until 1934 (it was turned off soon after construction on the bridge had commenced). The grounds around Fort Point National Historic Site are open 7 days a week, but the lighthouse on top is not visible from below. To see it you need to ascend to the top deck of the fort which is open 10am-5pm Friday through Sunday. From a distance you can see Fort Point Lighthouse from Crissy Field Beach. Another distant lighthouse on Alcatraz Island is visible from the waterfront in San Francisco too.

Punta Gorda Lighthouse

Punta Gorda Lighthouse on a typical day on The Lost Coast

This lighthouse is hidden on The Lost Coast in Northern California. To see it you must take a long twisty drive on narrow roads to Mattole Beach near the tiny town of Petrolia. From the trailhead it’s a 3-mile day-hike on The Lost Coast Trail and along the beach to this remote location. Punta Gorda Light has been out since 1951 but that doesn’t diminish the adventurous trip to see this structure.

St. George Reef Lighthouse

A zoomed in shot from Point St. George Beach

This lighthouse is typically hidden by fog and when it is not, it’s still hard to see. That’s because this lighthouse is located on a rock six miles from shore in Crescent City. Even though this lighthouse, which was completed in 1892, is the third tallest in California, the distance from Point St. George is enough to make it hard to photograph. Tours by helicopter to see and photograph the lighthouse up close will hopefully resume someday. Bring binoculars with you to the beach and you’ll be able to see the lighthouse better.

Trinidad Head Lighthouse

A short but attractive hidden lighthouse – photo by Marinas.com

This small lighthouse is hidden on the back side of Trinidad Head in Trinidad. Few people other than locals know this operational lighthouse exists, yet it’s been at this spot since 1871. You can get to it by hiking 2/3 of a mile around the rock to the side that faces the ocean. The trailhead is located between Trinidad Head Beach and Trinidad State Beach. If this sounds like too much work, there is a near replica right in town above Old Home Beach that has fresh paint and a great backdrop for photographs.

Anacapa Island Lighthouse

View from the landing above the boat dock on Anacapa East Isle

This lighthouse is hidden in the Channel Islands. It is high up on the eastern end of Anacapa Island, the easternmost isle of the Channel Islands, yet it still is not visible from the mainland. To see it, take the Island Packers boat from Oxnard to the East End Landing Cove and then hike up to the lighthouse. Anacapa Island Lighthouse is beautiful and although this trip sounds difficult, the cruise can be done round-trip in a day, and the hike is less than a half-mile each way.

See a list of all the lighthouses on the California Coast


Beaches on this list

  • Fort Point National Historic Site

    Fort Point National Historic Site doesn’t have a sandy beach, but it’s location at the Golden Gate makes it a top waterfront destination in San Francisco. Who wouldn’t want to […]

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  • Crissy Field – East Beach

    East Beach in San Francisco is located at the east end of Crissy Field Park in the old Presidio Area of what is now Golden Gate National Recreation Area. From […]

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  • Punta Gorda Lighthouse

    Punta Gorda Lighthouse along the Humboldt County Coast is nearly a four mile walk on the beach from the Mattole River Beach parking area. The beach trail is part of […]

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  • Mattole River Beach

    Mattole Beach is at the sandy mouth of the Mattole River at the north end of King Range National Conservation Area. This remote area is reached via a long winding […]

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  • Point St. George Beach

    Point St. George is a prominent rocky point about three miles north of Crescent City. The Point is where the St. George Reef Lighthouse keepers lived when they were ashore […]

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  • Trinidad Head Beach

    Trinidad Head Beach, a.k.a. Pier Beach, is on Trinidad Bay below the huge rocky point called Trinidad Head in the town of Trinidad. It’s really two beaches in one with […]

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  • Trinidad State Beach

    Trinidad State Beach is on the waterfront in the small Humboldt County town of Trinidad. Two sandy beaches fill the gap between Trinidad Head and Elk Head in this park […]

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  • Anacapa Island – East Isle

    Anacapa Island in Ventura County is part of Channel Islands National Park. It has three small islands (East, West and Middle) but access is mainly to East Anacapa Island. There […]

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