When you think of black sand beaches, your mind immediately wanders to exotic, faraway lands. Perhaps the tropical Punaluʻu Beach of Hawaii or the icy Reynisfjara Beach in Iceland might be the first places you think of. But if you turn your attention a little further north, you’ll find these rare, coal-colored beaches exist right here on state shores. We all know the West Coast has plenty of natural wonders to explore and these two black sand stretches are a testament to its boundless beauty. Discover this duo of mesmerizing black sand beaches without leaving California.
Black Sands Beach (Shelter Cove)
Venture into the wild Lost Coast (a fitting name since there are hardly any roads leading to it) and you’ll discover the incredible spectacle that is Shelter Cove. It’s a California gem that offers a rugged 20-mile shoreline with powerful waves crashing against the steep, jagged cliffs. It’s not exactly the ideal swimming spot, as the water can get deep and rough pretty quickly. While this rare sight is usually caused by eroded volcanic rock, rich in minerals and lacking silica, in these parts, it’s created by the dark shale and sandstone (greywacke) formed by tectonic activity of one continental and two oceanic plates meeting just offshore. Taking the Lost Coast Trail is one of the best ways to see it, with free permits are available on arrival.Shelter Cove, Beach Rd, Whitethorn, CA 95589
Black Sands Beach (Sausalito)
Nestled deep within the Golden Gate Recreation Area woods in San Francisco, these dark shores are beautifully juxtaposed with the bright blue waters and lush greenery. This option is great if you want to cut some miles off and you’ll still have 4 magnificent miles of silky, black sands to picnic on and take endless photos of. Again, this isn’t a place for swimming with its icy waters and rough waves, but it’s perfect for a day of walking and exploring. To get to it, you’ll need to enter through the north side of Golden Gate Bridge and pay $10 to get in—a small fee for the insane views. It’s also worth noting that clothing is optional at this beach. Find out more info here.Black Sands Beach, Conzelman Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965
NOTE: These shores can be dangerous and you’re advised to check local weather conditions and tides before swimming or hiking in these areas.
Featured Image: Cody Aaron Adams via Shutterstock