San Diego County

IN CONTRAST TO DEL NORTE COUNTY at the CCT's north end, with sparse population, temperate rain forests and a cool climate, California's southernmost county, San Diego, offers a pleasant, dry desert climate and warm ocean currents, attracting millions of people to live and visit there. The 76-mile coast has miles of beaches, nine major coastal wetlands and two bays, a stand of Torrey pines found at only one other place, isolated beaches beneath spectacular eroding cliffs, and the country's biggest aquatic park. The CCT runs along the downtown San Diego waterfront, one of only two major downtowns so near the trail. All this sand and sun brings people out en masse to use the coast for every imaginable outdoor endeavor. Favorites include walking, jogging, bird and whale watching, beach strolling, surfing, snorkeling, volleyball, frisbee throwing, hang-gliding, tanning, bike riding, swimming, fishing, sea kayaking, sailing, sand castle building, kite flying and the romantic pastime of sunset watching. San Diego County boasts perhaps the most diverse natural landscapes in the country--a great scenic coastline, the snow covered mountains of Cleveland National Forest and the 600,000acre desert playground of Anza-Borrego State Park. Man-made attractions also abound–the San Diego Wild Animal Park, Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, Old Town San Diego, Cabrillo National Monument, and the Gaslamp Quarter attract millions of visitors yearly.

Such rich and diverse recreation choices in year-round good weather generate public demand for extensive facilities. Projects in the works include a Coastal Rail Trail from San Diego to Oceanside, the San Dieguito River Parkway connecting the CCT with the mountains 50 miles inland, serious attempts to save the remaining biologically rich coastal wetlands and coastal sage scrub, and sand replenishment to restore beaches long denuded because of human intervention in natural processes.

The San Diego CCT begins on the remote, quiet undeveloped beaches of San Onofre State Beach, then crosses Camp Pendleton Marine Base on a bike path before hitting the first town at Oceanside. From Oceanside to Point Loma the route follows low-tide beaches. When tides are unfavorable, the inland route passes through small towns on streets and Old Pacific Coast Highway. (Old Pacific Coast Highway, also known as PCH, changes names in different towns.) The Coastal Trail continues past several coastal wetlands, wondrously scenic Torrey Pines State Reserve, and along Sunset Cliffs with the best sunset viewing anywhere. The route crosses the neck of Point Loma to reach San Diego Bay, then runs along the vibrant waterfront of downtown San Diego. After a ferry ride to Coronado and a walk through town, CCT hits the beach at the Hotel del Coronado where the Coastal Trail's final miles trace the tideline of the beach all the way to the Mexican border at Tijuana.

If you hiked the California Coastal Trail from the Oregon border to the Mexican border, you didn't find fame, but you're among the few who have been chilled by wind and fog at Pelican Bay State Beach and warmed by desert sun at Border Field State Park, all on the same 1200-mile walk. In between you've experienced the splendors and variety of one of the premier coastlines on the planet and you can proudly say, "I walked the California Coastal Trail from border to border."

Explore the Trail

Click a section to discover more detailed information on pieces of the trail that can be explored within a day. Find highlights of what each area has to offer as well as other resources.


San Diego Section 1

San Clemente State Beach to San Onofre State Beach

San Diego Section 2

San Onofre State Beach to Oceanside Pier

San Diego Section 3

Oceanside Pier to South Carlsbad State Beach Campground

San Diego Section 4

South Carlsbad State Beach Campground to San Elijo State Beach
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San Diego Section 5

San Elijo State Beach to Torrey Pines State Beach

San Diego Section 6

Torrey Pines State Beach to La Jolla Shores Beach

San Diego Section 7

La Jolla Shores Beach to Crystal Pier, Pacific Beach

San Diego Section 8

Crystal Pier, Pacific Beach to Ocean Beach Pier
Part of the area includes a dog walk.

San Diego Section 9

Ocean Beach Pier to Downtown San Diego Waterfront
The view across to Harbor Island

San Diego Section 10

Downtown San Diego Waterfront to Hotel del Coronado

San Diego Section 11

Hotel del Coronado to Imperial Beach Pier
The back dune to the north with native plants.

San Diego Section 12

Imperial Beach Pier to Mexican Border, Border Field State Park