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San Diego Beach Hikes - Cardiff to Carlsbad

By Rick Chapo

San Diego offers a bevy of interesting hikes. With the average home price being around $500,000, they better be interesting!

To unwind, I typically stop on my way home from work to hike from Cardiff to Carlsbad on the beach. For picturesque sunsets and "tasty waves", the beach between Cardiff to Carlsbad can't be beat.

Cardiff - Starting

I typically start this hike by parking just south of restaurant row in Cardiff. Restaurant row is located to the north of the lagoon between Cardiff and Solana Beach on Highway 101. Parking is located on the side of the road, which is right up against the beach. Give me convenience or give me death!

As you head north, you first pass Charlie's and other restaurants. Past the restaurants, you will come to the beginning of the bluffs that will line the beach to the end of the hike. San Elijo campground is on top of the initial bluffs and extends for roughly a mile north. The campground is very popular and the temporary home of locals and tourist. You can tell the difference by contrasting tans with sunburns.

Following San Elijo, you will walk through Sea Cliff County Park with bluffs over 100 feet high. An area known affectionately as "Swami's" quickly follows this park. The name derives from the fact the area above the bluff is the home to the Self Realization Fellowship Center. This area is know as hot surf spot, but is very crowded. If you are a bit winded, you can stop and watch 50 or so surfers maneuver for waves. Yes, traffic jams aren't exclusively restricted to California freeways.

North of Swami's, you will cruise along a long strip of sand hemmed in by 50 to 60 foot bluffs in the town of Encinitas. For those with a wicked sense of humor, there is a relatively popular game called, "Watch the house fall." Yes, the bluffs are giving away slowly. As they erode, the homes first lose plants, then patios and so on. They say real estate is all about location, location, location, but sometimes a beach front home isn't all that great.

The Encinitas section of the hike is fairly long. With the high bluffs, you will find sections of the beach that are deserted. Yes, even during summer. The only thing breaking up the solitude is Moonlight Beach, a fairly popular beach with locals. Otherwise, it's just you, shells and joggers until you arrive at the end of the bluffs and South Carlsbad. Time to turn around and find the car.

The Cardiff to South Carlsbad hike is about 5 miles in each direction. The walk is flat and quick. By the end, you will be relaxed and forget that Bert in accounting is a jerk. Enjoy.


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