I have fond memories walking along the beach in Carlsbad. My grandparents retired to Carlsbad, and I’ve been there first with them, and later with my own kids. South Carlsbad State Beach is a great stretch of bluff-lined beach that makes a beautiful place to amble about, exploring the beach, enjoying the sunshine and the ocean breezes. At low tide, the beach becomes a broad, almost level expanse of sand strewn with seaweed, sea shells, well worn beach stones and other treasures.
Time: 1-3 hours
Elevation gain: 465 ft
From North Ponto, head south along the fence at the top of the bluff and enter the gate to the campground.
You’ll follow the paved road south until you reach the first beach access steps on your right.
Once you get to the beach, amble south toward the outlet of the Batiquitos Lagoon and South Ponto — the southern terminus of South Carlsbad State Beach. The bluffs are lined with campsites that are always full during the summer, but often open in the off season.
At low-tide, the beach here is broad and full of interesting things to see. You may run across people fishing, skin-diving, or beach combing. Because it’s nearly flat, I’ve seen a lot of runners on the beach.
When you reach the outlet of the Batiquitos Lagoon, turn around and head back. You can choose to walk through the campground along the top of the bluff, or back along the beach.
Camping at South Carlsbad State Beach
South Carlsbad State Beach also has a bluff-top campground with 222 campsites — half of which are right along the bluff with great ocean views. The campground is very nice, but extremely crowded during the summer. I’ve visited in December and seen just a smattering of campers. Each site has a fire ring and picnic table. Water and restroom facilities are nearby, and token-operated showers are available for a nominal fee.
The campground has a campfire center and store which are open seasonally (primarily the summer months).
South Carlsbad State Beach Trail Map
SoCal Hiker Tips
- Check the tide schedule. At high tide, the beach may be impassable.
- The campground has no day use facilities. Day use parking is available off Carlsbad Blvd at either the north or south end of the park.
- Grab lunch at my grandmother’s favorite spot, the Harbor Fish Cafe. It’s about a mile north of the beach on Carlsbad Blvd. just as you enter the downtown village. The patio has ocean views. Grandma’s favorite? The fish and chips.