Black’s Beach: Our guide to La Jolla’s littoral lore

With gorgeous scenery and the feeling you’re protected from the bustle behind the bluffs, Black’s Beach in La Jolla has inspired many a trek down to its iconic shoreline.

Whether you’re planning your own visit or digging for more info on the storied beach, read on for our best tips:

Why Black’s Beach?

Black’s Beach stretches for two miles below 300-foot cliffs, owned and managed by two entities.

The northern portion of the beach belongs to the California Department of Parks and Recreation; the southern portion is owned by the city of San Diego.

The beach is officially known as Torrey Pines State Beach and Torrey Pines City Beach. The longstanding Black’s Beach name is for late La Jolla resident William H. Black and his family.

What to do at Black’s Beach

If surfing is your vibe, you’ll want to try the surge of breaks unique to Black’s Beach, fueled by the depths of the underwater canyon just offshore. But make sure you’ve got the skills – the waves here are only for the advanced and adventurous.

For those out of the water, Black’s Beach is a prime spot for walking, sitting and watching the waves along the shore. Crowds are rare if ever, and a similar commune with nature is hard to find elsewhere in the region.

Black’s Beach is also listed on AllTrail’s roundup of best birdwatching sites; even those who aren’t avid birders will enjoy spotting several birds beyond the ubiquitous gull, from the red-tailed hawk and blue heron to the sanderling, cormorant and more.

And yes, there’s a clothing-optional element: the state park side allows nudity, though not everyone takes it off.

How to get to Black’s Beach

The lack of crowds is partly because Black’s Beach is difficult to access compared with nearby beaches; there are also no bathrooms, showers or other such amenities or lifeguard stations (though lifeguards do patrol the beach regularly).

There is one road down to the beach, gated against vehicles (unless you’ve got a rare, exclusive key!) but open to foot traffic. 

There are a few trails down to the beach; the most-traveled access route to Black’s Beach is from the Torrey Pines Gliderport, which offers free parking on a dirt lot. A designated trail leads the way down to the beach.

For well-maintained, clear trails, start at the top of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and hike down.

Seeking a flatter route? Wait for a low tide and park at either the reserve’s paid parking lot (at Torrey Pines State Beach) and walk two miles south, or for free at La Jolla Shores and walk three miles north.

Regardless of how you access Black’s Beach, beware: the lifeguards and park rangers aren’t always present, and the strong rip currents can create a hazard for careless visitors.

The bluffs above are sensitive and prone to collapse due to erosion, prompting the occasional cliff rescue by San Diego Fire-Rescue staff. Tread carefully! 

In the neighborhood

If you head to Black’s Beach via the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, take in the flora native to San Diego, along with the Torrey pine, which grows in only two places in the world including La Jolla. 

Once you’re down at the beach, walk a while south and look up to take in some of the breathtaking real estate La Jolla is known for, including one of the more unique structures, the Mushroom House.

Those hungry after visiting Black’s Beach can hit the Cliffhanger cafe at the Gliderport for a casual meal with a view of paragliders floating above the bluffs, or Mustangs & Burros at the Estancia La Jolla hotel and Spa for a more upscale experience.

Who was William H. Black?

William H. Black, born in Texas in 1898, lived in San Diego in the 1920s and returned in 1937 with his wife, Ruth, and their young family.

The Blacks purchased a house on Cave Street in 1940, and in 1947 they bought 248 acres of unimproved blufftop land, above what is now Black’s Beach, developing it into a thoroughbred horse breeding and training facility they called La Jolla Farms.

The land was later subdivided and remains known as the Farms today. 

The Blacks built their home on the Farms as well, and lived in the house from 1952 to 1967, selling it to the UC Regents as part of a larger deal begun in 1966 between the Regents and Black and his son, William F. Black, in which 132 acres of land were sold to the UC system. 

William H. Black died in 1967; William F. Black followed in his father’s influential footsteps, becoming active in local philanthropy endeavors with organizations including the San Diego Museum of Art, Scripps Clinic and the San Diego Foundation.

William F. also kept up his involvement in the San Diego financial sector, having co-founded the Bank of La Jolla in 1963 and later running La Jolla Properties Inc. and Landowners Oil Assoc.

He also helped the San Diego Stadium Authority convince Major League Baseball to bring a team – eventually the Padres – here in 1967. 

William F. Black died in 2019.

Black’s Beach was officially renamed as Torrey Pines in 1980, though the newer name has never been adopted locally.

Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.
Picture of Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto

Elisabeth Frausto has been reporting on and writing about La Jolla since 2019. With dozens of local and state journalism awards to her name, Elisabeth knows the industry as well as she knows her community. When she’s not covering all things 92037, you’ll find her with coffee in hand staring at the sea.

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