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California’s Black Sands Beach with Kids

Oct 31, 2022

Did you know there was a black sand beach in Northern California? Not even an hour away from bustling San Francisco? Well, there is!

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.) 

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

(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.)

Getting there

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

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 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. 


I absolutely loved our day here! If you go, I’m sure you will too! 


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Mama & Traveler

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 baby boys in tow – and I want to help other parents do the same.

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