The California Coastal Trail in San Diego
The California Coastal Trail is an evolving thru-trail that follows the entire coastline of California as close to the ocean as possible. Throughout its 1200 miles it uses trails, roads, sidewalks, and of course beaches to get folks from the border with Mexico to Oregon. It changes over time as trails are added and other factors force walkers and backpackers to get on and off the beaches along their trek.
The portion of the California Coastal Trail in San Diego County is fairly straight forward and luckily includes a lot of beach walking. We won’t try to detail every step of the path here, but we can give you the gist of it and you can accomplish this massive trail by doing it in pieces if so desired.
Here are the segments of the CCT in San Diego County from south to north.
South Imperial Beach to Coronado Beach (Beach Walk)
This segment starts north of the Tijuana River as it is usually too deep to cross (south of the river there’s a 1 mile beach walk starting at Border Field State Park). From just north of the river near South Imperial Beach you can walk on sand all the way to Coronado Beach for about 10 miles. Note that this passes through US Navy property north of Imperial Beach so heed any signs you encounter but from our experience they won’t hassle people walking at the water’s edge. From Coronado Beach the route gets complicated and requires a ferry ride to downtown San Diego.
San Diego to La Jolla (Streets & Beaches)
Due to San Diego Bay, the rugged cliffs of Point Loma, and large waterways at San Diego River and Mission Bay this segment is harder to describe. From the ferry landing in San Diego (Broadway Pier is easier) go north along N Harbor Dr. following sidewalks and paved bike paths that include The Embarcadero, Spanish Landing Trail, and Bessemer Path. These paths get you to Kellogg Beach from which you will cross over Point Loma to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Then you’ll walk along Sunset Cliffs Blvd and various other streets on the way to Ocean Beach (it is possible to walk a bluff trail from Santa Cruz Beach to Ocean Beach Pier). To get from Ocean Beach to South Mission Beach you need to cross over two large bridges, but after that it’s a pleasant beach walk up through Pacific Beach to the end near Tourmaline Surf Park.
La Jolla Coast Walk
The La Jolla segment starts at Linda Way Beach Access (just north of Tourmaline) and follows the closest streets to the ocean all the way to La Jolla Strand Beach. From there the California Coastal Trail is the same as the La Jolla Coast Walk which is on beaches and sandstone bluffs and a trail above La Jolla Caves. From there it’s a simple street walk to the next segment starting at La Jolla Shores.
La Jolla Shores to Oceanside Harbor (Beach Walk)
At low tide it is possible to walk on the sand for 26 miles from La Jolla Shores beach to Oceanside Harbor where the public beach ends. North of Oceanside the beaches are part of Navy Base Camp Pendleton and therefore off-limits. However a 26 mile sandy segment is pretty wonderful. This beach route takes you through Torrey Pines, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. To do it you’ll need to cross over several waterways by going over adjacent bridges on sidewalks, but in all cases these are easy. This long section can be broken up in so many ways. See our California beaches map to find ways to do that. Also, remember that there are places where the shoreline is all water at high tide so consult tide tables before you go.
Coastwalk California is the non-profit organization that pushes the evolution of the CCT. They have links and more details about the trail on their website.