Pacific Beach, one of the many terrific beach hikes described in the new "Hike San Diego Pocket Guide" by John McKinney. (photo Nathan Rupert)

San Diego is a beach-hiker’s dream! Meander Mission Bay, enjoy nature trails amidst the rare Torrey pines, explore the cliffs and coves of La Jolla. Walk the breathtaking Sunset Cliffs and beaches by the border and the bay from Border Field to Cabrillo National Monument to the Silver Strand.

Pacific Beach, one of the many terrific beach hikes described in the new "Hike San Diego Pocket Guide" by John McKinney. (photo Nathan Rupert)
Pacific Beach, one of the many terrific beach hikes described in the new “Hike San Diego Pocket Guide” by John McKinney. (photo Nathan Rupert)

Recently I enjoyed taking lots of hikes in San Diego and just completed my newest pocket guide HIKE San Diego, which describes a dozen beach hikes in addition to hikes in the hills, canyons, and other natural treasures in and around “America’s finest city.” HIKE San Diego: Best Day Hikes and Beach Walks ($9.95) and other Trailmaster Pocket Guides are available from REI and select retailers, Amazon, and TheTrailmaster.com.

San Diego offers miles and miles of easy beach walking with great stops along the way. The San Diego County shoreline extends some 76 miles up-coast from the Mexican border to the Orange County line near San Clemente.

Beaches near the border—Border Field, Silver Strand, and Coronado—are wide sandy stretches on the west side of San Diego Bay. North of Mission Bay are wide Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, popular with young locals and visitors alike. Located a mere seven miles from downtown, Ocean Beach is a popular surf spot and also known for its “Dog Beach,” where dogs and their owners play at the shore of the sundown sea.

Cabrillo National Monument is a great place to experience the history of San Diego Bay, observe the considerable ship traffic, and check out awesome tide pools. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is the best place in San Diego for sunsets.

Enjoy a breathtaking hike atop the dramatic cliffs of La Jolla on Coast Walk Trail.
Enjoy a breathtaking hike atop the dramatic cliffs of La Jolla on Coast Walk Trail.

From Point Loma to La Jolla, rocks and reefs carve the oceanfront into a series of pocket beaches, dramatically altering waves and currents so that a few minutes of walking can transport you from a safe swimming area to a paradise for surfers to a frothy wave-swept cauldron. World-famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography is located La Jolla. Black’s Beach, one of San Diego’s most beautiful and remote strands, is a great place to hike—provided you don’t mind walking across a nude beach.

But wait, there’s more! San Diego’s North County is a shoreline of sandstone bluffs broken up by scattered lagoons. On the bluffs south of Del Mar grow the rare Torrey pines.

Descend a steep trail from Torrey Pines Glider Port to famed Blacks Beach
Descend a steep trail from Torrey Pines Glider Port to famed Blacks Beach

Most of the hikes along San Diego’s shores are on the California Coastal Trail. You might not spot many signs for the trail, but know that you’re walking part of something wonderful that’s part dream/part reality: a statewide path that leads along the beaches and bluffs of the state from San Diego to the Oregon border.