Rodeo Beach

  • 01 of 04

    What You Need to Know About Rodeo Beach

    Rodeo Beach
    ••• Rodeo Beach. ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    This thousand-yard-long crescent-shaped beach faces west, at the edge of the Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and just a short drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

    The north end of this beautiful beach isn't sandy. Instead, it's covered with tiny, shiny, multicolored pebbles. They come from Rodeo Creek, which carries gravel to the shore. You may find green and blue stones among round pebbles of translucent carnelian, a red-orange gemstone. 

    There are no entrance fees and no parking fees. There are restrooms and showers.

    On busy days, this smallish beach can get crowded. Also in summer, especially in June and early July,  Rodeo Beach can be foggy all day.

    What is There to Do at Rodeo Beach?

    You can fly a kite or walk along the beach at Rodeo Beach. Some people enjoy beachcombing, looking for the rare orange-colored pebbles. Swimming is not advised because of strong currents and "sleeper" waves that appear seemingly from nowhere.

    You can also watch...MORE birds, skimboard or surf, take a walk or take a photograph.

    Hiking Around Rodeo Beach

    You can also take a hike from the beach into the surrounding hills. A lot of people like the 4.5-mile loop that uses parts of the Coastal Trail, the Wolf Ridge Trail and the Miwok Trail. It's easiest to start at the Coastal Trail entrance, which is at the north end of the parking lot. If you aren't up to 4.5 miles, you can always walk out and back. You may want to stop at the  Marin Headlands Visitor Center in the historic Fort Barry Chapel for trail maps and advice. It's just east of the Rodeo Lagoon at the intersection of Field and Bunker Roads.

    What You Need to Know Before You Go to Rodeo Beach

    You won't find any places to eat at the beach. Get something before you go or take a picnic. You will find picnic tables near the parking area.

    Restrooms are at the main (northernmost) beach parking lot, and they also have outdoor showers.

    Dogs are allowed at Rodeo Beach.

    Rodeo Beach is on national park land, and there are no federal laws against public nudity. That's why part of Rodeo Beach is a nude beach. If that bothers you - or if you want to check it out - find out where it is in the  Rodeo Beach Nude Beach Guide.

    Because of contamination, the fresh water lagoon is not used for swimming. Water quality on the beach is generally good, but if you have concerns, you can check the most recent report card at HealtheBay.org.

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  • 02 of 04

    Rodeo Lagoon: Bird Watching Paradise

    Rodeo Lagoon
    ••• Rodeo Lagoon. ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    The fresh-water lagoon nearby attracts birds (and bird watchers). Among species you might see are pelicans, hawks, gulls, herons, ducks, terns, ​willets, loons, grebes, scoters, sanderlings, and sandpipers. The cliff-top trail is said to one of the best places to watch pelicans on the West Coast; with as many as 1,200 of the big-beaked birds sometimes showing up at the same time.

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  • 03 of 04

    Skimboarding and Surfing

    Skimboarder at Rodeo Beach
    ••• Skimboarder at Rodeo Beach. ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    Skimboarding is a popular activity at Rodeo Beach. This guy makes it look easy, but it requires a lot of coordination to get the board down onto just the right amount of water and then keep riding without driving it straight into the sand.

    Other visitors enjoy surfing (which is best in the summer). If you're interested in surfing, you can check the surf forecast at Surfline.

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  • 04 of 04

    Sunset at Rodeo Beach

    Sunset at Rodeo Beach near San Francisco
    ••• Sunset at Rodeo Beach. Christian Arballo/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

    Photographers also enjoy Rodeo Beach and especially photographing these two big rocks offshore. The rock with an arch in it is called Bird Rock.

    More Nearby Beaches

    Rodeo Beach is so close to San Francisco that your nearest alternatives are there and not in Marin County. If you want to try one of them, you'll find all the details in the guides to  Baker Beach,  China Beach, and Ocean Beach.

    How to Get to Rodeo Beach

    Rodeo Beach is north of the Golden Gate Bridge, in the Marin Headlands, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Go north across the bridge and exit at Alexander. Turn left and drive up over the hill, following the signs to Rodeo Beach.

    The San Francisco Muni bus system goes to Rodeo Beach on Sundays only.