Red Rock Island

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About

Summary

Paddle around and explore an abandoned island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.

Written by

Emily Staples

Distance

3.4 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

10.5 miles

Difficulty

3 of 5 diamonds

Depending on the current and winds, you will have a strenuous paddle in one direction. Bring a friend and a 2-person kayak.

Time To Complete

3 hours

From San Quentin it's about

Seasonality

Spring and Fall

The winds are heaviest in the summer, avoid summer afternoons!

Dog Friendly

Yes

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

Imagine paddling in a kayak, as a cargo ship glides by in the San Francisco Bay, passing underneath the Richmond Bridge. Its wake creates a roller coaster ride in the waves splashing freezing cold water as you bob up and down, as you try to get to your destination-- an uninhabited island called Red Rock. It looks just like a camel’s single hump with a dusting of green scattered along its ridge. It’s a mysterious island with rarely any visitors, yet it’s close enough to Marin and the East Bay for an afternoon paddle adventure. Think "The Goonies" kind of adventure.

What Makes It Great

Red Rock Island is unknown to most, yet is seen by thousands of people each day. Sitting just south of the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge, it’s the only privately owned island in the entire Bay. A decade ago it was for sale for $22 million, it never sold but these days it’s the perfect stop for afternoon kayaking. The island is 5.8 acres of exploration, climbing, traversing, and caving. There is no dock, or place for bigger boats to land, so it’s purely a kayaker’s paradise.

There’s an enchanting and mysterious element of Red Rock. Most of the time no one is there except for flocks of pelicans. Yet it feels like someone buried his treasure somewhere on shore years ago. It’s a good and challenging trek from San Rafael, and a pleasant paddle from Point Richmond. Once landing on its small beach, you just get the feeling of being a kid again, ready to explore the unknown and maybe discover something no one has ever discovered before.

Who is Going to Love It

The seasoned paddler will definitely need a sidekick to get to Red Rock. The tides, currents and wind can all heavily factor into the journey and it’s important to bring a friend with some kayaking experience. The Bay is notorious for quick-changing conditions, so prepare for a workout and unpredictability on the semi-high seas.  Anyone with a big sense of adventure will surely enjoy Red Rock in all its glory—panoramic views of the Bay and completely intimate with the water and all its creatures. A must-do challenge for any kayaker!

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

You can get to Red Rock either from the shores near San Quentin Prison in San Rafael, or starting from Keller Beach in Point Richmond. The latter is shorter and easier, but you will likely dodge tankers as they come in and out of the nearby refinery.  Kayakers have the right of way, but remember simple sea adequate before heading out, you’ll likely encounter ferries, sailboats, motorboats and huge cargo ships. No rules or regulations are posted, but be respectful to the island and it’s local residents, many consider it a sacred place.

Location

Red Rock Island

37.9292, -122.4308

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