DJI Mavic, Air and Mini Drones
Friendly, Helpful & Knowledgeable Community
Join Us Now

2020 Updated San Francisco / Bay Area flying spots

nyctosf

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2020
Messages
18
Reactions
14
Location
SF
Only had my drone for a few days but have been struggling to find infos on where I can fly my drone in the SF Bay Area... So many NFZ Nature Preserves / Marin Country Parks around here it almost made me regret buying it... but I found some spots and already flew 2. I am especially interested in shore spots where I can try drone fishing :)

Tried:
-Fairfax, CA: Wilder Drive (no cars allowed, you can park easily near the trail). On top of a hill between residential area and nature, with nice far views of the bay and city of SF. Beware a few people walking their dogs on this trail.
-Treasure Island

Not Tried:
- Fort Funston (anyone knows if it include the beach for drone fishing?)
-Shoreline Muir Beach Overlook (*GGNRA is a No Drone Zone - Golden Gate National Recreation Area (U.S. National Park Service))
 
You’ll find plenty of Northern Cal info under the Local and Regional subforum: San Francisco Area

As mentioned in these threads, most of the NorCal coastline are NFZs, but you’ll find a few pockets for drone fishing. Others have posted wide open flying up in Humboldt County, and judging from Kittyhawk and other apps, they’re correct.

I‘ve posted a thread on some Bay Area spots I’ve tried recently, and others I don’t think I’ll ever try. There’s a drone group MeetUp every month, with Sunnyvale’s Baylands Park on tap for this Saturday, as well as Treasure Island for a MeetUp in March. Do a local search on the MeetUp app for ”drones.”
 
Treasure Island is a beauty, have not flown that since.... well, since you have to build your own quadcopters!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Hauptmann
Only had my drone for a few days but have been struggling to find infos on where I can fly my drone in the SF Bay Area... So many NFZ Nature Preserves / Marin Country Parks around here it almost made me regret buying it... but I found some spots and already flew 2. I am especially interested in shore spots where I can try drone fishing :)

Tried:
-Fairfax, CA: Wilder Drive (no cars allowed, you can park easily near the trail). On top of a hill between residential area and nature, with nice far views of the bay and city of SF. Beware a few people walking their dogs on this trail.
-Treasure Island

Not Tried:
- Fort Funston (anyone knows if it include the beach for drone fishing?)
-Shoreline Muir Beach Overlook (*GGNRA is a No Drone Zone - Golden Gate National Recreation Area (U.S. National Park Service))
I fly a lot further north - Vallejo, Carquinez Straits, Benicia, Martinez. I get great shots of ships, bridges, refineries, Mare Island, over cities and open nature shots. There is a great variety and according to Air Map and the built in NFZ you can fly in these areas.
 
Thanks, there are so many resources on this forum its hard navigating / finding all the right info, especially as some similar posts are a few years old and rules may have changed since.

Also looking for chill surf fishing, and seems like Rockaway Beach in Pacifica is also ok? The FAA apps boundaries around the Pacifica coast seem a bit arbitrary, anyone know if they can be followed reliably in all areas?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Hauptmann
I just checked AirMaps, B4UFly and Kittyhawk, as well as a Google search on “Pacifica drone regulations or laws”, and Rockaway Beach actually looks clear to fly. I’m certainly not the authorities, but I’m now tempted to fly there one of these mornings.

As for surf fishing at Rockaway Beach, the southern and northern ends have always been productive for surf perch and occasional stripers with a fairly shirt cast into the holes created by the surf break.

I guess we could always call Pacifica PD, too.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Hauptmann
I fly a lot further north...

I second this idea to fly up north a bit. I’ve flown off the vista point just west of the Carquinez Bridge, and got spectacular video footage from up there. Mare Island has so many great flying spots, too.

Where‘s a good flying location for Benicia Bridge views?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Hauptmann
I second this idea to fly up north a bit. I’ve flown off the vista point just west of the Carquinez Bridge, and got spectacular video footage from up there. Mare Island has so many great flying spots, too.

Where‘s a good flying location for Benicia Bridge views?
I’ve launched from what Benicia calls the Arsenal. Take Military West road west into the Arsenal. At the first fork, bear right. Follow the road down to the bottom of the hill and you should wind up in a parking/open area. Check google maps. It’s also right by the terminal where many cars are off loaded from Japan so there are often times huge ships moored there that you can shoot. If it is not too windy and you are brave enough to fly across the Carquinez Straits, the Shell refinery is just across. I like shooting industrial stuff and refineries are pretty cool - lots going on.
 
Thanks for the great local knowledge, Peter. I’m getting together with some South Bay flyers to fly up there this Sunday morning, so I’m excited already. We’re meeting at Berkeley Marina at sunrise, then headed up to Benicia and Mare Island, weather-permitting.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Hauptmann
Thanks for the great local knowledge, Peter. I’m getting together with some South Bay flyers to fly up there this Sunday morning, so I’m excited already. We’re meeting at Berkeley Marina at sunrise, then headed up to Benicia and Mare Island, weather-permitting.

Mare Island is a great place to fly, but launching or parking your car anywhere north of Mare Island Causeway is a no no. They keep the homeless out, which means they keep everyone out. Anywhere south of the Causeway is okay and flying north is okay, too, you just can't launch. I've never been hassled there. I like flying from any of the hiking trails scattered throughout. The golf course is now abandoned, so it might be accessible.

Benicia Community Park/Lake Herman is also a great place to fly in the morning. It gets pretty packed during the day with all the soccer fields and baseball diamonds being used, so keep that in mind. I've never been hassled there, but I've also never flown in the middle of the day. A little further north is Lynch Canyon Open Space. There's a small parking fee, but well worth it. Pro tip - don't try to stare down any of the bulls along the trails...LOLDJI_0072-2.jpg
Mare Island Causeway Bridge looking south along the Napa River.DJI_0430-2.jpg
Benicia Community Park/Lake Herman.
 
Right on, @LongRifle...this makes me want to ditch work for the afternoon and head out there! Thanks for the valuable information, as I know of several fairly new Mavic owners wanting to meet up and fly around the Bay, wherever we’re allowed.
 
Got 2 more spots to add that I tried out recently (till I crashed my drone at sea yesterday - reel line tightened up for some reason just 20 ft out and drone tilted backward getting line in the propeller - retrieved reeling it in and initiating care refresh replacement).

- Brickyard Cove by Point Richmond (good halibut spot)
-The land patch by Chappell Hayes observation tower (also good for Halibut, lots of container boats coming in real near to dock load in and out in adjacent canal)
 
Mare Island is a great place to fly, but launching or parking your car anywhere north of Mare Island Causeway is a no no. They keep the homeless out, which means they keep everyone out. Anywhere south of the Causeway is okay and flying north is okay, too, you just can't launch. I've never been hassled there. I like flying from any of the hiking trails scattered throughout. The golf course is now abandoned, so it might be accessible.

I second Mare Island, lots of great sights and also a lot of very open and safe spots for beginners. I got approached once by security many years ago and they explained I couldn't be there having to do with it being a formal naval base and still under gov oversight. Since then I believe the land was released for development, and I've parked in the norther section many times and security drives right by now. They recently tore down just about everything north of the causeway too. Our company has mapped most of the island, you can check it out here - Hivemapper | Build maps that reveal changes


Next favorite place around water to fly is also Treasure Island, as others have mentioned. Toll Plaza Beach is also right across the bridge on the Oakland side and offers some other great views.
 
Our company has mapped most of the island, you can check it out here - Hivemapper | Build maps that reveal changes.

Just a note to others that the link above won’t open on a mobile device browser, so you’ll be able to open on a computer with Chrome or Firefox.

Will - Where was homepoint for the flight seen on your avatar? I would love to fly around Coit Tower some day. Or was this another great shot from 2018 or earlier, like all the footage at Big Sur or Half Dome that will probably never occur again?

Sometimes my frustration stems from getting my first-ever drone in January 2020, and hearing from longtime flyers who share the “back in my day” stories of flying around one of the most famous NFZs, the Golden Gate Bridge. Back in the day, I was crash-landing RC helicopters. :cool:
 
  • Like
Reactions: Hauptmann
I'm not totally up to date on that area, it was mapped from a number of different launch points back in 2016. I've placed a pin on one of the launch points that was used, but i believe it was also hit from that park down the hill to the east, as well as Washington Square. I know SF banned them in all parks, but I've been at other parks in sf more recently and asked police officers that happened to be present and they've have no problem with me launching and flying from the sidewalk as long as you aren't flying low over the park. Kinda weird. Again, not totally up to date on that area, and only fly where your comfortable (legally and safely).


Congrats on the new drone! And yes, some rules like the above i mentioned are just a bummer. Hopefully rules will start to make more sense and qualified people will get access to some of those locations.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Hauptmann
Mare Island is a great place to fly, but launching or parking your car anywhere north of Mare Island Causeway is a no no. They keep the homeless out, which means they keep everyone out. Anywhere south of the Causeway is okay and flying north is okay, too, you just can't launch. I've never been hassled there. I like flying from any of the hiking trails scattered throughout. The golf course is now abandoned, so it might be accessible.

Benicia Community Park/Lake Herman is also a great place to fly in the morning. It gets pretty packed during the day with all the soccer fields and baseball diamonds being used, so keep that in mind. I've never been hassled there, but I've also never flown in the middle of the day. A little further north is Lynch Canyon Open Space. There's a small parking fee, but well worth it. Pro tip - don't try to stare down any of the bulls along the trails...LOLView attachment 93658
Mare Island Causeway Bridge looking south along the Napa River.View attachment 93660
Benicia Community Park/Lake Herman.
This really looks nice! I’m next to Benicia and new to flying. About 10hrs in now. However, I’m struggling to find anywhere to fly. Especially, since I’m very close to Buchanan airfield. Nothing but red zones. Ugh!
 
  • Like
Reactions: LongRifle
However, I’m struggling to find anywhere to fly. Especially, since I’m very close to Buchanan airfield. Nothing but red zones. Ugh!
There are still plenty of places to fly, so enjoy the hobby and get out there! For starters, try flying at the scenic overlooks near you. On the Benicia side, that elevated scenic overlook offers views of the bridge, the train trestle, and the various cargo ships dropping off hundreds of new cars. The scenic viewpoint on the southern end of the Carquinez Bridge is a great spot, too, especially at sunset.

If you haven’t flown around Mare Island, it’s a pretty drone-friendly place these days. From its remote northern end near the Mare Island Bridge, the shipyard with boats under repair, ferries docked and various cranes, to the vacant Victorian buildings...there’s always plenty to see there.

I could list many other places, but the bottom line is there are many places to fly. I do my research with Kittyhawk and Google Earth. I see an allowable flying spot, research online for any local or regional prohibitions, check it on Google Earth including Streetview, then drive out and try out a battery or two.

Welcome to the forum and to the hobby! We got a few members together to fly at Treasure Island in July, so we should probably try somewhere again soon.
let me know if you’d be interested.
 
There are still plenty of places to fly, so enjoy the hobby and get out there! For starters, try flying at the scenic overlooks near you. On the Benicia side, that elevated scenic overlook offers views of the bridge, the train trestle, and the various cargo ships dropping off hundreds of new cars. The scenic viewpoint on the southern end of the Carquinez Bridge is a great spot, too, especially at sunset.

If you haven’t flown around Mare Island, it’s a pretty drone-friendly place these days. From its remote northern end near the Mare Island Bridge, the shipyard with boats under repair, ferries docked and various cranes, to the vacant Victorian buildings...there’s always plenty to see there.

I could list many other places, but the bottom line is there are many places to fly. I do my research with Kittyhawk and Google Earth. I see an allowable flying spot, research online for any local or regional prohibitions, check it on Google Earth including Streetview, then drive out and try out a battery or two.

Welcome to the forum and to the hobby! We got a few members together to fly at Treasure Island in July, so we should probably try somewhere again soon.
let me know if you’d be interested.
I’m definitely interested. Feel free to send me an invite, consider me there!
 
There are still plenty of places to fly, so enjoy the hobby and get out there! For starters, try flying at the scenic overlooks near you. On the Benicia side, that elevated scenic overlook offers views of the bridge, the train trestle, and the various cargo ships dropping off hundreds of new cars. The scenic viewpoint on the southern end of the Carquinez Bridge is a great spot, too, especially at sunset.

If you haven’t flown around Mare Island, it’s a pretty drone-friendly place these days. From its remote northern end near the Mare Island Bridge, the shipyard with boats under repair, ferries docked and various cranes, to the vacant Victorian buildings...there’s always plenty to see there.

I could list many other places, but the bottom line is there are many places to fly. I do my research with Kittyhawk and Google Earth. I see an allowable flying spot, research online for any local or regional prohibitions, check it on Google Earth including Streetview, then drive out and try out a battery or two.

Welcome to the forum and to the hobby! We got a few members together to fly at Treasure Island in July, so we should probably try somewhere again soon.
let me know if you’d be interested.
I took your advice and all I can say is, WOW!!! I went to the Benecia Waterfron this morning. Talk about wide open spaces. The area to fly in was amazing! I chased trains and boats. Dodged some birds as well. The wind was strong but my drone was stronger. LoL... Thanks for the advice.
 
Lycus Tech Mavic Air 3 Case

DJI Drone Deals

New Threads

Forum statistics

Threads
129,954
Messages
1,547,846
Members
159,017
Latest member
Andrei O