Take a Good Walk in Solana Beach and Del Mar California

(note: this post was updated in 2019.)
It’s not easy to pick one walk in California, as it’s such a varied state with beaches, mountains, deserts, valleys, forests and everything in between. But having grown up in San Diego’s North County, I must side with my hometown and give my favorite walk of all time.

This walk is 6.5 miles in the sand, but during low tide you can walk on the hard surface of the beach. Along this walk, you’ll see tide pools, surfers, gray whales, sea debris, exercisers, million-dollar homes, bluffs, and the gorgeous Torrey Pines. At any time during the walk, you can always take a left onto Hwy 101, grab a bite, take a break, or hop a ride. Before heading out, check the tide tables. You’ll want to walk during low tide and preferably in the winter. Alas, we’ll start north and work our way south.

Start in Solana Beach, CA

Park at Fletcher Cove at Tide Beach Park in Solana Beach, CA. The locals used to call (and some still do) this area Pill Box. Walk down the stairs and look to your north. You’ll see tide pools and surfers hanging out at Table Tops. Enjoy a treasure hunt through the tide pools, looking for sea anemones, fish, and maybe even a small octopus. Be careful not to step on any live sea weed or barnacles. Once you’ve had your fill of cool pacific finds, head south.

Welcome to Del Mar

You’ll walk in the sand, preferably the hard part in the low tide. Look for critters and things that have floated up in the flotsam. Turn over seaweed, or just enjoy the view. You’ll meander along for about 3/4 mile until you get to the next beach, Del Mar, which divides from Solana Beach at Via de la Valle. In the summertime, you’ll find absolute craziness around the Del Mar Race Track, starting with the Fair, which runs from the middle of June until July 4 weekend. Shortly afterward, the thoroughbred racing starts at the Del Mar Race Track. But in the winter time, you’ll have this stretch of the beach mostly to yourself until you get to Dog Beach, also known as Rivermouth and North Beach.

Historically, this used to be where the breezers cooled the race horses after their morning workout at the race track. They would walk the horses under the tunnel beneath Hwy 101 at San Dieguito River and bring the horses here in the surf to cool off. Now, you’ll find folks doing yoga, running their dogs, and playing volleyball.

If the tide is out, you can probably walk across the inlet, or, if necessary, detour up onto Hwy 101 to cross the water and then come back down to the sand. Continue south. You’ll walk another mile or so passing famous multi-million dollar houses. Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Desi Arnez, and other Hollywood stars have lived, rented, or owned homes along this stretch the summertime race season.

Soon, you’ll come to where the Del Mar train station used to operate. If you’re tired and need a break, journey up 15th street. Grab a bite or drink at any of the fabulous places in this area. My favorite place on the beach is the Jake’s Del Mar, but you can’t go wrong anywhere. After a break, continue south. Once again, you’ll enjoy beautiful sand bluffs and wide ocean views.

Welcome to Torrey Pines

As you walk south under the bluffs at Del Mar, you’ll start to see the crowds begin to pick up. You’ll be at Torrey Pines State Beach. Take a minute and either look back to the north or down to the south. You’ll see sweeping views of the coastline. To the south, you might see La Jolla and even Point Loma. You can look to the east and see Los Pensaquitos Lagoon. If you’ve got the legs, journey under Hwy 101 again and walk along Carmel Valley Road to get to Roberto’s.

San Diego North County’s Best Taquitos

Roberto’s is the number one best place in all of California to get street tacos. I prefer their taquitos with guacamole. Entire treatise have been written about Roberto’s, and you’ll always find them ranked in the top 10 for Mexican street food. Although there are many Roberto’s locations, this one is hands-down the best of them all.

If you detoured to Roberto’s, return back to the beach and continue south a short distance. You’ll arrive at the end of the walk, but it’s really just the beginning. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is my all-time favorite place to take a hike. Fat Man’s Misery once was the trail of all trails, but sadly it’s closed now due to beetle infestation. None the less, pick ANY trail to walk and you’re guaranteed to see views, trees, and the Pacific. Truly, you should probably call it a day and come back tomorrow with fresh legs and time to visit the entire park.

Finally, since your car is back up in Solana Beach, jump on the bus heading north. You’ll find stops on the east side of Hwy 101. Busses run every half an hour, and your ride will be about 15 minutes.