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Black’s Beach, San Diego

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San Diego’s Black’s Beach is about two miles of dark sand from the eroding cliffs located near Torrey Pines in La Jolla, which is the north suburbs of San Diego, California. And this is one of the hardest beaches to access. But if you are in the area and want to see big surf (probably the biggest in Southern California), then Black’s Beach is worth a visit.

Best known as one of the largest natural beaches in the USA, Black’s was the hangout for many until it was prohibited at least on property owned by the city. Still, there’s a mile stretch that is considered optional for those who are not shy.

The Cliffs Above Blacks BeachThree things (other than bold people) are great to see at Black’s Beach. First of all the surfers. If you get here early in the morning you’ll see them in the water with wetsuits, waiting for that big breaking wave. Take a video camera as the action is worth recording. You can easily stop at a local fast food place, grab some breakfast and coffee and make your way to watch from the top of the 300 foot cliffs looking over the beach.

How to Access Black’s Beach

If you want to get down to the beach, the best access is by the small trail that runs from the Gliderport. Find the Torrey Pines Gliderport and then the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (Salk’s mansion is not too far from here). Between these points you’ll be able to walk down on the trail to the beach. The city of San Diego put a sign there saying “Do Not Use” but this trail is well maintained by beach enthusiast. Free parking in the dirt lot at the Gliderport (see photo).

Trail to Black's Beach, San DiegoThe city of San Diego says that the safest access is from the adjacent beaches north and south, and this is probably true and may be time consuming but know that access by beach may be obstructed by high tides. Keep an eye out for the tide.

The next thing you’ll want to watch on your visit to Black’s Beach are the amazing gliders. Watch for everything from models to actual hang gliders, paragliders with motors and sailplanes take to the skies. Here many famous aviators have flown to soar around the cliffs for the spectacular view.

Greats like Charles Lindbergh and Paul MacCready have flown here. Sometimes the sky is literally abuzz with these wonderful flying machines. One can stand on the top of the cliff, close your eyes, open slowly as you feel the breeze in your eyes and see the old flying machines making their way over the beach.

Surfers at Black's Beach, San DiegoThen finally you don’t want to miss the spectacular view from the top of the cliffs. From here, you can see the full view of the majestic Pacific Ocean and watch those huge, heavy waves come in from miles offshore and then slowly rise as they meet the underwater canyon and form the swell that has all the surfers dotting the surface for that few square miles of anticipation. When it happens, it is beauty and sweetness. From your vantage point you can also see Pacific dolphin dancing in the surf. They stay right along shore during their three feeding times – just about the same time humans eat. So make sure you have your camera ready for that, too.

And yes, some of you will brave the cliff (it can be perilous, and some have fallen to their death here), and get down to the beach itself. There are a myriad of stingrays that frequent the shallows here so our advice is to make sure when you are walking in the shallows to shuffle your feet so you don’t step on top of the creatures and they use that barb on their tail to let you know you’ve just squashed them! That is painful and remember, it’s a long hike back up to the car!

Black’s Beach, San Diego – Beach Index:

  • Dark sand from the surrounding cliffs, hard packed
  • Treacherous access – high cliffs or access from the sides which high tide takes out
  • Spectacular views from the cliff
  • Named after the Black family who had a horse farm that overlooked the Pacific
  • Many hotels/restaurants in the area
  • Near Torrey Pines State Reserve
  • No facilities/limited lifeguards
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