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My Favorite Coastal Hikes in San Diego, CA

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

What a joy it is to hike in San Diego. The temperate climate and hilly terrain make it an interesting yet comfortable place to hike. Coastal hikes are extra special because of the sweeping views of the ocean. Hiking provides you a completely different experience when traveling. It can give you a historical perspective on how and why people live the way they do in a specific area. It also deepens your appreciation for the natural beauty of a place.

When hiking is in the plans, I bring a lightweight collapsible backpack with my survival essentials in it. Once, on a hike near my house, I got lost and my cell battery drained from using the GPS. Since then, I download the trail using All Trails Pro and I always carry the items pictured below, plus extra water and some packages of nuts.

Coronado Beach Hike

This 3.7 mile out and back trail starts at Avenida Lunar, south of the Hotel del Coronado and turns around at North Island Naval Air Station. You can walk directly on the wide sandy beach or the paved sidewalk. It is flat and has no shade. Make sure you wear sunscreen and a hat for sun protection. This is a fun hike. With lots of surfers and beach goers, the people watching is excellent. You walk past the stately Hotel del Coronado and beach cottages from humble to grand. Frequently, you will see military aircraft flyovers from the Naval Air Station. You can also see large cargo and military ships coming into San Diego Bay. The paved sidewalk can be very crowded on the weekend. If you are trying to maintain a steady pace, walking in the sand is a better option.

La Jolla Beach Trail

This 2.2 mile out and back trail offers great variety. It is partially a relatively flat sidewalk urban hike and partially a dirt trail with elevation changes. The entire trail has stunning ocean views, beautiful wildflowers and interesting wildlife.

Start at Coast Boulevard Park and head north past Wipeout Beach and the Life Guard Station. As you continue north you will go by Children's Beach. Most days there are dozens of seals and sea lions dozing lazily in the sun on Children's Beach.

You will continue north through Ellen Browning Scripps Park and walk past seal rock. If the waves are high enough you can see sea lions swimming in their peaks. As you follow the curve of the coast you will come to La Jolla Cove. Swimmers and snorkelers enter the Pacific Ocean here, in this protected cove. Pelicans, Seagulls and Royal Terns perch on the rocky cliffs surveying the water for food. It's fun to stop and browse the vendor selling tees and hoodies that benefit the sea life foundations.

As you continue along the bird covered rocky coast, you will come to the Cave Store and Sunny Jim's Cave. Just before the Cave Store, there are cafes that sell coffees and ice cream in case you need a refreshment. At this point the pathway changes from a paved sidewalk to a dirt trail. The Cave Store is the entrance to a century old smugglers tunnel that leads through the cliffs to Sunny Jim's Cave. During prohibition, bootleggers used this tunnel to bring in alcohol from Mexico. You can walk out onto the cliff and get panoramic views of La Jolla Shores and the Birch Aquarium and University of California San Diego. As you continue along the cliff path, you will see surfers, paddle boarders and kayakers exploring the caves and the sea life.

At Coast Road the trail ends and you head south taking in the gorgeous views from the south facing perspective.

Torrey Pines State - Beach Broken Hill Trail

Just north of La Jolla is Torrey Pines State Beach and Natural Reserve. The Natural Reserve protects one of the rarest pine trees, Pinus Torreyana, which the reserve is named after, as well as salt marshes and waterfowl refuges. Hikers wander through stands of pine trees, along high broken cliffs and deep sandstone ravines overlooking the ocean. There is an entrance fee to the Reserve based how populated it is that day. The fee ranges from $12 to $25.

We hiked Broken Hill Trail which starts from the parking lot at the top of the cliffs. It is a 3.3 mile moderate loop trail that can get very busy on the weekends.

This Hike starts with a walk through the pine stands on the headlands. During the spring this area is lush with wildflowers.

As you start walking down to the beach, you have great views of the sandstone cliffs.

For safety reasons, it is recommended that you only go onto the beach at lower tides. Part of the natural ecological process is for the cliffs to collapse into the ocean.

Throughout the hike the vistas are gorgeous.

After the steady climb up from the beach, you walk along the northern edge of Torrey Pines Golf Course.

As you head north to return to the parking lot, you walk along the Old Coast Highway. Originally paved in 1919, this roadway was the main connector between San Diego and Los Angeles, before the instate system was built.

Have you hiked any of these trails? Leave any insights you have in the comment section below.

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