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IMG_6082 (Large)The final hike descent at Cowell Ranch Beach

Many people look for beaches with parking lots near the sand. There are many reasons for this including accessibility challenges, families with little ones, carrying heavy beach chairs or coolers, and sometimes just the lack of time needed for a long walk to the beach. But when we have the time and the desire to get out and hike, it’s a fabulous reward if the path ends at a sandy beach.

We have scoured the Northern California coast for beaches with a hike of nearly a mile or more. Most of these short hikes are in that sweet spot of 1 to 2 miles, but a few are even shorter. A couple hikes on The Lost Coast are extreme hikes of five miles or more with huge elevation gains making them brutal day hikes. Who’s up for the challenge?

Shorttail Gulch BeachThe hiking trail to Shorttail Beach

Below is a list of the Northern California beach hikes from south to north. We have organized them by the county where they are located.

The miles given in parentheses are one way, so double them for the total hike distance.

San Mateo County

San Francisco

Marin County

Sonoma County

Mendocino County

Humboldt County

Del Norte County