Mile Rock Beach is a small and secluded beach located in San Francisco, California. It is situated within the Lands End portion of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
One of the unique features of Mile Rock Beach is the presence of Mile Rock, a large offshore rock formation that stands prominently in the ocean. The beach gets its name from this distinctive landmark. The rock itself is located about half a mile off the shore and serves as a nesting site for seabirds such as cormorants and gulls.
Getting to the Lands End Trailhead for Mile Rock Beach
To get to Mile Rock Beach, you’ll need to first get to either the Coastal Trail or Lands End Trail. Both are located in the Lands End portion of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Lands End Trail is a 3.4-mile loop trail, while the Coastal Trail is longer and follows the shore for most of the park. However, if your goal is to just reach Mile Rock beach instead of hiking the entire loop, you can park at one of the trailheads that are closest to this particular beach.
The two best places to park for Mile Rock Beach access are the 60-vehicle lot at the Holocaust Memorial and a smaller one at the end of El Camino Del Mar Road. Both lots give you about a 1-mile round trip out to Mile Rock Beach and back. Your best bet is to try to park at the Holocaust Memorial, and if that is full, continue down El Camino Del Mar to the smaller other lot. They are only a few minutes from each other.
Both parking lots are paved and free. This is a very popular part of the NRA, so get here early if you can. Expect heavy crowds on any weekend.
Note: If these two trailhead parking lots are full, don’t despair! Both the Coastal Trail and Land End Loop have plenty of other trailheads. Probably the most popular trailhead for them is the one located near the Sutro Baths on Point Lobos Avenue. I didn’t recommend this one because it creates a slightly longer hike to the beach. From here, it will be about a 2-mile round trip hike.
Hiking to Mile Rock Beach
Regardless of the Lands End trailhead you enter, follow the signs for either Lands End Lookout or Mile Rock Beach. They are right next to each other, so neither will take you the wrong direction.
The reason I have this trail listed with a moderate difficulty level is because of the stairs. The elevation change is not significant, but there are numerous stairs to contend with. There will be fewer stairs to climb if you park at the end of El Camino Del Mar Road trailhead.
Once you reach Lands End Lookout, you’ll first see the Lands End Labyrinth, a small man-made rock labyrinth with stunning views of the bridge off into the distance. If the weather is clear, you’ll see the mountains on the other side of the bay and bridge quite clearly. However, this is San Francisco, so there is a good chance you may come across some fog that will limit your views.
Out into the bay, you should see a few rocks jutting from the water. Pyramid Rock is on your right, and Black Head Rock is on your left. Mile Rock (and its smaller neighbor, Little Mile Rock) will be just beyond those, about a half-mile out.
You’ll also be able to see Mile Rock Beach below you to the left. There are a few rough trails down to the water. Be careful – the path is treacherous in a few places, and the rocks can get slippery if wet.
Mile Rock Beach is relatively small and covered with pebbles and rocky outcrops, so it is not ideal for sunbathing or swimming. The beach really feels secluded, and not at all that you’re right next to one of the largest cities in the US.
The beach is rocky, small, and littered with driftwood and other debris. At high tide the shore will be quite narrow, but when it’s out, you can explore much more of the boulder covered area.