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The Most Beautiful Sunrise Views in California

The Most Beautiful Sunrise Views in California

Gaze into California's amazing sunsets with our exploration of the top sunrise spots in California.


4 min read

January 10, 2024

There’s something magical about watching the darkness dramatically illuminate the sky over California’s landscapes. Whether it’s the whisperingly pale blushes and blues coloring the night skies, the dancing shadows highlighting the natural beauty of our planet, or the birds waking us up with beautiful melodies at dawn, watching the sunrise in California has an unexplainable effect on people.

Meditate, have a moment of self-reflection, take photos, or maybe just share a few minutes in peace with your loved ones by your side at the best place to see the sunrise in the Golden State. Whatever you decide to do, be prepared to sink into a state of pure bliss like you’ve never felt before.

Where to See the Sunrise in Northern California

The Best Sunrise in San Francisco

Corona Heights Park

This sunrise spot is in the Castro and Corona Heights neighborhoods of San Francisco, looking east over the Bay and the hills beyond. The climb to the peak of Corona Heights is minimal compared to the reward of watching sunbeams spill over the buildings of the city below. Want to plan a unique date? Here you go. 

Pier 14

It may not be a lookout point over the hill, but Pier 14 at The Embarcadero is a beautiful spot to see the sunrise. Grab a coffee and take in the salty sea air as you watch the piers, ships, and the Bay Bridge come alive while the sun rises over the horizon at the easternmost edge of the city.

Breathtaking Sunrise in Sacramento

Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail

The 32-mile Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail is a breathtaking sunrise hike near Sacramento. But, you definitely don’t need to trek it in its entirety to catch pretty views of the sunrise in California. There are multiple access points to this trail throughout different sections, and the trail is almost completely paved.

Gorgeous Sunrise in San Jose

Santa Teresa County Park

The skies over Santa Teresa County Park are beautiful any time of day, but they’re especially mesmerizing right after dawn. Located at the southern end of the Santa Teresa Hills, the park offers spectacular views from its trails above the Almaden and Santa Clara Valleys. You might even be inspired to hike one of the trails after watching the magical San Jose sunrise.

Castle Rock State Park

Located about 20 minutes away from San Jose, Castle Rock State Park is also an awesome spot to see the sunrise in California. The 5,242-acre natural wonder with views of canyons and rock formations make exploring the park an enchanting experience any time of day—but picture how it’s all better during sunrise. 

The Best Places to See the Sunrise on the Central Coast

The Best Santa Barbara Sunrise Spots

Butterfly Beach

There are so many unique beaches in California to see the sunrise, view the sunset, or both, and Butterfly Beach is one of them. Take the Cabrillo Beach Bike Path leading to Butterfly Beach and you’ll have scenic vantage points over the water throughout. Do Santa Barbara sunrise spots get better than this?

Little Pine Mountain

If you prefer backcountry over beach views, head over to Little Pine Mountain. A little over an hour away from downtown, this sunset spot provides a perfect overnight weekend adventure. Even if you don’t have a weekend to spare, consider spending a few hours mountain biking here after sunrise for a morning workout.

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Sunrise Viewing in Big Sur

We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness. Every day, a million miracles begin at sunrise.

McWay Falls

Do you want to have the beauty of McWay Falls all to yourself? Then visiting at sunrise is the way to go. Not only do you get to hike the trail leading to the waterfall without too many crowds, but you also get to see the sunrise paint the area in the prettiest colors.

Morry Bay

While every part of Morro Bay is beautiful, Morro Rock is definitely the main draw for tourists and photographers. Visit during the early hours and see the natural landmark light up in a way you’ve never seen before—all thanks to the magical sunrises in California.

Sunrise Spots in Southern California

Where to See the Sunrise in San Diego

La Jolla

Ask anyone and they’ll say watching the sunset in Southern California is best experienced right by the crashing waves. However, the La Jolla sunrise is better enjoyed from the higher points in town. Head to the Mount Soledad Memorial for 360-degree views of San Diego and beyond. As the fog opens up and golden hues cover the waters, you get to experience views of the bay, harbor, and downtown.

The Best Sunrise in Los Angeles

Griffith Park Observatory

Griffith Observatory shines at night with first-class seats to the twinkling stars, but it’s just as incredible at the crack of dawn. Find gigantic sycamores and brooks to enjoy panoramic views of Hollywood and beyond as the sun rises in Los Angeles and over the surrounding valleys.

Mulholland Drive

Not only is this iconic L.A. street one of our favorite scenic drives in town, but it’s also one of the best places to see the sunrise. Observe the glorious phenomenon as the sun rays slip through the cracks between the trees and houses to light up the Cahuenga and surrounding valleys.

Beautiful Sunrise in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier

Visiting the Santa Monica Pier can easily be a full-day affair. Start your trip before sunrise to watch the place come to life with the most magical colors right as you arrive. But make sure to stick around and bid the sun adieu as well, ideally as you reach towards the top of the Ferris wheel.

Where to See the Sunrise In Huntington Beach

Huntington City Beach

For a quintessential California beach sunrise viewing, head over to Huntington City Beach. Whether you choose to stroll down the pier or lay back on the sand, you’ll get to watch the sun peeking through the palm trees with the waves crashing in the background. And, if you’re a fan of surfing, it goes without saying that you should stick around and catch swells after seeing the sunrise in Huntington Beach.

The Best Palm Springs Sunrise Spots

San Jacinto Pass Wind Farm

Lastly, another unique locale to watch the sunrise in California is in none other than Palm Springs. Cruise down Indian Canyon Drive to get the best views of the wind farm with Mount San Jacinto set in the back. If you feel like this one-of-a-kind locale looks familiar, you’ve probably seen the helicopter chase scene from Mission Impossible III.

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