Bay Area Hike-in Beaches


Here's Your Beach

Football season is just kicking off and you know what that means: hut, hut hike-in beaches! Sand lounging hits its prime this time of year; here are three beckoning beauties reached with a little legwork.

Wavecrest Beach Half Moon Bay

Catch the Wavecrest

When you hear hike-in beach, it’s easy to think of a tiny pocket cove hidden from plain view. Half Moon Bay’s Wavecrest may be hidden, but it’s hardly a pocket! Saved by the Peninsula Open Space Trust from a housing development sprawl and set just north of the Ritz-Carlton, this beautiful beach unravels miles of honey-colored sand backed by 50-foot cliffs. Even on a busy day, there’s so much room that it won’t feel crowded. Get there via a 20-minute bluff walk where Northern Harriers and Red-tailed hawks like to soar above. Spur trails skirt in several directions along this wide, open space, leading to multiple vantages for taking in sweeping views of a dramatic yet sublime coastline. While temperamental waves and strong undertow at Wavecrest can make swimming a little dicey, this place begs for Frisbee, football tossing, or just laying down a big blanket and enjoying one of the largest hike-in beaches in the Bay Area. 

Heading south on Hwy. 1 in Half Moon Bay, take a right on Wavecrest Rd. in front of Cameron's Restaurant & Inn. Drive to the end of Wavecrest Rd. and park next to the ballpark. Work your way down to the beach on a mixed-surface path. Veer to the left and don't descend the cliffs if it looks too steep. There are easy routes to the beach, just keep looking (or ask a local)! Dog-friendly! 

Kehoe Beach Point Reyes

Kick Back at Kehoe

Got a dog but not sure where to take your pal in Point Reyes? Try a beach that’s a gem for proud pooch owners and casual beach-goers alike. Because it’s a National Seashore, much of Point Reyes is restricted to dogs. But dog or no dog, Kehoe Beach is one of the nicest in the entire park. As Pierce Point Road ambles north, most people pull off at Heart's Desire Beach or Abbotts Lagoon. But just a few miles onward is the trailhead for Kehoe. An easy 0.6-mile walk leads to this ample beach with tall grass growing on rolling dunes, driftwood lending an East Coast aesthetic, room to roam (or fetch sticks!), and not a man-made structure in sight. Kehoe also is home to the endangered snowy plover, so be mindful of signs where dogs aren’t allowed. One more thing: On a good day Kehoe is a brilliant place to watch the sun set.

From Point Reyes Station, head west on Sir Francis Drake Blvd. and go 6.5 miles. Veer right onto Pierce Point Rd. and continue 5.5 miles until you see the sign for Keheo Beach. Dog-friendly!

Pomo Canyon to Shell Beach

Pomo Primer

Sometimes the hike to the beach simply outshines the beach itself; and that’s saying a lot when the beach is Sonoma Coast State Park’s ethereal Shell Beach. Not to take away from this lovely little sand-haven, but the 3-mile (one-way) hike to reach it showcases the best of the region: Redwoods, rivers, coastline, and beaches. Which is why we recommend putting in the legwork instead of driving to it (as one of a dozen or so beaches dotting Highway 1, Shell is easily accessed by car). Start at the old-growth redwoods in Pomo Canyon. Here you’ll weave by deeply forested campsites (gorgeous and unfortunate victims of budget cuts to state parks), where patches of sunlight sneak through the tall canopy and fall like fairy dust to the ground. Soak it in. Next up, a steady ascent that tops out at a terrific northern vista of the Russian River emptying into the Pacific. Don’t miss the view (and a chance to grab a snack break) from the lone picnic table just 100 feet off the trail on a small hill. Drop down the coast-hugging hills, cross Highway 1, and reach the Shell Beach parking lot. Head down the set of wooden stairs to the tiny cove that can get smothered by rough waves (high tide is not an ideal time to lounge). Doff your boots and cool your toes. If you happen to arrive at low tide, this is a great tide pooling area: Hermit crabs, sea stars, and giant green anemone cling to the rocks. Return the way you came. Pomo perfecto!

From Hwy 1 just south of the bridge over the Russian River, turn east onto Willow Creek Rd. Drive 2.5 miles until you reach a locked gate. Park and walk 0.5 mile on the dirt road into the Pomo Canyon campround. Find the Pomo Canyon Trail (aka Dr. David C Joseph Memorial Trail) immidiately on the rigth as you enter the campground. Follow it for 3 miles until you reach Shell Beach and return the way you came.


Who's Your Favorite Travel Companion?

Swimming among dolphins and hiking to a green sand cove in Hawaii. Taking a stroll through Seattle's Pike Place Market, tasting everything from cherries to cheesecake. Lounging on Coronado Beach in San Diego, rated #1 in America. Alaska Airlines everyday low fares—including the lowest to Hawaii from the West Coast—makes great escapes affordable! And what's better than getting the lowest fares to Hawaii? Having your companion get a second ticket from only $110 USD anywhere they fly, every year! ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees from $11 depending on itinerary) Get an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card and you'll automatically receive an annual Companion Fare: A second ticket for just $110 USD! That's in addition to earning 25,000 air miles—enough for a Coach Super Saver (a.k.a. complimentary round-trip ticket!) to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies in the continental U.S., Alaska, or Canada. The San Diego beach is waiting! With flights departing from airports across the Bay Area, including the lowest fares to all four Hawaiian islands** (non-stop from Oakland to San Jose), Alaska Airlines award-winning (and free!) Mileage Plan is the cherry on top of everyday low fares. And there's no cost to join! So who's your favorite travel companion?

BONUS BONANZA: Get an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card and benefit from the annual Companion Fare. That's a second ticket for just $110 ($99 USD base fare, plus taxes and fees from $11 depending on itinerary). In addition, you'll automatically earn 25,000 air miles—enough for a Coach Super Saver (a.k.a. free round-trip ticket!) to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies in the continental U.S., Alaska, or Canada. And there's more! On top of all this, new Mileage Plan members can receive $50 off their next Alaska Airlines flight*.

Non-stop from San Francisco:
Palm Springs, Portland, Seattle, Puerto Vallarta, San Jose del Cabo.

Non-stop from Oakland: 
All four Hawaiian islands, Seattle, Portland.

Non-stop from San Jose: 
All four Hawaiian islands, Seattle, Portland, Boise, LAX, Palm Springs, San Jose del Cabo, Guadalajara.

New Service: 
Monterey, Fresno and Sonoma County/Santa Rosa to San Diego. Plus San Jose to Reno.
**Based on average fares, excluding non-revenue tickets, from the West Coast (CA, WA, OR) to Hawaii, according to U.S. DOT data for year ending March 31, 2012. *Terms apply. See site for details.

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