Where to Watch the Sunset in Southern California

Where to Watch the Sunset in Southern California

By California.com
September 30, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

It’s almost impossible to watch a sunset and not feel anything. The natural phenomenon is proof that Mother Nature doesn’t need a filter. As the golden hour begins and the last bits of daylight fade away, the gates of heaven open and magic descends upon us.

Southern California’s sunsets are one of the most staggering sights to see. There’s something about the deep red and bright orange hues that immediately captivates people. While you can see the sun sink below the horizon anywhere, you won't regret ending your day at SoCal’s best places to watch the sunset.

Spots to See the Best Sunsets

Offering panoramic views of the L.A. skyline and beyond, the Griffith Observatory is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Los Angeles.

1. Griffith Observatory

Location: 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles

Griffith Observatory has been the leader of public astronomy in Southern California since 1935. Featured in over 300 movies and TV shows, the famous landmark attracts visitors not only because it boasts a historical 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope, but also because it’s one of the best sunset spots in SoCal. The hilltop view of the sun descending over Los Angeles is one of the most breathtaking sights you’ll ever witness. Recognized as one of California’s best places to watch the sunset, Griffith Observatory provides stunning vistas of downtown Los Angeles as well as its surrounding cities.

2. The Hollywood Sign

Location: Los Angeles

While navigating your way through Griffith Park, it's absolutely necessary to trek through the Hollywood Hills and stop by the Hollywood Sign (which you can hike to from Griffith Observatory), especially if you're in the mood to gaze at the awe-inspiring sun setting across the horizon. Among the all-time favorite hiking spots in L.A., the Hollywood Sign is the first thing visitors in Los Angeles demand to see.

Formerly known as the Hollywoodland Sign, the historical landmark and cultural icon was created in 1923 and resurrected in 1978 after suffering much damage and deterioration. The Hollywood Sign now stands tall at 45 feet, greeting locals and tourists from all over the world. Although the sign was an advertisement for a new housing development in the area, people quickly linked it to the film industry when actress Peg Entwistle jumped from the “H” to her death. Nowadays, outdoor enthusiasts frequently hike up nearby trails to catch a glimpse of the best sunset in Southern California

After spending a day at the beach, savor the fiery sunset from Crystal Cove State Park.

3. Crystal Cove State Park

Location: 8471 North Coast Highway, Laguna Beach

Featuring 3.2 miles of coastline; 2,400 acres of backcountry wilderness; an enclave of 46 vintage cottages; and an offshore underwater area, Crystal Cove State Park is one of the best spots to watch the sunset. Check the Laguna Beach sun graph to ensure you catch the last rays of light at the right time. Take a break from hiking, swimming, and exploring the tidepools, and stop to appreciate the spectacular golden hour. Watch the sun set over the horizon as the orange, red, and violet colors conceal the once-blue sky.    

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4. The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

Location: 6300 Hetzler Road, Culver City

It’s hard to pick which state park near Los Angeles is the best, but the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook will leave you in awe. A set of outdoor stairs lead you to the top of the hill, where a view of the greater Los Angeles area comes into sight. You can either hike up the zigzag trail featuring seasonal native flora and fauna or take the shortcut—a steep and straight staircase consisting of 282 steps, which only takes 15 minutes. Once you reach the top of the hill, you'll arrive at the best place to watch the sunset. Find a ledge to sit on and take in the panoramic view of Los Angeles. Embrace the hues of the sunset as the night descends upon the city. 

Admire the crashing waters of Little Corona Del Mar Beach as the sky transforms overhead.

5. Little Corona del Mar Beach

Location: Ocean Boulevard and Poppy Avenue, Newport Beach

Located at the end of Buck Gully in the Newport Beach neighborhood, Little Corona del Mar Beach is one of Orange County’s lesser-known shores. A fun California beach to visit year-round, the beach attracts surfers, scuba divers, tide pool enthusiasts, and birdwatchers. Arguably one of California’s best places to watch the sunset, Little Corona del Mar Beach is a slice of heaven with beautiful rock formations. As the last bits of light gradually subdue, the golden hour colors complement Arch Rock in the distance. Wander along the coast at this SoCal sunset spot and take photos of the striking view.

6. Channel Islands Harbor 

Location: 1299 South Victoria Avenue, Oxnard

A more romantic sunset spot in Southern California is in Ventura County. For a memorable date, charm your better half with an Italian-style date and go on an authentic Venetian gondola cruise in the Channel Islands Harbor with Gondola Paradiso. Glide along the canals around Coral Island and enjoy the golden hues as you drift through the stunning harbor. (If it gets a little chilly, don’t hesitate to ask for blankets.) Perfect for any special occasion, this cruise allows you to experience the best sunset ever and create one-of-a-kind memories. 

The cave at Sunset Cliffs will ensure you have truly breathtaking sunset views. Photo courtesy of the Intrepid Life.

7. Sunset Cliffs Cave

Location: 800-898 Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, San Diego

Sunset Cliffs Cave is a hidden gem in San Diego. This sunset spot is an unbelievable place due to the incredible opening in its ceiling. The colossal sea cave is a secluded area, mostly because it’s impossible to access. Make sure to check the tide charts and go when it’s at low or negative tide. Walk to the end of Luscomb’s Point at Sunset Cliffs along the rocks. As you move forward towards the small cove, you’ll find the entrance, where a massive cave waits to be explored. The enormous, open-ceiling sea cave is not only a good place to watch the sunset, but also a wonderful spot to discover sea creatures. 

8. Annie’s Canyon Trail

Location: Solana Hills Trail, Solana Beach

A claustrophobic’s nightmare but a hiker’s fantasy, Annie’s Canyon Trail boasts one of the best Southern California sunset spots. Don’t be fooled by the easy 1.4-mile hike—the canyon’s vertical, narrow areas could trigger claustrophobia. However, if you’re up for the challenge, the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the San Elijo Lagoon at the top are worthwhile.

Climb up ladder-style stairs and use your limbs to propel yourself up as naturally eroding sandstone walls engulf you. Once you reach your final destination, stop and immerse yourself in the breathtaking hues of golden hour that complement the natural erosion on the canyon’s walls. You’ll soon see why it’s a top spot to watch the sunset near San Diego. 

Take in the splendid colors of golden hour from the 1,491-foot-long Imperial Beach Pier.

9. Imperial Beach Pier

Location: 10 Evergreen Avenue, Imperial Beach

The southernmost pier in the San Diego area and the entire state of California, Imperial Beach Pier extends 1,491 feet out towards the horizon. Wide-open with plenty of room, it is a nice, serene place to take a long walk and is a wonderful spot to watch surfers. The wooden-planked pier wraps around a seafood restaurant at the end, where you can hang out until the beginning of golden hour. Look towards the north to see San Diego, south for Mexico, and west for the most awesome sunsets in SoCal. Feel the strong tides beat against this wooden pier and watch the colors of the sky gradually darken. 

10. Mount Rubidoux Park

Location: 4706 Mount Rubidoux Drive, Riverside

A unique destination in Riverside, Mount Rubidoux Park is a popular SoCal sunset spot. Back in 1926, over 30,000 people gathered here for the longest-running Easter Sunrise Service in the U.S. The easy, paved walk to the summit of the mountain is full of different historical landmarks—the Peace Bridge, American Flag, and the cross on the top.

Hiking at Mount Rubidoux Park is perfect for first-timers looking to find local gems. As you reach the summit, take in the 360-degree  view of Riverside and beyond. Watch the bright orange and bold red colors descend upon the city as night falls. 

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