Skip, dance, frolic. You may be inspired to do all three on your first visit to Black Sand Beach in Marin. This half-mile stretch of chocolate-colored coastline just northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge is roughly the size of Baker Beach—with only a fraction of the crowds. Walk ten minutes down the 253 wooden steps from the dirt parking lot, then spread a blanket behind one of the several rock outcroppings (a great windbreak on gusty days). Dip your toes in the refreshing 58-degree water when the afternoon heats up. Heads-up: Some folks here like to frolic bare-style, making the place a setting for many natural wonders.
Take Alexander Ave, the first exit north of the Golden Bridge. Make an immediate left and go under the freeway heading west. Follow Conzelman Rd. all the way up. Continue down past Hawk Hill; this is a steep and twisty road—buckle up! When the road levels, look for a dirt parking lot (with an "Upper Fisherman's" sign) and restroom on the left. (See map.) Signs say no dogs, but we've seen many.