Black’s Beach is infamous as San Diego’s nude beach. However, only about half the beach is clothing optional. If you know what you are doing it is possible to visit this scenic area without seeing any nudity. This overview of Black’s Beach describes 5 different access points, only one of which goes to the nude section.
Location: Multiple access points with central access at Torrey Pines Gliderport
Beach Type: Isolated and Scenic
Access: Steep climb down the cliffs, or long walk along beach
Parking: Free street parking
Good For: Swimming, Surfing, Scenery, Nude Sunbathing, Hiking
Not Good For: Families looking for a traditional beach day, people not in shape
It is amazing how many family-oriented guides to San Diego list Black’s Beach as a top option. We have never taken our kids here for several reasons, nudity being the least important of those reasons. The issues with Black’s Beach in terms of not necessarily being a family-friendly beach are:
- There are next to no facilities. If you have to go the bathroom you are pretty much out of luck (with one new exception).
- It is a long walk in and out. Unless you go at low tide you will either have to climb down 300-foot cliffs or walk in from several miles away.
- About half the beach is clothing optional and that would freak out our kids.
- The surf is pretty rough.
All that being said, Black’s Beach is a great area to visit. The scenery is awesome and for expert surfers, it is one of the best places around. This is a great place to hike and many of my hikes in the Torrey Pines area involve going through Black’s Beach.
Black’s Beach runs about 3.2 miles from near Scripps Pier in the south to Flat Rock Beach in the north. The northern 2 miles is part of Torrey Pines State Beach. The southern part is operated by the city of San Diego. Nudity is not tolerated in the city owned portion. Furthermore, the nudity ends about a half mile from the northern end. So basically only the central 1.5 miles or so is clothing optional.
As mentioned, the Black’s Beach area is great for hiking. Of course, much of this may involve seeing some nudity. In 2015, this area made national news when a group of Cub Scouts hiked through the area. One parent complained, but the other parents had no issue and the leader was cleared. I think this was because it was January, a time when there is generally next to no nudity.
The main trail to Black’s Beach from the Torrey Pines Gliderport will drop you right into the middle of the nude section. However, if you close your eyes and walk 100 yards south the nudity ends. This is strictly enforced. One time I saw 3 young girls topless 50 feet south Torrey Pines State Beach. Almost immediately a lifeguard came driving up in his truck and told the girls to either move north or get some clothes on.
So this is a guide to accessing Black’s Beach from 5 different locations. The only location that will take you directly to the clothing optional section is the main trail from Torrey Pines Gliderport. The other access points are a significant walk from any potential nudity.
Black’s Beach from Torrey Pines Gliderport
The Torrey Pines Gliderport is a great attraction in its own right. My kids love coming here to watch the gliders and climb around the area above the beach. If you look down 300 feet you might be able to spot some people who are not wearing clothes. However, without binoculars it is really hard to tell who is in their birthday suit.
The trail from the Gliderport to the beach below is a steep climb down about 300 feet. The sign at the top of the trail warns you this trail is dangerous and to “stay back.” These warnings are generally ignored, and the actual trail is well marked and not very hazardous. When portions of this trail get damaged due to rain storms, they are generally quickly repaired.
Of course, the harder part is climbing out. Personally, I find the uneven steps somewhat taxing. You may notice a much steeper section that goes from near the lifeguard stand at the top to near the end of the trail at the beach. I like to take this steeper trail on my way up. However, this is not necessarily recommended and because it is so steep I would not take it down (I have seen people go down this trail, but most only go up).
Fun Diego Family 360: Black’s Beach Trail
This is a short 11-second video shot on the above steep cliffside opposite the main trail
When you get to the bottom of the Torrey Pines Gliderport trail you will be at the start of the clothing optional section. As mentioned, Torrey Pines State Beach ends about a 100-yards south of the trail. So if you want to avoid nudity close your eyes and turn left to the south.
If you go right from the trail, Black’s Beach runs about 2 miles to the north. The 1.5 miles or so is the clothing optional section. However, about 2/3rd of people will be clothed, even in this section. As mentioned this is a very popular place for hiking and jogging.
It should also be noted that most of the co-ed section is in the first half-mile or so from the Torrey Pines Gliderport trail. This includes a popular volleyball area. Beyond that the crowds thin out until you get to the final half-mile or so of the nude section where the ratio is about 20-to-1 male.
Black’s Beach from Torrey Pines State Beach South
Torrey Pines State Beach South is one of our favorite areas to both go to the beach and also access our hikes at Torrey Pines Natural Reserve. It can also be used as an access point to Black’s Beach.
There is a charge for parking at Torrey Pines Natural Reserve. It varies based on season, day of the week, but it can be as high as $25. We invest in a California State Parking Pass which gets us in for free, but this pass costs $200 a year.
There are two access points to Black’s Beach from Torrey Pines Natural Reserve. From the south beach parking lot you can simply walk a mile along the beach until you get to Flat Rock. Flat Rock sticks out into the ocean and when you walk around the rock you will be on Black’s Beach. There should be no nudity on this section until you walk a further half-mile south.
If you park at the top of Torrey Pines Natural Reserve by the visitor’s center and hike down the Beach Trail you will come out right by Flat Rock. Black’s Beach is right around the rock, but the heart of the area is two miles south.
Note, you should check to make sure the tide is not too high before walking this route. Generally, as long as the tide is below 4 feet, you should be able to do this walk without getting wet.
Black’s Beach from Scripps Beach and Pier
The southern section of Black’s Beach is easier to reach, but only when the tide is fairly low. This involves parking in the free, but crowded, La Jolla Shores/Scripps Beach area. A short way past Scripps Pier is another rocky outcropping that is extremely popular for tidepools at low tide.
Climbing around the outcropping will put you on Black’s Beach right by the famous Mushroom House. This is a popular area both with families and with surfers. It is uncrowded and the clothing optional section is a mile to the north.
A few years ago, the city of San Diego added bathroom facilities to this area. The restrooms are located a somewhat steep walk above the beach along the service road used to reach this area. This service road is the fourth way to reach Black’s Beach.
For more on this area see our guide to La Jolla Shores and Scripps Beach.
Black’s Beach via Service Road
At the intersection of La Jolla Farms Road and Black Gold Road is a paved service road used by lifeguards and emergency vehicles to reach the beach. There is plenty of free parking along the road, but it is only for two hours.
The service road is pedestrian and only for authorized vehicles. It is a steep walk down the 300-foot cliffs. Near the bottom is the new restroom facilities which finally make this area somewhat family friendly. However, the walk out is brutal for kids and actually harder than climbing the Gliderport trail.
As mentioned, the trail comes out at the city beach area where no nudity is tolerated. It is about a half mile walk north to the Gliderport trail. If you drive a short way north on La Jolla Farms Rd. you will come to our final access point, Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Black’s Beach via Ho Chi Minh Trail
We have a complete guide to hiking Ho Chi Minh Trail that involves a loop going up the Gliderport Trail. However, if you simply go down and back up via Ho Chi Minh Trail you will avoid the clothing optional section which is about a quarter mile north of where the trail meets the beach. Once again, parking along La Jolla Farms Rd is usually plentiful and free.