4813 Shoreline Highway, Stinson Beach, CA
20 miles north of Golden Gate Bridge
From Hwy. 101 take Hwy 1 exit
9 AM to various closing times based on season
Entrance fee: Free
Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
Stinson Beach is a popular destination for Marin County and San Francisco beach visitors. A 3½-mile swath of white sand curves around Bolinas Bay. Stinson Beach takes up the southern portion, while to the north is a county-owned Upton Beach and then Seadrift Beach.
Stinson Beach is within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Parking and use of the beach are free. During peak times crowds gather on the sand, and the roads to the beach can be backed up. Some days can be bright and sunny, others chilly and foggy.
Situated between Stinson Beach and Seadrift Beach, Upton Beach consists of 4 acres of coast popular for fishing, sun bathing, picnicking, and surfing. Hang Gliders launched from nearby Mt. Tamalpais often land on the beach. Unlike Stinson Beach, dogs are allowed on Upton Beach as long as they are on leash. The beach is operated by Marin County Parks. Parking is along Calle Del Arroyo or at Stinson Beach. The beach is open during daylight hours.
Stinson Beach in foreground, then Upton and Seadrift beaches.
The beach in front of the Seadrift community to the north of Stinson Beach has been a contested area. California law designates all beach areas below the average high tide mark public property, but with shifting sands that line can move so that it is difficult to know exactly where it is. As it stands now, visitors are permitted to pass through Seadrift Beach, but are not supposed to stop there.
The waters off Stinson Beach are part of the Red Triangle, an area extending from Bodega Bay to Big Sur and including the Farallon Islands. Shark attacks, especially from Great Whites, are more common within the triangle; but still, quite rare. A surfer at Stinson Beach was attacked by a Great White in 1998 and another surfer was attacked in 2002. Sightings of sharks in the area occur from time to time. On rare occasions when lifeguards determine there is a danger to beach-goers, lifeguards close the beach to swimming.
The recommended route to Stinson Beach for most visitors is via Highway 1 which departs from Highway 101 at Mill Valley. The steep, winding road is not recommended for vehicles longer than 35 feet. Along the way after 7 miles Highway 1 passes Muir Beach before continuing up the coast another 6 miles to Stinson Beach.
Marin Transit's West Marin Stagecoach South Route 61 connects Stinson Beach with the Manzanita Park & Ride Lot (intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 1) on weekdays, weekends, and holidays (except New Year's, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). The bus also stops in Marin City, at Tamalpais High School and points in between. On weekends and holidays the bus extends to Sausalito.
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety