26 Scenic California Half Marathons You’ll Love Running in 2024

San Diego bay home to California half marathons

 

From the beautiful beaches of San Diego and the Hollywood hills to the northern redwood forests and stunning Golden Gate Bridge, California is perhaps the most geographically diverse state in America. In addition to some of the nation’s largest cities, there are mountains, deserts, rivers and plains (not to mention plenty of vineyards like Napa wine country). All of this makes California an incredible state to run in.

California also boasts an incredible lineup of half marathons, with so many options that any runner can find something just for them. From flat beachfront half marathons for beginners and those hungry for a new PR to arduous trail races built to provide a challenge, California has it all. Plus, with a naturally temperate climate all year round, there aren’t the off seasons that places like Florida or Minnesota might have.

The only real problem that comes with being a Cali runner is selecting which half marathon you want to sign up for. With hundreds of options, selecting the perfect race can be overwhelming. Luckily, I’m a longtime running journalist and the author of Marathoner: What to Expect When Training for and Running a Marathon. I’ve ran plenty of races and researched ones I haven’t run extensively. Combing through California’s many half marathons, I selected 26 of the state’s most exciting races for you to try. From summer to winter and north to south, I’ve got you covered. So take a look at the list and sign up for your next half marathon!

1. OC Half Marathon

2024 marks the 20th Anniversary of the OC Marathon. But, it’s not just the aged wisdom of the grandfather clock of California races that makes it something special – this half marathon is the real deal. The course takes runners through the picturesque communities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. Runners can expect to see the Pacific Coast Highway, the Pacific Ocean, luxury multi-million dollar homes, yacht clubs, and the final finish on the Orange County Fairgrounds. We’ve rated the OC Marathon and Half Marathon one of our favorite half marathons on the planet.

Sunday, May 5, 2024 • Costa Mesa, CA

2. Santa Rosa Half Marathon

Sonoma County is home to world renown wine country cities like Napa, Sonoma, and of course, Santa Rosa. The half marathon takes runners through the heart of California wine country with views of vineyards, pastoral beauty, and a mostly flat course great for beginners. This makes it one of our highest recommended California half marathons.

Sunday, August 27, 2024 • Santa Rosa, CA

3. San Diego Beach & Bay Half Marathon

At the San Diego Beach & Bay Half Marathon, the finish line is just the beginning—of the fun, that is. The race, which includes 5k and 10k options, was founded by natives of the city who wanted to create a race that truly reflected the San Diego experience, and one that gave runners from all over the U.S. and beyond a reason to visit their city. And that they did.

With a flat course, cool ocean breezes and beautiful coastal views along the entire course, the second-place winner for Runner’s World Magazine’s Best International Running Event is the stuff of runners’ dreams. The race starts at Tecolote Shores Park, a grassy strip of real estate that flanks the bay. From there, the loop course wends its way along the most iconic beaches and bays of America’s Finest City, offering live music, and passing some of San Diego’s must-see sites, including the historic wooden Belmont Park Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.

And then there’s the event’s signature Finish Line Festival, with live music, dozens of vendors, and, since San Diego is an international leader on the craft beer scene: a beer garden where local artisan brews are poured by the brew masters themselves. We’ll raise our glasses to that!

Sunday, April 14, 2024 • San Diego, CA

4. Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon

If you’ve ever traveled to San Francisco and driven through or just walked past the gorgeous landscape that is Golden Gate Park, then you know why Runner’s World ranked this as one of the country’s most scenic half marathon races.

Sunday, Feb. 2, 2025 • San Francisco, CA 

5. Surf City USA Half Marathon

Often mentioned as one of the nation’s best all-around road races, this event follows a long, scenic out-and-back course along the Pacific Coast Highway, and includes stretches past the famed Huntington Beach pier and the Bolsa Chica Wetlands. If you’re looking for a similar race in the fall, you could try the Long Beach Half Marathon located just a few miles south on the coastline.

Sunday, Feb. 2, 2025 • Huntington Beach, CA

6. Golden Gate Headlands Half Marathon

Run along a backdrop that combines gorgeous natural vistas with views of San Francisco’s urban skyline in the distance, as well as a hilly and challenging course, this race features some dramatic changes in elevation.

Saturday, April 6, 2024 • Sausalito, CA

7. Rodeo Beach Rumble Half Marathon

Run among the hills, trails, military landmarks and dramatic coastal shorelines of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area at this race, where you can enjoy a day at the beach after you cross the finish line at Rodeo Cove.

Saturday, April 13, 2024 • Sausalito, CA

8. Heartbreak Ridge Run Half Marathon

You’ll run off-road trails through the hilly mountain wilderness of the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base at this springtime race, which climbs some 1,280 feet over the course of the half. The base is just north of Carlsbad, so you can spend time at the beach once you’re done at the running festival.

Saturday, April 13, 2024 • Camp Pendleton, CA

9. Nail the Rail Half Marathon

While most of the half marathons on this list are road races, this trail race in northern California showcases the beauty that state has to offer outside of Napa and the coast. Run on the Sacramento River Rail Trail, the half marathon trail run is an out-and-back race on a repurposed train track. Redding is California’s “sunniest city” though so make sure to lather up the sunscreen before the race if you don’t want to leave with a sunburn as well as your finisher medal.

Saturday, April 27, 2024 • Redding , CA

10. Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon

The Avenue of the Giants Marathon, and its accompanying half marathon, is one of the most gorgeous races that California has to offer (which is saying something). Ran in Humboldt Redwoods State Park along the “Avenue of the Giants,” the race guides runners past hundreds of massive old growth redwoods. The half is an out-and-back course lined with 300-year-old trees that will give you plenty of shade while you’re running.

Sunday, May 5, 2024 • Arcata, CA

11. Bay Bridge Half

The Golden Gate Bridge may get much more publicity (not to mention its own half marathon), but the Bay Area’s other beauty, the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge is stunning in its own right. The 13-miler has been hailed one of the best half marathons in California and sends runners from Oakland across the bridge to Yerba Buena Island and back. On the way back, you’ll get a good view of Oakland’s famous cranes. Fun right?

Sunday, May 5, 2024 • Oakland, CA

12. Muir Woods Half Marathon

Challenging hills, paired with stunning views of both the Stinson Beach coastline and the immense, dramatic trees and landscapes of Muir Woods National Monument are the hallmark of this race, run where scenes from 1983’s Return of the Jedi were filmed.

Saturday, May 11, 2024 • Stinson Beach, CA

13. La Jolla Half Marathon

One of SoCal’s finest races is San Diego’s La Jolla Half Marathon. The point-to-point course is mostly run along the Pacific coast that gives runners plenty of ocean views. Starting at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the race runs through Torrey Pines State park before finishing at La Jolla Cove. After the race you can head into downtown San Diego or head south of the border for a celebratory margarita in Tijuana.

Saturday, May 18, 2021 • San Diego, CA

14. Mountains 2 Beach Half Marathon

Towering mountains, green hillsides and valleys, and the waves crashing along the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean are just some of the scenery runners will see at this race between Ojai and Ventura in Southern California. The Mountains 2 Beach Marathon is also an excellent place to qualify for Boston if you have a friend who wants to run a full marathon while you run a half.

Sunday, April 28, 2024 • Ventura, CA

15. Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon

Perhaps the world’s best known race series, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series got its start in 1998 in San Diego, California. Since then, Rock ‘n’ Roll has hosted events all over the world (including a great half in San Jose), but the San Diego race has always been the OG. The half marathon starts west of Balboa Park before sending runners out into Normal Heights, back through the park and to a finish downtown. No need to bring your headphones. There will be plenty of music blasting before, during and after.

Sunday, June 2, 2024 • San Diego, CA

16. Olympic Valley Half Marathon

Just a few hundred runners finished both races combined last year at this stunningly beautiful race, which runs the roads and trails of California’s famed Squaw Valley Ski Resort, the home of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games. Located between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, you’ll have plenty to do even if you can’t ski.

Sunday, June 15, 2024 • Olympic Valley, CA

17. Angel Island Half Marathon

Set to run around the largest natural island in San Francisco Bay, this race follows a looping trail around Angel Island State Park, a place where you can see some of the most stunning views of the Marin Headlands and the rest of the Bay Area.

Saturday, June 22, 2024 • Angel Island State Park, CA

18. Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon

The is a pretty large contingent of runners who also love wine. They are both good for your heart, right? The Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon is the ultimate destination race for wine lovers who appreciate a glass or two after covering 13.1 miles. This is often rated as one of the most scenic California half marathons and one of the best in the world.

Sunday, July 21, 2024 • Sonoma, CA

19. The San Francisco Half Marathons

When it is hot and muggy in the middle of summer, escape to the oasis of San Francisco, whose marathon is held at the end of July and runners from all over come to enjoy a weekend of (usually) cooler temperatures — and you’ll have two half marathon routes to choose from.

Sunday, July 21, 2024 • San Francisco, CA

20. America’s Finest City Half Marathon

This point-to-point race takes runners from the majestic views of the historic Cabrillo National Monument overlooking the Pacific to the green, expansive meadows of Balboa Park, whose 1,200 acres are home to 15 museums including the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

Sunday, Aug. 18, 2024 • San Diego, CA

21. Big Sur Trail Half Marathon

At this race you’ll follow the Old Coast Road, the first of its kind that connected the towns of Monterey and Big Sur before the road now known as Highway 1 was built. It’s challenging and hilly, with long, steep climbs and descents as well as spectacular scenery. This is often rated one of the most popular California half marathons.

Saturday, Sept. 28, 2024 • Big Sur, CA

22. Marin County Half Marathon

Run along a course that’s both breathtakingly beautiful and filled with challenging uphill and downhill stretches, this race takes runners on both a journey through the hills and among the mountains overlooking California’s San Pablo Bay and San Rafael.

Sunday, Oct., 2024 • San Rafael, CA

23. Malibu Half Marathon

Rocky bluffs, sandy beaches, waves crashing against the shoreline, and plenty of rugged hills await on a gorgeous out-and-back route along the Pacific Coast Highway at this race, which starts and finishes at Zuma Beach.

Sunday, Nov., 2024 • Malibu, CA

24. Catalina Island Half Marathon

A great race for trail runners or those looking for a new challenge, the Catalina Island Eco Half Marathon features gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged terrain and lots of elevation change.

Saturday, Nov. 9, 2024 • Avalon, CA

25. Monterey Bay Half Marathon

For sheer natural beauty and dramatic coastal scenery, it’s pretty much impossible to top this event, which runs alongside the Pacific Ocean crashing against the shoreline for most of the race.

Sunday, Nov. 10, 2024 • Monterey, CA

26. Santa Barbara Half Marathon

Located on the 101 between Los Angeles and Big Sur, you’ll find the gorgeous town of Santa Barbara. The oceanside enclave hosts a half every year that starts and ends downtown with plenty of running along the picturesque beach in between. While technically a loop course, the 13-miler has several out-and-back stretches and the cool ocean breezes are sure to cool you down, even if it is a bit sunny. Celebrate with some fish tacos and a quick dip in the waves.

Sunday, Nov. 3, 2024 • Santa Barbara, CA

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