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South Carlsbad State Beach

This San Diego beach is popular for surfing, fishing, skin diving and camping. This guide takes you from end to end.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 3.9 miles
Duration: 1-3 hours
Family Friendly

Overview:  South Carlsbad State Beach is a great stretch of bluff-lined beach that makes a beautiful place to amble about, exploring the beach,... more »

Tips:  Bring sunscreen and water. Water is also available throughout the campground.

Be sure to check the tide schedule. At high tide, the ... more »

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Points of Interest

1. North Ponto Parking

Parking is $15 and there is a self-service machine where you can pay for your day use pass.

As an alternate, you can also park at South Ponto day use parking, and do this route in reverse.

2. North Gate

Pass through this gate to enter the north end of the campground.

3. Typical Campsite

A typical campground, with fire ring and picnic table. There are no electrical hookups.

There are two rows of campsites: The one along the top of the bluff has the prime ocean views.

Make Campground Reservations

4. Path to the Beach

Bear right at this paved path that leads to the steps down to the beach.

Note that during high tide, the beach may become inaccessible. Check the tide calendar and use common sense before attempting to hike down the beach.

5. Coastal Bluff

At the top of the stairs there is information about the coastal bluffs that line most of South Carlsbad State Beach.

Be aware that these bluffs are constantly shifting and eroding, and can be dangerous. Stay on marked paths, trails and access stairs.

6. Beach

When you reach the beach, you'll head left (south).

Lifeguard stations dot the beaches, although they are only manned during the busier summer months.

7. Steps to the Beach

You'll see a number of access points from the bluffs to the beach. Keep track of which one you use, because they begin to look the same.

8. Low Tide

At low tide, the beach is broad and flat, making a great surface for beach combing, hiking or running.

9. Beach Patrol

The only motorized vehicles permitted on the beach belong to the lifeguards, who patrol the beach in a Jeep like this.

10. Lagoon Outlet

The outlet to the Bautiquitos Lagoon is our turn around point.

The South Ponto day use parking is just beyond the outlet across the bridge.

11. Ramp from the Beach to the Bluff

This ramp ascends the bluff and enters the campground area. The campground road is shared with bikes, cars and RVs, so exercise caution walking here.

12. Campfire Center

13. Camp Store

The camp store sells food and camp supplies. It is open seasonally (primarily in the busy summer months).