Something about a West Coast sunset hits differently. Maybe it’s the knowledge that we’re some of the last people to see the sun go down in the U.S., or maybe it’s just the golden glimmer over the Pacific. Either way, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more magical experience than a San Francisco sunset. No matter which side of the city (or the Bay) you decide to enjoy the day’s end, you’ll be greeted with sweeping views that will put all the sunsets before to shame. From golden-hour views of the Golden Gate to one of the highest points in the city, check out one (or all) of these nine breathtaking places to watch the sunset in San Francisco.
Often touted as the best views in San Francisco, Twin Peaks far exceeds the hype. With peaks almost 1,000 feet above San Francisco, Twin Peaks offers 360-degree views in all directions. On a clear day, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, all of San Francisco, and the Bay Bridge from one vantage point. Head up to Twin Peaks for sunset and witness the sun go down over the city and the ocean all at once. It can get pretty windy up there, so don’t forget a jacket and layers.
Twin Peaks is accessible by car, or you can earn your sunset by taking the public stairway up from the Castro (just bring water and be prepared to sweat–it is, after all, entirely uphill).
There’s nothing quite like watching the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean. Lands End Lookout and Sutro Baths are San Francisco must sees: offering up the type of sunset you see in California tourism ads, the kind that convinced me to move here in the first place. Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Lands End is a popular coastal hiking destination and home to the historic Sutro Baths. From the parking lot, head straight down to the ocean fed baths to explore what was once a public swimming area. The setting sun reflects spectacularly over the baths and there are plenty of places to sit and settle in until dark.
For a higher vantage point, follow the Lands End Coastal Trail above the baths. Find a bench or a cliff-side perch to watch the sun plummet into the ocean, take note of the many couples glammed up for photoshoots at this popular location, and marvel at yet another perfect sunset in San Francisco.
You may recognize Bernal Heights from all those Instagram photos of people on a tree swing overlooking the city. Unfortunately, that swing has recently been taken down, but the view remains as spectacular as ever, making this spot one of the most photogenic spots in San Francisco. A short hike (note: entirely uphill) from the Mission District brings you to a grassy peak at the top of this park where you’ll feel on top of the world. Lay out a blanket to take in the 360-degree views, made only more amazing when accompanied by cotton candy clouds at sunset. Bonus: this is a popular dog walking area, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to play with some pups while the sun goes down.
The winding roads leading to Grizzly Peak, located at the top of Tilden Regional Park, are both intimidating and full of promise. More and more of the Bay stretches out in your rear-view mirror as you make your way up, up, and up, until you can’t go up anymore. There are plenty of pull-off spots on the road to Grizzly Peak, perfect for private sunset viewing. If you want the full experience, continue on until you reach what is often referred to as “The Wall”: a stretch of graffiti-filled cement where people from all walks of life gather to sit and watch day turn to night. On a clear day, the panoramic views at Grizzly Peak feature every single Bay Area landmark all in one, from the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz to the rolling hills of Marin County and the city lights of San Francisco.
If you prefer your San Francisco sunsets with up-close views of the Golden Gate Bridge, then this is the spot for you. Located on the western shoreline of the Presidio, the mile-long Baker Beach offers several vantage points to enjoy the sunset. Set up a picnic on the sand, sit atop the old military battery, or climb the boulders until you get the view you’re after. Enjoy the sun dipping behind the skyline, framed by the Golden Gate and Marin Headlands. Keep in mind that the north end of Baker Beach is clothing optional.
Coit Tower is a well-known tourist destination during the day, but in the evening when the visitors leave, it turns into one of the best places for a San Francisco sunset. At 210 feet in the air with a 360° view, this famous art deco-style tower on Telegraph Hill is a perfect place to be at sunset. Since its completion in 1933, the tower sitting on top of Telegraph Hill has been an essential piece of the San Francisco skyline. Coit Tower’s observation deck boasts 360-degree views of the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the city itself. Choose your favorite landmark and watch the sun descend behind it. Be sure to check the San Francisco Recreation website for up-to-date hours and fees.
Catching the sunset at San Francisco’s Mount Tamalpais’ East Peak requires a 1.5-hour drive and a 1.3 mile round-trip hike, but the view is more than worth the effort (plus the drive along Panoramic Highway alone makes the trip worthwhile). From the parking lot, you’ll climb up for about .6 miles to the 2,570-foot peak: the highest point on Mount Tam. You’ll land literally above the clouds, making for an unparalleled sunset experience. The magic of a sunset from this spot will have you lost for words–you just have to see it for yourself.
Nothing says “San Francisco” like an Ocean Beach bonfire. Located just south of Lands End, Ocean Beach runs along the west side of the city for miles. Watch dogs run along the sand at dusk while the sun sets behind the endless expanse of ocean. The best part? Ocean Beach has free, designated bonfire pits for you to cozy up next to as the temperature drops with the sun.
Crissy Field is another great spot for larger-than-life views of the Golden Gate Bridge, this time from a different angle. Once a U.S. army airfield, this stretch of land is located on marshland overlooking the Bay and has plenty of trails for strolling or grass for picnicking. Unlike most of San Francisco, Crissy Field is entirely flat, allowing for unobstructed views of the sunset.