California’s Black Sands Beach with Kids

Did you know there was a black sand beach in Northern California? Not even an hour away from bustling San Francisco? I recently took a day trip there with my little guy and I’m excited to tell you all about it!

It’s a hidden gem located in the Marin Headlands… about 20 minutes away from the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s secluded and stunning—and shockingly (in this day of social media) empty most of the time!

Finding out about this beach was actually a happy accident for me. I was on Google Maps looking at directions around San Francisco and “Black Sands Beach” popped up on the map.

I saw it and thought to myself, there’s no way… so I did a Google image search and there it was! I put it on my list to visit because I had to see it to really believe it.

I kept checking the weather for a warm day and when I saw 70 and sunny, I made the plans to visit! (So, here’s your reminder to check that the weather will be pleasant the day you want to visit.)

NOTE: There is a .02 mile hike down to this beach with stairs. It won’t be possible to use a stroller or wagon. I include images of the path below.

If you want to check out the Black Sands Beach, read on!

Key Takeaways

  •  Black Sands Beach is just 45 minutes away from San Francisco. It offers a tranquil beach experience, but unfortunately, swimming isn’t recommended. 
  • Getting to the beach requires some time and effort. After finding parking, there’s a .02 mile walk down a windy dirt road to get to the beach. 
  • Nearby attractions include the Golden Gate Observatory and Downtown Sausalito. 

Table of Contents

Getting to Black Sands Beach

My first tip for getting there is to put Black Sands Beach Parking—NOT the actual beach— in your Google Maps. It’ll take you exactly where you need to go, which is the path down to the beach.

You’ll take Conzelman Road until it turns into a one-way road. It’s a windy drive down the hill and along the coast— and the views are amazing. Hills on one side and the ocean on the other.

The parking lot/beach entrance is not obvious so once you see you’re close slow down so you don’t miss it. (You can also look out for signs for Upper Fisherman’s trail, that’s what the trail down to the beach is called.)

NOTE: This is a one-way road so if you miss the parking lot, there is no way to back up. You’ll have to go alllll the way around. I know this because it happened to me. It’s like a 20-minute mistake.

The parking lot is tiny and only has 12 parking spots. There is also street parking on the Conzelman Road shoulder, but it’s a narrow road.

There is a bathroom right next to the parking lot. Other than that, there are no other amenities for this beach.

The Walk Down to the Beach

You’ll notice a dirt path going down towards the water. That’s where your hike begins!

It’s a dirt path the whole way down with steps in some spots. Overall, it’s a pretty easy walk down. (My 30-pound son suddenly didn’t like walking, so I had to carry him almost the whole way down, along with the backpack and beach blanket.

Throwing that out there to further explain that the walk isn’t that difficult.)

You have beautiful views of the water the whole way down. (Almost like the water is teasing you the whole way down.)

The Black Sands Beach

First thing I noticed was that the beach was beautiful! It isn’t actually black sands though—it’s a deep gray/brown color, and actually teeny tiny pebbles, but when it’s wet it looks like black sand. Nonetheless, it was super dark and beautiful against the other colors.

The beach is open and wide. It was also pretty empty. You can walk out a while either way. However, note that it IS a nudist beach so if you go out too far you might see some nakey beach goers. Right around the stair area is where the few people that were there were populated.

The tide can get pretty high, so it’s better to sit close to the rock wall just in case.
All in all, this was a perfect spot to just chill. Little man played with his sand toys, we got our feet wet in the water, and took some cool pictures. It was such a peaceful afternoon.

Nearby Attractions

While you’re in the area, there are a couple of awesome spots to hit up. I recommend making a whole day out of it!

Golden Gate Observation Deck. On your way TO the beach, you’ll actually pass this GG lookout spot. I recommend stopping and snapping some pictures with the bridge behind you. This road is busy (especially with bikers!) but you can usually find parking. You’ll get a shot of the bridge and the San Francisco skyline!

Downtown Sausalito. On your way out, stop in downtown Sausalito for lunch. It’s a charming, adorable downtown right on the water. Plenty of restaurant options, dessert shops, and stores to shop in. It’s also a great area to just walk around and soak the sun and views in. 


FAQs: Black Sands Beach

Are there any black sand beaches in California?

Yes! Black Sands Beach is in the Marin Headlands. It features a dark, graphite colored sand that looks black. It’s a hidden gem about 45 minutes away from San Francisco. 

Can you swim in Black Sand Beach California?

Black Sands Beach isn’t much of a swimming destination. With it’s cold waters and high waves, it would not be pleasant (or safe!)

Stick to setting up a spot to enjoy the sand and quiet, calm vibes of this unique beach. 

Wrapping up: Black Sands Beach with Kids

We absolutely loved our day at the Black Sands Beach. It was calm, quiet, and beautiful. 

Even though it was quite a trek to get there, it was worth it to enjoy a nice quiet afternoon with my little guy! Especially being able to be at such an unique place – this is the only dark sand beach in the state! 

If you plan on going, follow my instructions and you will be good to go! 

besa at beaches and babies

Your Go-To Girl for Beach Travel

Hi! I’m Besa. I’ve always been a travel-loving beach bum… and then I had kids. Two boys, born 19 months apart. But I didn’t let that stop me. I still travel, even with a couple little boys in tow – and I want to help other parents like you do the same!

I’ll be sharing all my travel tips, beach hacks, and guides for some of my favorite family vacation beach spots.


Why Trust Beaches and Babies?

Why Trust Beaches and Babies?

Besa has been a frequent traveler for almost 20 years, and the last five years of her travels have included her two toddler boys, 19 months apart.
Years of flying and beach bumming with her kids has given her plenty of hard-earned experience in the travel world.

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RENTAL CARS scans multiple agencies at your destination to give you the best price.

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Read over my full list of the best sites to book with on my Resources page.