San Diego has about 70 miles of beaches and thousands of miles of hiking trails. One hike that we do infrequently is what we refer to as “The Naked Trail.” This is something we do NOT do with the kids because: 1) it is fairly strenuous and 2) along the way you are likely to see some people sans clothes as this passes by the entrance to San Diego’s clothing optional Black’s Beach. Nevertheless, this is a great hike, near UCSD and many prime San Diego hotels in the UTC/La Jolla area. These are some of the best clifftop views in San Diego! So welcome to San Diego Hikes guide to the Naked Trail.
Starting Point: Scripps Coastal Reserve, 9400 La Jolla Farms Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037
Length: 4.3 miles
Elevation: 500 ft gain and loss
For this hike we start on La Jolla Farms Rd at the Scripps Coastal Reserve. This reserve is part of the University of California Natural Reserve System and the flat half-mile trail on this part, called the “Knoll,” is worth a visit in its own right. This area is 400 feet above Black’s Beach and is very kid friendly. The entrance is found on La Jolla Farms Rd about a quarter mile down from the intersection with La Jolla Shores Dr. There is plenty of 2 hour parking on the road across from the Knoll and this is plenty of time for our hike which is less than an hour and a half. However, if you plan to stop for food, drinks, note that the parking police patrol this area quite often.
The first thing you will notice is that this is not a low rent neighborhood. In fact many of these houses are eight-figure homes, some of the most expensive in the country. For those interested in house envy this hike is nirvana. The reserve entrance is right next to 9402 La Jolla Farms Rd and is clearly marked by a fence and a sign going over the many rules. This includes a sign-in sheet at the start of the half-mile loop.
The loop is clearly marked with many signs describing the various plants, wildlife and geological features. The main concern seems to be following off the cliffs to the beach 400 feet below. While parents with young kids will want to watch them the usual problem occurs with teenagers and young adults venture out on the cliffs and get stuck. Our biggest issue is always looking for rattlesnakes which we have encountered multiple times hiking through San Diego. The trail around the loop gets very narrow in places and that is where you must take care for the rattlers.
Walking the loop can easily be done in 10 minutes but if you are into native plans and scenery you will likely stop fairly often. This is California native plants which means much of the year it will be brown. Spring after a heavy rain is the best time for plant lovers to visit. But the scenery makes this walk a great short trip anytime. As mentioned real estate is a big attraction and the mansion at the end of the bluff tends to draw the most awe as it is a 51,000 square foot monster that Zillow currently values at $44 million. On the hike you will view this house from multiple angles as the road beside that house will be the next stop.
After finishing the loop you will be deposited where you started on La Jolla Farms Rd. From this point you are going to walk a half mile north to the intersection with Black Gold Rd where on your left is the steep road leading down to the beach. This road is part of the Coastal Reserve and you see signs warning you to keep out. Ignore those as they are for vehicles and not us hikers.
The road down to the beach is a very steep half-mile climb. At the bottom there is a full set of rest rooms. If you are traveling with children you could in theory do the half-mile loop, walk a half mile down the flat road and from that point walk down to the beach and back (a mile) plus another half mile back to the car for a 2.5 mile walk. There are no nude people on this section but personally our kids would kill us because it is a very steep climb back up.
At the end of the road you are now on the beach with bluffs towering about 400 feet overhead. Here you simply start walking north along the ocean for about .8 miles or until you start seeing naked people. In reality we are just walking to the start of Black’s Beach and there probably will not be that many people in the buff, especially October through April. Most people will be fully clothed hikers, joggers, surfers and tourists who have no intention of getting naked but want to see what it is all about.
Anyways right where Black Beach starts is where we want to head up the bluff. The trail is clearly marked at .8 miles up the beach from the road we walked down. If you want to see Black’s Beach in all its naked glory feel free to keep going north for a half mile or so and loop back to the trail up. You may see people climbing other trails up the bluff but this is not recommended. The trail we take up is hard enough! One trail that is another way down is the Ho Chi Minh Trail where people rappel down a rope to the beach.
The trail from Black’s Beach climbs almost 400 feet to the Glider Port. It consists of rough steps that are prone to washing away after heavy rains. These steps are uneven and this climb can be a real quad workout. Trust us if you haven’t been working your quads and don’t want to have several sore days take your time. There are many places to stop and enjoy the view. Surprisingly you will often see many small children and people in flip-flops or barefeet. We recommend only doing this walk with a sturdy pair of shoes and have never done this with kids because it is a strenuous climb (the potential nudity is only the secondary reason).
Luckily the top of the bluff is both a great rest stop and a wonderful free San Diego attraction in its own right, the Torrey Pines Gliderport. The Gliderport has its own cafe, plenty of places to sit and often a chance to watch gliders in action flying above the cliffs. Rest up and when you are ready to continue head through the parking lot to the cul-de-sac which is the start of Torrey Pines Scenic Drive.
Walk up the sidewalk on Torrey Pines Scenic Drive until it ends at Torrey Pines Road. At this point you will see another small cafe on your left, if you need more refreshments. Turn right on Torrey Pines Rd, which is a very busy thoroughfare. Luckily there is no need to cross any major intersections, the sidewalk is wide and the road is fairly interesting as far as these things go. There are several places you can stop for side detours.
To your right is the Salk Institute. This was founded by Jonas Salk, famed for creating the polio vaccine, in 1960. It is noted as not only a leading research institution but also for its architecture. Science lectures and architecture tours are available. As you continue down the road you will be passing many expensive gated communities on your right and the University of California, San Diego on your left. Right past the Salk Institute you will pass the final potential watering hole, Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa home of the Mustangs & Burros restaurant. We have never been but the word we have heard is they have a nice patio with good albeit expensive food.
Past the hotel it is only a short distance to the intersection with La Jolla Shores Road. Make a right than an immediate right onto La Jolla Farms Rd. From there it is a short walk to where we started at Scripps Coastal Reserve. Total distance is a little over 4 miles (4.3 miles to be exact) and elevation gain/loss is about 400 feet each. If you are in really good job and moving fast this hike can be done in an hour. We like to budget at least an hour and a half and probably two hours. Of course, it can be done in reverse and if you wanted to spend more than two hours there is plenty of free parking at the Gliderport.
Overall this hike is more strenuous than our similar 4-mile Torrey Pines State Park hike. The potential nudity makes it off limit for kids and the squeamish but that can often be avoided by going in the winter and really most tourists will find Black’s Beach very anti-climatic. If this isn’t enough for you look for our 8-mile hike that combines this hike with Torrey Pines State Park.
For some other hikes in the area see these articles:
Our classic 4-mile Torrey Pines hike