The National Park Service confirms the 67-year-old man was trying to get to his stranded dog, which had made its way part way down a cliff, just west of Skyline Drive in Daly City.
But then he slipped and fell as many as 500 feet to his death.
Firefighters had to race to beat the high tide to get to the man, but it was too late.
While a California Highway Patrol helicopter lifted firefighters and the man's body from the area, his family members arrived to retrieve the dogs and console one another, clearly devastated by what had happened.
The area is just south of Thornton Beach and west of Daly City's Palisades Park, a popular area for dog walkers and families, but also one that can be as dangerous as it is beautiful.
"Stay on the trails, especially I mean the ice plants will be slippery with the moisture," said Rath Skallion. "That's why I can see someone slipping on the edge."
The CHP helicopter with the man's body touched down in a parking lot near Thornton Beach and the body was then transferred to a San Mateo County Coroner's van.
The Park Service warns people not to try to retrieve stranded dogs by themselves, saying the dog often survives, while the person might not.