At Baker Beach, you might see a naked old man, people talking engagement photos, freezing teens in bikinis and people training with CrossFit. Or fisherman on the beach, a photographer desperately trying to keep those naked bodies out of their photo, and a tourist who can't believe they just saw that naked old man.
And all of that may be reason enough for you want to go. But that's not all, as they say on those late-night infomercials.
Baker Beach also has one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge in all of San Francisco.
What is There to Do at Baker Beach?
Most people go to Baker Beach just to take a walk and enjoy the views, but you'll also find people fishing in the ocean. In fact, you need to pay a little extra attention to avoid getting tangled up in their lines.
People also go sunbathing at the beach, and the end nearest the bridge is a very busy clothing-optional area. However, because of rip tides and rough surf that have claimed many lives here, swimming at Baker Beach is not advised at any time.
Just above the beach is Battery Chamberlin, which holds the last 6-inch "disappearing gun" of its type on the West Coast. It was one of four guns mounted on disappearing carriages that hid them from the enemy. They had a range of nine miles and could fire at the rate of two rounds per minute. On the first full weekend of each month, it comes out of hiding.
Baker Beach draws lots of photographers and photography workshop groups often turn up around sunset.
The beach can also be very romantic, especially if you walk there at dawn or dusk. But only if your honey doesn't mind getting a little chilly.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Baker Beach
Baker Beach is a west-facing beach, primarily a day-use area that closes well before sunset in summer.
Baker Beach has no entrance fees and no parking fees. On busy days, the parking lot can fill to capacity and traffic going to the Golden Gate Bridge can make it hard to get there.
You'll find restrooms in the parking lot and picnic tables nearby. Alcohol and glass containers are not allowed on the beach.
Pets are allowed, on a leash only.
Baker Beach is a popular nude beach. People who are nude stay on the end of the beach closer to the bridge, but it's hard to visit without seeing a few naked bodies. If public nudity bothers you, this may not be the place for you.
In the summer, it can be foggy at Baker Beach all day. It's a condition so predictable that locals have a name for it "June gloom." But don't let that fool you. It can start in May and extend into July.
Water bacteria levels can sometimes be high at Baker Beach, especially after it rains. When it is, "no swimming" signs are posted. You can also check water quality any time at this website.
You can read online reviews of Baker Beach at Yelp, but here's a sampling: “Gentle caressing waves, Sun and sand, seagulls and distant fog horns, playing dogs and naked people.” "One of the prettiest spots in California." "...it's a sin if you are visiting SF and not going to Baker Beach."
More San Francisco Beaches
Baker Beach isn't the only beach in San Francisco. You can also go to Ocean Beach near the Cliff House and Golden Gate Park, with a long, flat area for walking and evening bonfires. Or try smaller, more intimate China Beach with a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Although it's technically in Marin County, Rodeo Beach is just north of the bridge and has intriguing pebbles instead of sand.
San Francisco also has a few clothing optional beaches if you enjoy that lifestyle or would like to try it.In fact, Baker Beach is one of them. You can find their profiles and directions for getting to them in the San Francisco Nude Beach Guide.
How to Get to Baker Beach
Some of the best-regarded online mapping tools get the address for Baker Beach wrong. They often list it as 1504 Pershing Drive, which is several blocks away.
Search for Baker Beach or Battery Chamberlain and you'll probably get to the right place.
Baker Beach is located just below the Presidio, on the ocean side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Take Lincoln Avenue to Bowley, where you will find a parking lot. On less-busy days, turn onto Gibson for closer parking.
SF Muni Transit bus #29 goes to Baker Beach. The bus stop is just up the hill from the beach.