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Where to Watch the Sunset in Northern California
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Where to Watch the Sunset in Northern California

Wondering where to watch the sunset in Northern California? These are the best spots for witnessing those stunning cotton-candy hues.

California.com

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5 min read

November 22, 2020

Ah, the bliss of watching sunsets: Lose yourself in the magnificence of the heavens as you observe the sky's colors slowly change from crimson and maroon to a dusty pink; savor the last rays of light before the sun dips beneath the horizon and the luminous twinkling lights emerge in the night sky above. 

Northern California's iconic sunsets are quite inspirational and for good reason. Home to a plethora of unique beaches and lush forests, NorCal spoils us with prime sunset spots and vistas nestled in ethereal state parks, urban jungles, and rugged mountains. There's nothing like kicking back and enjoying an evening of watercolor-splashed skies and breathtaking views—experience this beauty at one of California’s best places to watch the sunset.

The Best Places to Watch the Sunset in San Francisco

Admire city views and sunsets, too, when in S.F. Make it a date for two and enjoy the vibrant colors light up the sky.

Twin Peaks

Wondering where to experience the best sunset in San Francisco? Ponder no more. The towering Twin Peaks rise above the city, providing spectacular views of the S.F. Bay Area and Santa Clara Valley. The 360-degree view here makes it the perfect place to watch the sunset. Indulge in views from Ocean Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge to Potrero Hill. Don't be surprised if you catch photographers snapping away during golden hour. 

Getting here: The easiest way to get to Twin Peaks is via car. Take Market Street and drive until you reach Portola Road, then turn right onto Twin Peaks Boulevard. Drive on a winding road before reaching the free parking lot located at the top of the hill. The parking lot isn't large and tends to fill up on clear days, so it's best to arrive early. You can also bike or take public transportation. You can hop on the 37 Corbett MUNI, which will bring you close to the base of the peak, but you'll need to hike up the hill to reach the breathtaking viewpoints. 

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Coit Tower

Another popular destination for sunset lovers is Coit Tower. Located at the summit of the historic Telegraph Hill, the 210-foot tower is all about the history and mesmerizing views. Built in 1933, the tower was constructed to add beauty to the city, and the spectacular panoramas here make it one of the best places to watch the sunset in San Francisco.

Marvel at the crookedness of Lombard Street and the beauty of Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Twin Peaks, Aquatic Park, Pier 39, the Financial District, the Ferry Building, and the San Francisco Bay. You can even admire Angel Island, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, and the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.

Getting here: If you don't feel like driving, take public transportation. Bus 39 will take you to Coit Tower so you can watch the otherworldly sunset in San Francisco.

Head to Bernal Heights Park to watch the last rays of sunshine disappear beneath the horizon.

Bernal Heights Park

The best places to watch the sunset can be a challenge to find sometimes. Among them is Bernal Heights Park—one of San Francisco's hidden gems. From the hilltop, get lost watching the stunning sunset. The sweeping views of the city skyline, with the Golden Gate Bridge to the left and the Bay Bridge to the right, make Bernal Heights Park one of the ideal places to snap a shot for the 'Gram. Bring your date and admire the sunset in solitude without worrying about the touristic crowds. The undiscovered nature adds another dimension of tranquility to this serene scene.

Unlike Twin Peaks, which become shrouded in a mysterious afternoon fog due to the high elevation, Bernal Heights Park is sunny during the daytime. Taking the winding dirt trails to reach the park's summit, you can enjoy clear views of the Golden Gate Bridge, downtown S.F., San Bruno Mountain, and the rolling hills in the distance. You can even bring your canine friends and let them roam freely in the park. 

Getting here: You can drive to the park or use public transportation. Public transportation options include MUNI—#24 Divisadero (get off at the Cortland and Ellsworth stop) and #67 Bernal Heights (get off at the Ripley and Folsom stop). 

Marshall's Beach

When in San Francisco, watch the sunset at one of California's most amazing beaches: Marshall's Beach. The setting sun's glowing orange hue shining over the glimmering blue waters of the Pacific is quite a magical sight to see. Located north of Baker Beach, this hot spot allows you to admire the colors of the sunset along with the ocean vistas.

Getting here: You can access Marshall’s Beach by taking the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. The pathway borders the cliffs from the Golden Gate Bridge to Baker Beach. It’s best to start the hike from the northern side, closer to the Golden Gate Bridge. About halfway along the trail, take the detour that goes down to Marshall's Beach. This end of the trail also offers easier access to the bus stops and parking lot. 


The Best place to watch the sunset in the South Bay

Make your way to Mount Hamilton's Lick Observatory to see the sun setting slowly over the rugged mountainous terrain in Northern California.

Lick Observatory

Mount Hamilton's Lick Observatory is an essential place for astronomical research—the observatory also played a crucial role in Silicon Valley’s technological advancement. Head here to discover the history behind giant telescopes, take a mind-blowing tour, and listen to lectures by leading researchers. You’ll have a great time traveling through the history of inventions. 

But Lick is far more than just an observatory—the stunning views from 4,200 feet above the valley make it a good place to watch the sunset. Located at the summit of Mount Hamilton, in the Diablo Range east of San Jose, the Lick Observatory showcases the magenta and maroon hues of the sunset impeccably. 

Getting here: You can get to Lick Observatory from Interstates 101, 280, or 680, taking the Alum Rock Avenue exit and heading east. Turn right on Mount Hamilton Road, and continue driving until you reach the observatory.


Where to watch the sunset in South Lake Tahoe

The electric hues of a Lake Tahoe sunset will leave you speechless, so head to this coveted destination to witness the beauty.

Lake Tahoe is just as mesmerizing during golden hour as it is during daylight. Imagine the vibrant shades of orange, crimson, and magenta reflecting upon the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe. Whether you hike to a vista point or take a hot-air balloon ride, you’ll witness the perfect mix of the sunset colors and how they reflect in the clouds and the water below. Rich blue, deep purple, and shades of red spread across the sky. Pack your camera gear and go see the magic for yourself when visiting South Lake Tahoe.

Getting here: In addition to driving to South Lake Tahoe, there are several other ways to get there. Airports that you can fly into include the Reno-Tahoe International Airport—just an hour's drive away from South Lake Tahoe—the Sacramento International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, San Jose International Airport, and Oakland International Airport. 

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