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Beach Bonfires in San Francisco
Jun 5, 2007, 1:17p - Environment

I'm interested in having a beach bonfire in San Francisco, but I haven't found much reliable information on the web. Disappointed by this stupid Internet thing, I gave in and called a real, living human being named James Marks of the National Park Service, who's responsible for issuing special permits for SF beaches. I was lucky enough to get him on the phone this morning, and he let me know the following:

1) What beaches allow bonfires in SF?

There are 2 beaches that allow fires. The first is Ocean Beach (map), on the west coast of SF. The second is Muir Beach (map), on the west side of the North Bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge.

2) What are the rules for fires at Ocean Beach?

There are currently 6 fire rings at Ocean Beach, and they're available on a first-come, first-served basis. You aren't allowed to have fires outside of the fire rings. The Park Service is planning to add 8 more fire rings by June 15, bringing the total to 14. Unfortunately, no alcohol is allowed on the beach (total bummer). Dogs are allowed, and they can even be off-leash (under voice control) as long as they don't mess with the snowy plover (a bird that they're trying to rehabilitate). If you're planning a party of more than 25 people, you need a special permit, which costs $50. They currently give out 1 permit per day, and they'll be increasing this to 2 per day once the additional fire rings are put in. The permit does NOT reserve a fire ring - it just gives you permission to have a group of 25+ people on the beach. To get a permit, you should call James Marks at (415) 561-4374. Finally, there is no closing time for the beach, though the parking lot closes at 10pm (meaning you can't get your car out after 10pm and you may also get a citation). Otherwise, you can just hang out at the beach all night. Now that's wicked.

3) What are the rules for fires at Muir Beach?

Muir Beach has only 3 fire rings. It's outside SF in the North Bay, so it's a bit of a drive for most people living in SF. Its key advantage is that it allows alcohol (major props), though that's balanced by its disadvantage, which is that it closes one hour after sunset, meaning you can't be on the beach after around 9pm during the summer. It's fire rings are also first-come, first-served. No special permits are required for large groups. Finally, dogs are allowed, but must be kept on-leash.

Hopefully this info will be helpful to some folks.

- James Marks, Special Permits, National Park Service - (415) 561-4374
- Permit info:
- Muir Beach:
- Ocean Beach:

Read comments (20) - Comment

Sedley - Jun 7, 2007, 10:15p
Good info, Ocean Beach bonfires take me back to high school...

omar - Jun 7, 2007, 11:37p
this post would be 10X better and drive 100X more traffic if it were titled

"beach bonfires in babylon"

nikhil - Jun 8, 2007, 4:11p
huh? i don't get it

omar - Jun 11, 2007, 12:23a
i have heard from sources that you may be doing a bonfire! (as if the blog post weren't enough).

one thing: last time we went to a beach bonfire we were completely sand blasted. the wind can relly get going and make life miserable. what worked was having winter clothing equivalent on (certainly a hat) and good alcohol to deaden the pain ;)

Peter - Aug 14, 2007, 12:51a
I go to a group that has bonfires every month at either Ocean Beach or in Berkeley. They are great.

codesmith - Dec 5, 2007, 11:58p
We had a good sized fire going in the starfish pit tonight across from the Beach Chalet. We were there from about 7pm until 9pm when a park ranger, dressed up all commando like, came by with a shovel. Of about 20 people on the beach one person had a glass bottle of beer - a nono that he called out. He then declared our fire illegal and started shoveling sand on it. When asked why it was illegal he said only "natural wood" is allowed to be burned. There were just embers and a piece of cardboard thrown on it. The cardboard was declared illegal and non-natural.

So I don't know how common this is but this guy was a dick and then was no reason for his action. We were closing it down anyway but this was BS. Total power tripper. And you're Nikhil, there's no info on the web about the rules.... lame.

That said, the firepits are very nice and it's great to be able to still have fires out there. It was a beautiful night!

Flame-on - Jul 2, 2008, 9:49a
Though the park's rules may douse some of our late night beach drinking and partying, you have to appreciate the fact that San Francisco is one of the few cities in California that even allows bonfires. The National Park Service was in discussions whether to band the bonfires all together. Their short term resolution were the controlled fire rings. The birth place of Burning Man, an amazing way to experience California's coast- let us all recognized the rules of the park so that we may all enjoy this San Franciscan tradtition for generations to come. For more info please check out:

sharon - Mar 11, 2009, 8:41p
very helpful!!!

Anne - Jun 23, 2009, 4:12p

thanks! - Aug 20, 2009, 2:58a
that really helped...maybe you can suggest some other locations to have a bonfire after a nice hike?

Liz - Sep 7, 2009, 11:08p
Thank you for taking your time and posting this information, it has been very helpfull. God Bless.

Sarah - Mar 26, 2010, 2:52p
Rules for bonfires on Ocean Beach

im awesome - May 26, 2010, 1:29p
thanks for the awesome

I am so nice - May 24, 2011, 9:48a
Thank you for the info.

Bobby - Jul 1, 2011, 3:25a
This helps out so much

beach bunny - Apr 28, 2012, 11:33a
Thanks for the info but wondering if they still allow it since this info is 2yrs old! Anyone out there know?

jayjay - Feb 23, 2013, 2:23a
Yeah thanks. I've been searching forever too and you were the first one that I saw put something up. That was 2007 though, any updates?

Steven - Apr 11, 2013, 12:20a

pablo - Oct 3, 2013, 9:34p
this help me a lot thanks.

Amazed USA Man - Aug 23, 2015, 6:36a
The all night bon fires has been a tradition on ocean beach since SF began.
Shutting down the night fires is but yet another example of how we are not free in our own land anymore. The beach and parks are owned by the people. Yet we have commando's showing up to tell us we cannot have a fire at night or even drink a can of beer with our picnic. What happened to our great Country. We are supposed to be a free Country, yet they have more freedom in Canada at this point. They always use the excuses that people do this or that and mess it up for everyone else. Why should I have to pay for what some other jerk did? Always it ends up being that I have to pay for someone else's behavior. If there was a real problem with people trashing the beach, then when those people who are responsible should police the beach themselves and report abusers so they could be fined. Also they complained they didn't have enough man power or money to keep up with the messes. Maybe one of those overpaid government employees that milk the tax payers daily by doing as little as possible could have organized a community volunteer program, which I understand they are doing anyway even though they shut down the night fires. If people are going to volunteer to clean up then that should have been the solution. But instead, they always have to shut everything down and regulate everything and keep us from enjoying our own Country. My father fought for this Country, his father, and all the way to my great great great granpa so that "We the people" could be free and enjoy our Country. But here we have a foreign body (the national parks were all given to the U.N. by clinton) that jacked up all the rates as soon as they gave them our parks, and then took all the freedom to use those parks away in place of their rules and regulations which the people DO NOT want! We want to be able to lay on the beach no matter what time it is, and there is no reason why we cannot have a fire in a safe spot along the beach using natural elements. It just breaks my heart to see that no one is standing up to be counted against government intrusion anymore. Let the people govern themselves! They'd save a ton of money, and people are much more likely to be responsible and respectful when they feel they have a voice and a choice and realizing that "this land is our land from California to the New York Islands!"

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