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9 Best Beach Hikes in Southern California
Health & Fitness

9 Best Beach Hikes in Southern California

Looking for the best beach hikes in Southern California? Here are the 9 top hikes to check out!

Dikran Seferian


5 min read

February 19, 2024

Idyllic views of the ocean and endless miles of sandy stretches provide a charming backdrop to a lovely beach hike. Where the Pacific meets sprawling hillsides and mountain ranges all around, SoCal is a popular destination for hikers on the beach. What’s even greater is that the ocean is only a few minutes away should you crave a quick dip afterward. From short and casual hikes to more challenging treks, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to beach trails in Southern California.

1. Cabrillo National Monument Bayside Trail, San Diego

The Cabrillo National Monument Bayside Trail provides an excellent setting for a casual hike.

With sweeping ocean views, the waterfront trail at Cabrillo National Monument is a must-try in San Diego — although not exactly a beach hike. The trail is only 2 miles long, making it perfect for a simple, kid-friendly hike on the Pacific coast of Southern California. You can access the trail by heading towards the lighthouse from the visitor center at Cabrillo National Monument. Albeit a short hike, the Cabrillo National Monument Bayside Trail nevertheless boasts one of the most stunning vistas in the region.

2. San Clemente Beach Trail, Orange County

Enjoy sweeping views of the ocean while hiking on the San Clemente Beach Trail.

Another one of the easier hikes in Southern California is the San Clemente Beach Trail in Orange County. The hike is actually a 2-mile boardwalk that runs along the shores and train tracks of San Clemente. Also ideal for jogging and biking, this casual beach trail offers breathtaking views of the big blue horizon.

Once you’re done with the hike, head over to one of San Clemente’s charming beaches to relax or dip your toes in the ocean. You may also want to treat yourself to some Mexican food while you’re there. What better way to call it a day than by walking to the end of the San Clemente Pier.

3. Tuna Canyon, Malibu

Although not as close to the shoreline as other beach trails, Tuna Canyon in Malibu is nonetheless a favorite among many hikers. This coastal hiking trail rewards you with sweeping views of the ocean as well as the Santa Monica Bay from up high. On your way back to the beach, the trail passes through various areas including grassland and a small forest. Tuna Canyon is mainly famous for its odd yet charming spiral of rocks that overlook the SoCal coastline. In general, this hike involves some elevation but not more than 5 miles, making it a moderate trail. 

4. Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego

The trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve cater to both beginners and advanced hikers.

Boasting scenic views of the Pacific Ocean, Torrey Pines State Reserve features some of the best hikes in Southern California — not to mention San Diego. Spanning all the way from Torrey Pines Road to the shoreline, the park has an abundance of beautiful viewpoints as well as less-traveled pathways to the beach. 

Hikers will have a variety of trails to choose from. The Guy Fleming Trail and High Point Overlook, for instance, offer panoramic views from higher altitudes on the northern side of the park. If you prefer hikes that take you closer to the shore, consider going for the Razor Point and Broken Hill Trails. Try combining these into an exciting loop with amazing views and access to the beach.

A more advanced trail involves hiking along the shoreline from La Jolla Shores all the way to Torrey Pines Beach. This 5-mile hike spans sandy beaches and a few rocky points as well.

5. Big Wallace El Capitan Trail, Santa Barbara

Adorned with mountains and coastal wonders, it comes as no surprise that Santa Barbara has a chock full of beach trails. One hiking path that particularly stands out is the Big Wallace Trail near Goleta, a small town north of the city. The trail begins at El Capitan State Beach and moves further from the coast, ascending the mountains towards El Capitan Canyon. You can either go for an out-and-back hike or the 12-mile round-trip loop. Although this California trail is somewhat challenging, the scenic landscapes and gorgeous views are definitely worth it. 

6. Crystal Cove State Park, Orange County

The scenic views of Crystal Cove State Park are worth every drop of sweat.

A beautiful and untapped area between Corona Del Mar and the northern part of Laguna Beach, Crystal Cove State Park is a haven for hikers of all levels. Beginners can explore the headland trails overlooking Reef Point before heading over to the beach for a dip. Advanced hikers, on the other hand, can trek all the way up to Toll Road through a 10-mile looping trail. This Orange County hike offers picturesque views of the ocean and takes you through everything from bushes to ridges and canyons.

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7. Montaña de Oro State Park, San Luis Obispo

Embracing an idyllic stretch along the San Luis Obispo coastline, Montaña de Oro State Park features one of the most extraordinary beach hiking trails in SoCal. Aside from hikes that go for dozens of miles, the park also allows for mountain biking — both beachside and high up on the hills above.

Challenging San Luis Obispo trails include those that lead you all the way up Valencia Peak or Hazard Peak. Alternatively, you can go for the Bluff Trail which involves a 2.5-mile hike overlooking coves, cliffs, and crashing waves. Try combining this trail with others in the park if you want to lengthen your hiking trip.

8. Point Mugu, Malibu

The exquisite views from the summit of Point Mugu are worth the steep hike.

One of the most iconic coastal hikes in Southern California, the Point Mugu trail begins from the beach, ascends the summit above it, and then returns back to the shore. Hikers often go for the 3-mile steep yet rewarding trail, although 8 or 9-mile hikes are also possible here. Get started by hiking inland from Big Sycamore Canyon. Once you make your way up the mountain, you’ll reach an open ridge with panoramic views of the Pacific Coast Highway. Conclude your hiking trip by cooling off in the lovely waters of Malibu.

9. Abalone Cove to Del Cerro Park, Palos Verdes

Explore the hidden gem of Los Angeles by going for a hike at Palos Verdes.

Los Angeles has quite a few hidden gems along the coastline, and one of them is Palos Verdes. This secluded getaway provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Those who witness the sprawling landscape of Palos Verdes, however, are often mesmerized by its beauty. Although the area is home to various parks and hiking trails, you can easily combine them all into one awesome SoCal adventure.

Those seeking an easy hike can take the pathways from Abalone Cove to Inspiration Point. The trails offer a stunning vista of the Pacific and the opportunity to go for a dip. Experienced hikers, however, can challenge themselves by choosing the uphill trails from Klondike to Portuguese Canyon, eventually reaching Del Cerro Park. Expect to work up a sweat because this hike is one of the hardest in Los Angeles, but the views are undeniably worthwhile.

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