Blacks Beach: 8 Things You Should Know
Blacks Beach lies along a beautiful stretch of the rocky La Jolla coastline. Positioned below the Torrey Pines Gliderport and just north of La Jolla Shores, locals have embraced it as a beloved surf spot.
It retains significant fame for its defining characteristic as a nude beach in San Diego!
Behind its more well-known qualities, however, lies a rich history and some pretty interesting facts. Here, we present a few things you may not know about this tucked-away spot!
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1. Blacks Beach is named after the Black Family
They moved to La Jolla in the late 1940s and bought roughly 248 acres on Torrey Pines cliffs alongside a canyon that led to the beach.
A dirt road for horses and buggies once traced the cliffs to what is now recognized as Torrey Pine State Park.
With Del Mar Fairgrounds in the works as a horse racing venue, the Blacks built a premier Thoroughbred farm and stables.
The horse farm never became as successful as they hoped, so the family sold the land several years later. The area was subdivided into a group of larger lots. To this day, it retains the same name: La Jolla Farms.
2. Surfers didn’t discover Blacks Beach as a prime spot until the early ’60s
Some sources suggest that the first group to ever surf Black’s Beach included longtime surfers Peter Lusic, Don Roncy, John Light, and Joe Trotter in 1959.
They returned to La Jolla Shores raving about their discovery. The next day a few more joined their group to get in on what became a very well-kept secret until 1964.
3. It’s notoriously difficult to get to
Back then, unless the Black family provided you with a key, the climb was perilous.
There are multiple routes, but they all involve a bit of rock scrambling and a steep climb.
From the Torrey Pines Gliderport:
From Torrey Pines Drive, park in the main lot and find the trail just to the left.
You may see a ‘no beach access sign,’ but it does indeed get you down to Black’s Beach.
Pass the fork in the road that connects to the Ho Chi Minh trail; it’ll seem like a dead end, to the right there’s a path with some man-made stairs.
From La Jolla Farms:
Tucked away between two houses in the Farms neighborhood you’ll find a trail (somewhere around 9883 La Jolla Farms Rd.)
You’ll take this down past the fork that connects it with the Gliderport portion and continue heading south. This is the part that gets tricky!
From La Jolla Shores Pier:
This is the easiest route since it doesn’t involve a steep climb. However, you can only go this way when it’s very low tide.
During high tide, a huge rock juts out far enough to separate the middle section of the trail, making it impassable. Do expect a lot of rock scrambling from here though.
Pro-tip: you’ll pass the infamous Mushroom House on your way, a great photo op.
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There are also a few other ways to get there, including from Torrey Pines Beach and the Salk Institute. Just make sure you check a map and plan your route before you go.
History of Access to Blacks Beach
Back in the ’60s, surfers would descend Blacks Beach Road, which William Black always protected. He was known for firing a shotgun loaded with rock salt at trespassers!
4. A ‘submarine canyon’ fuels Blacks Beach high surf
A submarine canyon (essentially a steep-sided valley cut into the seabed) funnels powerful swells into Black’s Beach, rendering it one of the more popular surf spots but posing a danger to inexperienced swimmers.
Swimming here isn’t generally recommended for inexperienced swimmers.
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5. The Ho Chi Minh Trail ends here
Known for its treacherous and at times extremely narrow climb down, this trail starts up at La Jolla Farms and winds its way through the cliffs to get to the beach.
Local Black’s Beach surfers have long used the trail, and UCSD surfers bestowed its name in the 60s when they used it for quicker access to the beach.
You can also start the trail from up at the Torrey Pines Gliderport and follow it down until it merges into the Ho Chi Minh from there.
Volunteers Secretly Maintain Blacks Beach At Night
The Black’s Beach Bares, a longtime clothing-optional advocacy group (not the city), maintains the stairways leading from the Gliderport to the beach.
They repair the pathway in the early morning or late evening hours during the off-season. The Bares do their best to help keep trail walkers safe and avoid citations by refraining from installing or modifying pedestrian-friendly augmentations to the trail, as it violates the San Diego Municipal Code.
7. Yep, it’s still clothing-optional (part of it)
Blacks Beach is well-known for its lenient clothing laws.
In the northern territory, owned by the state park, nudity is still legal.
The southern portion is owned by the city and isn’t clothing-optional anymore. The bikini- and swim trunks- optional stretch of the beach is still popular among nudists and plenty of locals.
8. It was once the site of moonlit drum circles
For several years, people would come to Black’s Beach on the night of a full moon and hold a Drum Circle, hosted by a group called the Rainbow Family.
They would build a fire, play drums, dance, and then clean up when they were done. In the morning there would be no trace that they were there.
Unfortunately, they got a bit out of hand when more people heard about them and the hosts eventually had to shut them down.
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