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Torrey Pines State Beach

Torrey Pines Beach Trail

From Scripps Pier to Torrey Pines State Beach is 10 miles round trip

This beach hike begins at Scripps Pier, passes along Torrey Pines City Beach, known locally as Black’s Beach, once swimsuit-optional, now enforced suits-only. After walking below some spectacular cliffs and along Torrey Pines State Beach, you’ll arrive at Torrey Pines State Reserve, home to the rare and revered Pinus torreyana. Plan your hike for low tide.

Occupying a spectacular perch above Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the wide blue Pacific, the Birch Aquarium offers a great introduction to the wonders of the deep and insights into the many global research projects conducted by the institution. Check it out before or after your hike.

The aquarium features a Hall of Fishes with dozens of tanks. My favorite is the Hall of Oceanography, with well-crafted displays of the history of oceanographic sciences. Kids love the demonstration tidepool and touch-tanks.

Directions to trailhead: Exit Interstate 5 on La Jolla Village Drive, traveling west past UC San Diego to North Torrey Pines Road. Turn right, then make a left on La Jolla Shores Drive, follow it to the Aquarium turnoff on your right. Metered street parking is sparse, available on weekends only. Additional parking is available in the Aquarium parking lot up the hill with the purchase of a day permit.

The hike: As you look south from Scripps Pier, you’ll see long and flat La Jolla Shores Beach, a wide expanse of white sand where the water deepens gradually. This is a family beach, popular during the summer with swimmers.

Walking north, the going it rocky at first; the surf really kicks up around Scripps Pier. Soon the beach widens, growing more sandy, and the spectacular curry-colored cliffs grow higher and higher.

A glider port once stood atop the bluffs. Manned fixed-wing gliders were pulled into the air, and they rode the currents created by onshore breezes rising up as they meet the cliffs. Nowadays, hang-gliders leap off the cliffs and, unless the wind shifts, come to a soft landing on the beach below.

The 300-foot cliffs tower over Black’s Beach, named for William Black, Sr., the oil millionaire who owned and developed most of the land on the cliffs. During the 1970s, Black’s Beach enjoyed fleeting notoriety as the first and only public beach in the country on which nudity was legal. Called “a noble experiment” by sun worshipers and “a terrible fiasco” by the more inhibited, the clothing- optional zone was defeated at the polls.

After passing a few more handsome bluffs, you’ll spot a distinct outcropping called Flat Rock. Here you may join a bluff trail that leads to Torrey Pines State Reserve.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at