Picture-Perfect Sunset Locations the Golden State

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area sunset.
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area sunset. Courtesy Jeff Turner.
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By Michele E. Buttelman 

What is it about sunsets? Why does a perfect sunset, when the sun hovers just at the horizon, make us stop and appreciate the colors of the sky, appreciate the beauty of that life-giving golden orb and savor that fleeting moment before the world is plunged into darkness?  

Photographers and cinematographers have long sought the picture-perfect images captured during “golden hour,” the time the warm, soft color of the setting sun enhances the colors of the surrounding landscape. This “magic hour” of diffuse and warm light can create spectacular photographs.  

This summer in the Santa Clarita Valley residents have shared countless images of stunning sunsets. 

From Castaic to Canyon County, from Acton to Stevenson Ranch the skies of the SCV have been lit up with the setting sun using the colors from nature’s paintbox of indigo, lavender, purple, pink, orange, tangerine and red. 

Beautiful photos of spectacular sunsets can be captured nearly everywhere in the SCV and nearly everywhere you travel in the Golden State.  

Here’s a few locations you might want to visit to celebrate “golden hour” in the Golden State.  

Beautiful sunset photos can be taken throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
Beautiful sunset photos can be taken throughout the Santa Clarita Valley. Courtesy Kiki Hacker.

Santa Clarita Valley  

The riding and walking path at Iron Horse Trailhead, 25311 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia, CA 91355, begins with the historic 1898 railroad trestle bridge adjacent to Magic Mountain Parkway and connects to the South Fork Trail.  Watch the sunset from the trestle bridge with Six Flags Magic Mountain in the background. Frame the theme park’s roller coaster loops and towers against the sunset backdrop for memorable photos. 

The dramatic rock formations caused by seismic uplift at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area and Nature Center, 10700 Escondido Canyon Road, Agua Dulce, CA91390 are a beautiful setting for sunset photos. You might need to do a bit of climbing to get the best angle, but the stark scenery with the beautiful colors when the sun is going down are worth the effort. 

See Canyon Country bathed in the beautiful golden hues of “magic hour” at Todd Longshore Park, 28151 Whites Canyon Road, Canyon Country, CA 91351.This small park with a big view offers a sweeping panorama of the city as the warm glow of golden hour washes over the landscape below. As the sun disappears from view the city comes alive as the lights below sparkle like jewels in the distance. 

The silhouette of the Huntington Beach Pier makes for a striking sunset photograph.
The silhouette of the Huntington Beach Pier makes for a striking sunset photograph. Courtesy Visit Huntington Beach.

Huntington Beach 

Known as Surf City USA, this 3.5-mile-long beach at 1 Main St., Huntington Beach, CA 92648 offers many spots to watch the sunset. The best sunset view is near the Huntington Beach Pier. Seeing the reds, oranges and purples of the sunset behind the pier’s silhouette is breathtaking. Jutting out 1,850 feet into the Pacific Ocean, the iconic Huntington Beach Pier is one of the longest concrete piers on the West Coast. You can find picture-perfect year-round sunsets as the sun sinks quietly below the horizon. Frame a few palm trees in your photo against the golden glow of sunset for the classic Southern California sunset photo.  

For a unique sunset photo ride the Ferris Wheel on Santa Monica Pier.
For a unique sunset photo ride the Ferris Wheel on Santa Monica Pier. Courtesy Visit California.

Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles 

Sunset at Santa Monica Pier, 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, offers a special vantage point if you hop onto the Ferris Wheel for a unique California sunset experience. You can also take a romantic stroll along the 1,600-foot-long pier while watching the sun dip below the Pacific Ocean. Another classic sunset shot features the Ferris Wheel framed against the golden sky. 

Ventura Pier  

One of the best spots for memorable sunset photos in Ventura is on the Ventura Pier, 450 E. Harbor Blvd., Ventura, CA 93001. Stand on the beach as the setting sun glances off the ocean and take a photo of pier, first built in 1872, with the sun setting over the Channel Islands in the distance.  

The rocky outcrops, arches and caves El Matador State Beach in Malibu add drama to sunset photos.
The rocky outcrops, arches and caves El Matador State Beach in Malibu add drama to sunset photos. Courtesy Visit California.

Malibu  

Located between Leo Carrillo and Point Dume State Beaches, Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, is made up of a number of cove or cliff-foot strands known as “pocket beaches” along the west end of the city of Malibu. 

There are signs on Pacific Coast Highway with the names of the beaches: El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador. Each of these three small beaches are a jewel unto themselves. All sites are located along Pacific Coast Highway near Encinal Canyon Road, Malibu.  

Limited parking is available at the bluff top with paths leading down to the beach. You can take in golden hour from atop the bluff and watch as the horizon takes on a honey-colored hue and the cream-colored rock formations take on the rich colors of the sunset. Walk down the stairs and explore the rugged coastline of rocky outcrops, arches and caves. 

Sailboats are captured from the Mission Bay Boardwalk in San Diego at golden hour.
Sailboats are captured from the Mission Bay Boardwalk in San Diego at golden hour. Courtesy Visit San Diego.

San Diego  

Jacobs Park, 222 Marina Park Way, San Diego, CA 92101, is a lush public park surrounded by water on three sides, which means it offers 360-degree views of downtown, the marina and San Diego Bay, creating a perfect backdrop for golden hour photos.  

With a name like Sunset Cliffs Natural Park at Ladera Street, San Diego, it would be very disappointing if this spot didn’t offer a great view of the San Diego sunset. The park’s topography includes intricately carved coastal bluffs, arches and sea caves. It affords inspiring panoramic ocean views.  

Oceanside Pier, 1 Oceanside Pier, Oceanside, CA 92054 is an historic 125-year-old pier. It is nearly 2,000 feet long and is one of the longest piers on the West Coast of the United States. This San Diego icon is home to both fishermen and surfers, perfect silhouettes in a sunset photo. 

Mission Beach Boardwalk, W. Mission Bay Drive, San Diego, CA 92109, is a lively destination in San Diego. This beach stays busy even as the sun drops. The boardwalk runs along the ocean for nearly two miles allowing many opportunities for beautiful sunset photos.  

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