Black Sand Beaches in California Guide: What To Expect

My only adventurous friend, Sonya called me one fine morning and told me to get ready because we’ll be going to California’s black sand beach.   

I have seen dog-friendly beaches and have roamed in the luminous streets but the black sand beaches in California are completely unknown to me. Only God knows from where Sonya comes up with such rare places!

black sand beaches in California

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Sonya’s idea of visiting nude beaches in California was amazing. But, I had never known of California’s black sand beach’s splendor until I visited it myself. I am sure you too will be mingled among its captivation and dark beauty. 

The world is so gorgeous out there that you can hardly believe there are black-sand beaches exists in California. I do not know what the secret lurking behind the dark beauty. As per the study, activities of tectonic oceanic plates did the magic. 

I can only tell you that its beauty is so infectious. Dark and beauty when combines, can sometimes blow your mind! (In a good way). Remember, reaching such places is not so easy. You’ve to take the road less explored by! 

So, here goes the journey and destination where you can find the most beautiful black sand beaches in California. The crazy windy mountain roads are amazing!

Black Sand Beach California – Shelter Cove

The Lost Coast of California in Humboldt County is the least traveled coast offering you an extremely dramatic scene with gorgeous dark sand, dark-colored sandstones, water, and peaks all around it. 

I came to explore the Lost Coast Trail in 2021 with my friend. Also, a Lost Coast road trip with friends is an epic memory to cherish as it takes you through the off-the-beaten path. You can explore North California in so a unique way! 

I was blown away by its beauty and secluded serenity. I was amazed to see the expansive view of the rugged diverse coastal landscape, giant redwoods, a marine preserve, the beach, grey fine pebbles, creeks, buffs, prairies, and forests.

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Black Sand Beach sits north of Shelter Cove, the last stop of the Lost Coast road trip. The sand is not like the typical sand you see on the beach. It is typically beige black. It is said it contains iron too. It spans over 25 miles, trust me you should put this spot on your bucket list!

If you come here you can see King’s Peak which sits at 4, 087 feet above sea level. This black sand beach in Shelter Cove does not attract swimmers, and snorkelers, but adventure seekers who love hiking and want to taste danger. 

The view of seeing the mountain thrusting straight out land and the sea meets the land is so spectacular. But, let me tell you, reaching here brought tears to my eyes. The drive was horrendous! I’ll tell you everything!

Also, if you’re in search of romantic getaways in California for couples, Black Sand Beach Shelter Cove, California can surely be an ideal and remote destination. Moving forward, I want you to know something about this place. The road to reach here is very bumpy, unpaved, and winding curves.

  • The waves are very dangerous. It comes in at high speeds and can pull you in with it. Be very careful from these powerful waves
  • Camping at Black Sand Beach, Shelter Cove is surely an experience to taste. Hence, take the camping permit and tidal passage news beforehand
  • At the entry point, there is a parking sign. If you can see that, you know you’re at the right spot. For disable people, parking lot is just at the access point
  • Get a camera or GoPro to capture the stunning contrast of black sand, green cliffs, and big blue ocean
  • This Black sand beach on the California coast starts from Loast Coast Trail ending at Mattole Beach to the north
  • Explore the rocks, hike, bring your food for lunch, and click photos of rich geology and robust nature. But, please do not go in the water to swim. I’m telling this, again and again, to make you cautious. Respect the beach laws, surf conditions, current and high tide. Be aware!

Location: Google Map

Shelter Cove, Black Sand Beaches in California
Black Sand Beach – Shelter Cove

My Experience: Black Sand Beach on California’s Lost Coast

We were driving Soniya’s old SUV. In total, we were 4 people. Soniya’s friend Kelvin was driving the car, and though he was a great driver, the bad condition of the roads tested our journey. 

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Potholes and crazy angles on both sides made it so difficult to drive. “Getting there” is not easy, my friend. The ride is full of adventure and out of your comfort zone. I started pleading Kelvin to get back.

Moreover, the drive and destination surely give me an unsettling memory that I’ll never forget in my lifetime. The incredible views made me speechless! The volcanic rocks and fresh ocean air surely took away the fear, I had while reaching this spot. 

Black Sand Beach in California
Black Sand Beach- Shelter Cove

Black Sand Beach in California – Sausalito

As you descend down the steps of the black sand beach in San Francisco in the Marin Headlands you can see soft smooth black sand. This black sand beach sits in Sausalito, a small beach town in California that only offer treats to your eyes.

To reach here, you’ve to drive past Hawk Hills on Conzelman Road. I came here recently in 2023 with my college friend Bellie. Trust me the view from Upper Fisherman’s lot – the Point Bonita and the Pacific Ocean is so pretty.

It will take you around 30 minutes to reach here from San Francisco. The best part about this black sand beach near San Francisco is it is dog–friendly and it’s hidden from prying eyes making it one of the offbeat destinations to relax.

I loved hiking the dirt trail to reach here. I hiked 0.3 miles of 250 wooden stairs, it was pretty steep and adventurous. Again, please wear proper hiking shoes to hike down the trail. The place is ideal for photographers.

Like a black sand beach in Shelter Cove, here you cannot swim. The waves are rough and icy cold. Also, you cannot deny North CA can be a little cold, hence, wear a cozy dress to protect yourself from the chilly weather.

You will love wandering along the black sandy shore coastline and hearing the soothing sound of crashing waves. The grains of sand look so dark that it seems you’re in a different world. Here are some things, I want you to know before coming here – 

  • You’ve to take plenty of stairs to reach down. Around the beach, there is much tall flora that makes the place more secluded
  • You’ve to pay $10 – a small fee to enter the San Francisco black sand beach
  • You can visit Point Bonita Lighthouse – it is open from Saturday to Monday from 12.30 – 3.30 pm
  • If you’re coming here with family then I recommend visiting Battery Wallace, a spot with tables and grills
  • If you’re searching for a nude beach in California, come to the western end of the beach
  • The tide is strong, so enjoy the vistas and do not get into the water
Black Sand Beach in California – Sausalito
Black Sand Beach in Sausalito

My Experience: Sausalito Black Sand Beach

I came here early morning. Do you know what I saw? There was no one on the beach, I enjoyed a private beach experience on a public beach. Every color looked magical, beautifully contrasting and complimenting each other.

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The bright blue water was complimenting the sky and contrasted with black sand and green forest trees. I hope to come here next time during sunrise or sunset. I’m sure it’ll have a different perspective. Truly it is a unique place to taste adventure.

I took some beautiful photos of iron-rich dark-colored sand with San Francisco Peninsula in the background. It looked beautiful! Another photogenic place here is Hawk Hill and Engagement Hill.

Note: There are a few popular hiking trails to reach the black sand beach along the California coast. People take Julian Trail, Gerbode Valley Trailhead, Golden gate gems, Rodeo Valley loop, and SCA trail loop to reach here.

Black Sand Beach in Sausalito
Black Sand Beach in Sausalito


Beach with black sand California greets you with the tranquility of blue waves, un-imaginable gorgeous vistas of rocks, forests, and miles of black sands. Also, this place is not like other beaches in California, you can hardly find a soul around.

You can sit here with your tiffin box enjoying the views and just soaking in the positive air. The beaches are quiet, nice, and pretty to have a quiet lunch with your partner. 

If I’ve to say anything, then please plan your next trip to any of these above black sand beaches in California. These places are worth exploring!

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FAQ: Black Sand Beach in California

1. Which beach in California has black sand?

A. Black Sand Beach in Shelter Cove and Black Sand Beach in Sausalito, are the best black sand beaches in California.

2. Can you swim on a black sand beach in California?

A. Black Sand Beach in Shelter Cove and Black Sand Beach in Sausalito in California is not ideally suited to swimming as the tide is very high and dangerous. It always recommends staying away from the water.

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