The closest beach to our house also happens to be a great place to hike. Torrey Pines State Beach is right next to the Torrey Pines State Reserve and we hike this area several times a year and have posted some family friendly hiking guides. Twice a year or so I like to do a more strenuous hike in this area. I have developed an 8-mile trek that takes about 2 and a half hours. This is definitely not for kids because a stretch of it goes past Black’s Beach, a famous clothing optional area of San Diego. This hike can be done year round, but be aware if you go between April and October you may see some naked people. If you do not mind, that read ahead for San Diego Hikes guide to hiking from Torrey Pines to Black’s Beach.
Starting Point: South Beach Lot, Torrey Pines State Beach
Elevation: 300 ft gain and loss
The only conditions you should be aware of are rain and high tides. During, and a few days after, it rains this trail is likely to be closed. Also during a high tide you may get wet. We have hiked in tides of 5 to 6 feet but we take our shoes off. Check a tide chart such as this one and make sure the tide is less than 4 feet. The lower the better because at low tide you can walk out on the rocks at the beach.
Normally we park in the South Beach reserve entrance. Our house is 15 minutes away so we invest in an annual California State park pass. This pass costs $195 a year and allows access to almost all state parks. Regular parking at Torrey Pines ranges from $10-20 (higher on weekends and summer) so this pass is only worth it if you are going to be visiting the parks 15 or more times a year. If you don’t want to pay to park there is some free parking on the PCH road just north of the entrance. That parking fills up fast and, if you don’t mind an extra walk, free parking is usually available on Carmel Valley Road right by the entrance to Torrey Pines State Beach. If you park there it is about an extra mile walk along the beach to the “official” start of our walk.
The second option is to park at the other end of our hike, at the Torrey Pines Gliderport. There is plenty of free parking here. If you choose to do the hike this way you will pick up the trail at the gliderport and follow along our guide. The only difference is when you hit the beach you will turn left towards Flat Rock and head back towards Black’s Beach following the first part of our hike. In our guide, we turn right near the end to get back to the South Beach parking lot. If you choose to do it from the gliderport it is about a mile shorter (7 miles).
Assuming you parked in the Torrey Pines South Beach parking lot the hike starts right along the beach. Simply walk along the sand for about 3 miles. After about a mile you will see stairs leading down to the beach. You will be coming down these stairs on the last mile back, For now, you want to head up the narrow ledge that takes you around the big rock at the foot of the stairs. This is Flat Rock and at low tides you can climb on it. On the other side of Flat Rock, you will continue another 2 miles down the beach. If it is a warm sunny day you may start noticing naked people. You are in Black’s Beach, a clothing optional part of Torrey Pines State Beach.
Once you get to the volleyball courts you will see the trail that leads up the cliff. Now comes the hardest part of the walk, the 300 foot climb up to the Gliderport. It is really not that bad, but the uneven stairs will burn your quads if you haven’t given them a recent workout. The views are awesome and you end up by the Cliffhanger Cafe by the Gliderport. If it is open this is a great place for a sandwich or light refreshment. Sandwiches go for about $9.
When you are done at the Gliderport you will walk along Torrey Pines Scenic Dr until it hits Torrey Pines Road. At this point you will head along a fairly busy road for about 2 miles. Turn left on Torrey Pines Rd and head a short distance until it meets Genesee where you make another left to continue on Torrey Pines. You will be walking along the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course. Once you pass the Hilton resort you will come to the Lodge at Torrey Pines, the resort for the golf course. The Grill here is a great refreshment stop and is noted for their hamburgers. Be sure and read our review.
Past the Lodge you will walk along the driving range. At the end of the driving range, the trail bears off to the left back into Torrey Pines State Reserve. This is a paved road but only used by official park vehicles. Walk along this road until you come to a parking lot that includes the visitor’s center and restrooms. There are split off trails along the way but they have been closed for sometime for maintenance. The visitor’s center has some nice displays and is fun to visit with kids.
By the restrooms and parking lot you are going to see signs for the Beach Trail. This trail will take you down to Flat Rock. On the way you pass Red Butte, a very popular photo spot. You can also take side trails out and back to Yucca and/or Razor Points. This will add about a mile to the hike. When you get to the beach you should recognize where you started. Turn right and it is about a mile back to the parking lot. If you parked at the Gliderpoint you will want to turn left and follow the trail down Black’s Beach, ending the hike by climbing the cliff.
Overall this is a great long hike with plenty of places to stop and refresh. Make sure you have good socks and shoes as the uneven surfaces can easily wear blisters. Much of the walk is along the beach and conditions can vary significantly. Sometimes it can be quite rocky while other times it is fairly smooth sand.
For shorter walks be sure and see some of our other hiking guides for Torrey Pines.
For shorter hikes that incorporate some of this route see:
Our 4-mile walk through Black’s Beach
Our classic 4-mile Torrey Pines hike