Santa Monica Bay State Beaches:
Redondo, Manhattan, Dockweiler, Santa Monica

Santa Monica Bay Trail

20 miles one way

Fringed by palm trees, with the Santa Monica Mountains as dramatic backdrop, the wide sandy beaches along Santa Monica Bay draw visitors from around the world. Locals tend to get a bit blasé about this beauty in their backyard, and often fail to take advantage of what is, in my opinion, one of the world’s great beach walks.

Favorite bay walks enjoyed by tourists include Venice Beach and the Venice Boardwalk, the Santa Monica Pier and Palisades Park in Santa Monica. The long and quite wide state beaches—Redondo, Manhattan, Dockweiler and Santa Monica—are interspersed with a number of municipal beaches and lagoons. For a really ambitious beach walk or weekend hiking holiday, I’d suggest a walk around the entire bay.

Such a walk will surely be a very long day—or a weekend-to remember. You’ll get a real feel for the bay, not only as a collection of beaches and seashore sights, but as a living, dynamic ecosystem whose health and wellbeing depends heavily on government and citizen action.

Geographically, Santa Monica Bay is a mellow intrusion by the Pacific Ocean into the western edge of the Los Angeles lowlands. The bay’s magnificent curving beaches are cooled by a prevailing ocean breeze, which protects the coast from the temperature extremes—and smog—that are characteristic of the interior.

Alas, all views along Santa Monica Bay are not picture-perfect; huge smokestacks from power plants tower over some South Bay beaches, while jets departing LAX fly low and loud over others. And the bay has its share of well-documented environmental problems, too. Sewers and storm drains empty into the bay. Organizations such as Heal the Bay have undertaken the Herculean task of educating the public and public officials that the bay is not merely a series of sand strands, but a complex ecosystem.

Pick a brisk fall or winter weekend to walk the bay and you’ll be surprised at how much shoreline solitude you’ll enjoy. It’s possible to walk the bay from Torrance to the Santa Monica Pier in a very long day, but the 20 mile beach hike is more comfortably completed in two days.

If bay walking agrees with you, consider walking the rest of the bay-another 20 miles from the Santa Monica Pier to Pt. Dume.

You can arrange a car shuttle or use the bus system to return to your day’s start point. Better yet, leave a bicycle at the end of your walk and cycle back to the trailhead along the South Bay Bicycle Path. Super-jocks will relish the challenge of what I call the Triathlon Trail: Walk the 20 miles from Torrance County Beach to the Santa Monica Pier, cycle the South Bay Bicycle Path, then take a long refreshing swim.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.