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

San Diego bay home to California half marathons


With over 39,000,000 residents, California has the largest state population by a healthy margin. Not only that, but we find that California also is home to some of the most year-round favorable climates and landscapes for running. These two factors combined means that California half marathons are some of the best you can find in the country.

In Southern California, home to San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles, you’ll find temperate winters, beachfront runs, and spectacular trail hikes. More north, and you’ll come across Big Sur – home to some of the most scenic and iconic cliffs on the entire planet. And even further north, you’ll come to Silicon Valley, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and the redwood forests.

No matter where you are in California, you can’t escape how welcoming it is to all types of running.

With great running, comes great racing. California is home to some of the most iconic races in the United States. To help you along your decision making, we’ve compiled the most beautiful California half marathons in 2024.

1. San Diego & Bay Half Marathon

Run around the sun-dappled waters of Mission Bay, this half marathon features a fast and very flat course that offers the chance to take in the gorgeous skyline of San Diego and its beaches, and run past some of its best-loved sights.

The race showcases some of the best San Diego has to offer: the Tecolote Shores, South Shores Park, SeaWorld San Diego, Ventura Cove Park, Mission Beach Park’s residential areas and along the beachfront by Belmont Park and the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.

Despite minor elevation changes, the majority of the course hovers around a dozen feet above sea level, featuring a combination of paved roads and waterfront park trails.

Sunday, April 14, 2024 • San Diego, 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 one our highest recommended California half marathons.

Sunday, August 27, 2024 • Santa Rosa, CA

3. 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. 4, 2024 • San Francisco, CA 

4. 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.

Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024 • Huntington Beach, CA

5. 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

6. La Jolla Half Marathon

Gorgeous, hilly and challenging, the La Jolla Half Marathon welcomes more than 5,000 runners each year — this year is its 35th annual — for a race that unfolds along one of Southern California’s most scenic stretches of coastline, as well as on city streets and through parks like Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

Saturday, May 18, 2024 • La Jolla, 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.

Saturday, June 2024 • Camp Pendleton, CA

9. 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

10. 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.

Sunday, April 28, 2024 • Ventura, CA

11. 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.

Sunday, June 2024 • Olympic Valley, CA

12. 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

13. 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, 2023 • Sonoma, CA

14. 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, 2023 • San Francisco, CA

15. 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

16. 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

17. 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

18. 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

19. 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., 2024 • Avalon, CA

20. 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., 2024 • Monterey, CA

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