The half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles or 21.1 km is a popular distance with a range of runners.
This is because it offers runners a big step up from 10k events but doesn’t take as much commitment as completing the full marathon distance.
Aiming to finish the half-marathon in under 90 minutes is something most runners strive to achieve.
If you aim for this target too, a Californian half-marathon could be perfect for you.
There is a wide range of excellent half-marathon races available in California, most of which take you along the state’s expansive stunning coastline and through the vibrant city streets.
There are even half-marathons that venture inland through the deserts and trails of the Golden State.
To give you a better idea, and hopefully help you find your next race, we’ve compiled a list of the half-marathons on offer in California.
We’ll look at the biggest events with 20,000 participants and other races that are part of larger festivals.
Let’s get straight to it!
- Location: Angel Island State Park
- Date: April 9th
The first half marathon on our list takes place on Angel Island S.P., California.
Running for the last 5 years, this event gives runners of all abilities the chance to take part in an entertaining day with lots of running possibilities.
While the half marathon is considered to be the main event, runners also enjoy the 10k, 12k, and 25k races.
Each race offers some of the most amazing scenery you can experience in the Bay Area.
The half marathon will take you along the natural island, starting at Ayala Cove.
From here, you will head southeast along the main road that encompasses the entire island.
Most of the race route is flat until you come to the Sunset Trail where you’ll come face to face with some tough hills that will lead to the top of Mount Livermore.
The route will eventually bring you back to Ayala Cove where you will do the route one more time.
- Location: La Jolla
- Date: April 16th
Attracting upwards of 5,000 runners every year, the La Jolla half marathon runs for its 39th year in 2022.
Considered to be one of the most scenic routes in California, this half marathon stretches along Southern California’s stunning coastline, the city streets, and through a range of parks like Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
On race day, runners taking part in the half marathon or 5k will be challenged with several serious hills.
While these hills are pretty tough, the scenic views and the sea breeze from the top are well worth the struggle.
Starting north of La Jolla near Del Mar Fairgrounds, the point-to-point race takes runners along paved city streets, passing by key attractions before you head through Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Other sights along the way include the Coast Boulevard, Camino Del Mar, and Jimmy Durante Boulevard.
- Location: Bay Bridge, Oakland
- Date: May 1st
The Bay Bridge marathon is the only half marathon in California that crosses the famous Bay Bridge.
Delivered by the Oakland Run Co. runners should be prepared for a challenging, yet extremely fun event that will give them exclusive access to one of California’s iconic landmarks.
Departing from West Oakland, runners will run along a wide path for a few miles before they reach the bridge path.
As runners make their way along the bridge and towards Treasure Island, they will enjoy a sweeping view of Alcatraz, The Golden Gate Bridge, and the ever-changing San Francisco skyline.
The beauty of this half-marathon has to be the laid-back vibes and thrill factor.
This race isn’t all about the best times, it’s also about experiencing the local communities and trying something new while you’re there.
Relatively flat, this is also a great run for runners who want an easier challenge.
- Location: Tarzana
- Date: June 11th
Known as the “Friendliest Race in L.A.” this half marathon is a popular trail race that takes place on the historic Mulholland fire road.
While it may be the friendliest race, it certainly isn’t the easiest.
With the Santa Monica Mountains in the backdrop, the half marathon has plenty of hills and steep inclines that will truly get the blood pumping and muscles aching.
Established in 2002, the race offers a perfectly competitive environment for serious athletes and a very friendly environment for first-timers looking to experience a 21.5k race.
Runners are treated to a very scenic trail often lined with spring foliage.
They will also be greeted with impressive views of the valley and the Pacific Ocean.
Location: San Francisco
Date: 23rd – 24th July
There isn’t too much to say about the San Francisco half marathon other than it offers runners the perfect opportunity to explore the city while completing an amazing achievement.
Unlike other half marathons, this popular race gives you two-course options.
Seen as though the marathon takes place on the same day, half marathon runners have the choice between the first half or second half of the full course race.
Both races start in different places so the sights you see along the way will vary.
One thing that is the same though is the roads you run on.
Both routes follow smooth paved roads that feature plenty of up and down sections.
There’s nothing too difficult though if you’re an experienced runner.
Depending on which race you choose, you can expect to see Crissy Field, Golden Gate State Park, The Mission District, Coit Tower, and AT&T Park.
Date: August 6th
As you can probably tell from the name, the Hell Of A Half Marathon in Exeter isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Experienced runners who want a challenge will love running in the foothills of Sierra Nevadas in the middle of August.
Not only are there two extreme hills to conquer, but runners must also battle the intense heat.
This half marathon features a looped course that begins next to Exeter’s Veteran Memorial Park.
The route takes runners through downtown and along Myers Avenue. From here, runners are faced with their first climb up Rocky Hill.
After making your way down Rocky Hill, you will soon be greeted with your second hill climb at Rocky Hill Drive.
You will then return to the city where you can claim your success.
Location: Calero County Park
Date: September 17th
Starting at Calero County Park, this single trail route has everything a runner could possibly want.
There are scenic views, challenging hills, entertaining dirt tracks, and plenty of other runners to engage with.
Every year, the South Hills Single Track Trail Run consists of 7 different races, ranging from a short 5k to an extreme 50k full marathon.
One of these 7 races is the challenging, yet easily doable half marathon.
Every race starts at 8 am and quickly takes you up into the hills and along dirt paths.
Luckily, there are plenty of aid stations along the way where you can refuel before continuing to smash your run.
With a 10-hour time limit, the best thing about this race is that you can take as long as you need.
If you’re taking part in your first half marathon this makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.
The race is also quite easy as the whole track is clearly marked out with ribbons and signs.
Date: October 1st
Every year, the California Classic Half Marathon hosts 2,000 runners to take part in the half marathon, 5k, and 10k.
Full of fun and laughter, this marathon is great for all levels of runners as it is relatively flat and takes you through some of Fresno’s best locations.
One of the best parts of the half marathon in Fresno is when runners pass through Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo.
Runners always enjoy making their way past the Sea Lion Cove and African Adventure where various animals can be seen.
After passing through the zoo, runners make their way to Chukchansi Stadium where the finish line can be found.
An awesome touch is how the race actually finishes next to the stadium’s home plate.
Location: San Francisco
Date: November 6th
Once known as the Sofi Golden Gate Half Marathon, the Golden Gate Half Marathon in 2022 still uses the very same course that was used in 2002.
The race starts and finishes at the Aquatic Park.
More than 3,700 runners every year take place in this event as it is mostly flat and fast.
Another reason most runners love this course is that it offers wonderful views of the city.
While runners are treated to views of the city skyline and landmarks like Muni Pier, running along the stunning Golden Gate Bridge has to be the best moment.
There are times when this race does get tricky as San Francisco is a very hilly city.
However, most runners will be more than capable of easily defeating every hill.
That concludes our list of half marathons that take place in California.
In all honesty, our list could have gone on and on, and we could have spoken about even more half marathons.
However, we hope you now have a very good understanding of the types of half marathons California has to offer.
The half marathons on our list are some of the most popular in California.
Despite varying massively in terms of where they take place and where the course takes you, every half marathon we have discussed ensures runners have an enjoyable and challenging experience.
All the races we have talked about also take place every year.
Now you’ve seen what’s available, why not look for the half marathon you want to try out.
We know you won’t be disappointed with any of the races we’ve listed!