Top Coastal Hikes in San Diego
One of San Diego’s biggest attraction is our gorgeous beaches, and rightfully so! California’s coastline as a whole is both diverse and stunning. How lucky we are to get to live in such a beautiful state.
Lounging on the golden sand is a lovely past time for many, but San Diego also has a ton of exciting hikes and exploratory opportunities along the coast. Whether you’re looking for serious adventure or safe fun with the entire family, we have you covered! Below is our list of the top coastal hikes in San Diego!
TIP: After this article, make sure to check out our list of the TOP HIDDEN CAVES OF SAN DIEGO!
Annie’s Canyon is a must-visit spot for the true adventurers. There are secret caves and footsteps carved out of the delicate sandstone everywhere.
Since opening this area to the public, most of the more dangerous parts have been closed off. You could have gotten seriously injured, fall, slide to your death, hit a soft-spot on the edge and have it collapse, etc.
Overall, I am happy that this spot is now public. People were destroying these ancient slot canyons with graffiti, which then goes directly to the water sources nearby after a good rain. I wish we could all be more sensitive to nature. On the flip side of this spot being public, there are now a lot more people doing the trail.
Although the house is no trespassing, the entire hike and perimeter of the home are open to the public. This is a fun hike through a canyon with stunning views. The house is just south of Black’s Beach.
Keep your eyes peeled during the hike down. We spotted some shallow hand-carved caves in the sandstone. They are nothing more than a quick stop-by, but still cool nonetheless.
La Jolla’s Caves, Coves & Tidepools
La Jolla’s coast is large so you will probably need multiple trips to explore it all. It is amazing how many new opportunities sprout up when the tide goes down though.
Black’s Beach is San Diego’s exclusive clothing-optional beach on the cusp of Torrey Pines and La Jolla. The hike to get down here is rigorous but extremely scenic. This is also a prime surf spot, due to a submarine canyon funneling powerful swells. This can also be a very dangerous spot for swimmers so be careful!
Cabrillo National Monument
If you find it, come prepared with proper safety gear, good traction shoes, flashlight and candles to light the hallways! There was a draft the day we went so our candles kept blowing out. There are dangerous areas where you could fall into the water or back down to the bottom of the cave. Be very careful.
Other than that, it’s like San Diego’s own little Goonie’s cave! There are multiple hallways that have been carved out with candle holders for the smugglers to see their way through. It sure is a trip to know this little secret is right below an area that thousands of people walk over monthly!
Carlsbad has an extremely photogenic coastline with a few tiny caves to add some foreground to your photographs. We originally visited Cerezo Bluffs in search of a cave called Sarah’s Cavern. I’m not positive we found it but it did look similar to the photos we saw online! Please note, the cliffs are unstable and there has been a collapse killing several people since we visited this spot. Regardless, you can still appreciate nature’s beauty from a safe distance.
Coronado Sand Dune’s Secret Message
If you’ve ever visited the Hotel Del Coronado before and walked along the shoreline, you have probably noticed the immense sand dunes that reside just north of the hotel. These dunes are like their own little land when you’re inside. Kids like to create mazes out of them and joggers use them for endurance. What you may not know is that they actually spell out a secret message!
Del Mar River Path Phase 2
The River Path Del Mar Phase 2 is actually part of a much larger project. Eventually, this will be part of a 70 mile trail system that connects Del Mar all the way to Volcan Mountain in Julian known as the Coast to Crest trail. There are already many trails you can take throughout it to get an idea of what it’s like.
The River path has trails that go in both directions of the parking lot, each being about a quarter mile hike. The trail heading east will lead you to a beautiful lookout of the San Dieguito lagoon. The trail heading east will lead you to a small watering hole with a bridge that connects to Del Mar Dog Beach.
The structure once housed an electric box for a light at the end of the jetty that served to warn boats of the jetty’s location. It also helped guide them in as this area can get quite foggy at night. Before this structure was put in, there were at least a handful of accidents and capsized boats.
I have been visiting the realization center for years now. Although it is a lot more popular than ever, and there are many other healing spaces in San Diego to visit, I still love to take friends who’ve never been here before. The coastal views are breath-taking and I love exploring Encinitas while out in this area.
This is a beach that I have been going to since I was a child. My grandpa would take my mom and her siblings there when they were children because of the strange rock formations.
This beach is for those who prefer seclusion, enjoy tide pools and the smaller details that the ocean shore can offer. There is an over-abundance of interesting things to do and see in this area and there is a little something for everyone.
Sunset Cliffs Caves & Coves
Many of the cool caves cannot be reached unless it’s super low tide. There is no way in them otherwise unless you swim and that’s obviously not safe. I recommend going on a low tide day and just walking along the shore. There are many caves to explore, including a couple quite large ones.
Torrey Pines State Reserve
There are many hiking trails inside the Torrey Pines State Reserve. The rare and endangered torrey pine grows here as well. Gawk at the stunning oceanic views and unique sandstone cliffs.
This is one of the largest sea caves in San Diego that can be accessed by foot making it one of our top coastal hikes to do! It is definitely one of the most impressive caves we have in my opinion. The cave has such a small time slot for when it can be visited though so make sure to check the tide chart for when it’s in the negatives.
None of the photos I took can do justice to the enormity of the cave. It is something that must be experienced in person. Along our journey we came across a few other sea caves.
The Secret Swings were originally put up by UCSD students. That does not surprise me as UCSD is filled with arty, hidden gems! We have also found unique “yeti huts” as I am calling them, which are built from the eucalyptus branches which have fallen all around.
Unfortunately the swings are at a constant battle with the city. The city tears them down, the people put them back up. For this reason, do not be surprised if the swings have been torn down if you visit. Give it another shot another day and they might already be back up!