Explore: Land’s End Trail and Mile Rock Beach

Read next

You’ve likely been to the Land’s End trail along the San Francisco coastline, especially now that the entrance has been renovated, and the stunning views visible from the main path may have kept you from venturing off to explore further. Or maybe you were deterred by the 112 steps you’d have to walk down (and back up again!). If you’ve got good little hikers, the reward is a gorgeous wild and rocky shore that can feel blissfully under the radar.

When to go: Avoid on blustery days, and keep the kids close, as the water can be rough.

How to get there: Mile Rock Beach is less than a mile from the Land’s End entrance alongside Ocean Beach and the Cliff House, though you can also walk to it easily from the Legion of Honor.

What to do: This beach is worth the detour—the crowds here are never thick, and climbing up tall towers of coastal rock will make you feel one with the ocean as you look out on its vast expanse. The waves spray up thick with foam, and the stony surface along the sand changes with every visit.

Where to have lunch: Grab a seat with locals and tourists alike at one of the nearby eateries before heading home: There’s the Beach Chalet at the edge of Golden Gate Park, with live music, handcrafted beer, and a kids’ menu, as well as Louis’ right above the Sutro Baths—a family-owned, traditional diner with killer views and yummy comfort food, if you’ve got the patience for the long lines. (Louis’ is closed for restoration. Should be up and running sometime this summer (2011)).

How to dress: Bring along sweaters and layers. The Bay’s beaches are rarely toasty-warm.

Cost of trip: Free parking!

Bonus: While hiking up all those stairs may seem like a pain, at least it’ll keep you and your tots toasty in the blustery coastal wind!

Online: http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/lands-end.html

—Renee M. Rutledge