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Bayside Trail

The Bayside Trail, sweeping downward from the old lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma, offers an incomparable view of the city of San Diego and its watery environs. Amid the sweet-pungent sage scrub and chaparral vegetation, you get an eyeful of San Diego Bay, the Silver Strand, and the gleaming downtown skyline. You’ll double your pleasure if you walk this trail on a crystal-clear day, fairly typical of the winter season in San Diego.

A parking fee is levied at the monument’s entrance — but you get in for less if you are arriving by foot or by bike. Once inside, you get to visit the museum and old lighthouse, check out some military bunkers, catch sight of migrating whales at the whale-watching overlook, and walk the Bayside Trail — collectively an essential experience for all San Diegans as well as a recommended activity for visitors.

From the main parking lot, climb first to the old lighthouse, then start descending on the signed Bayside Trail, which follows a quarter-mile of pavement to begin with. The remaining three-quarter mile of trail, coated with gravel, descends gradually east and finally north, losing some 300 feet of elevation. Large metal interpretive plaques have been installed along this part of the trail, detailing the cultural and natural history of the area.

Point Loma’s bay slope is honeycombed with the ruins of a World War II defense system of mortars, observation bunkers, generators, and searchlights. You will see some of these remains along the trail. At the point where the trail ends (or, rather, runs into off-limits Navy property), you’ll still be about 90 feet above the water surface. This is a good place to observe the sailboats and ships maneuvering in and out of the bay’s narrow entrance. There are also aerial acrobatics to watch, courtesy of gulls, terns, and pelicans — plus aircraft taking off and landing at the North Island Naval Air Station across the bay.

Return to the lighthouse the same way you came, uphill all the way. Tempting as they may be, don’t take shortcuts — the vegetation is easily trampled and the soil eroded by one footprint too many. Besides, off-trail exploration is strictly forbidden within the national monument.

Bayside Trail
Hiking Point Loma’s Bayside Trail is a classic San Diego experience.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 10 miles
Hiking length: 2 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate

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The Bayside Trail, sweeping downward from the old lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma, offers an incomparable view of the city of San Diego and its watery environs. Amid the sweet-pungent sage scrub and chaparral vegetation, you get an eyeful of San Diego Bay, the Silver Strand, and the gleaming downtown skyline. You’ll double your pleasure if you walk this trail on a crystal-clear day, fairly typical of the winter season in San Diego.

A parking fee is levied at the monument’s entrance — but you get in for less if you are arriving by foot or by bike. Once inside, you get to visit the museum and old lighthouse, check out some military bunkers, catch sight of migrating whales at the whale-watching overlook, and walk the Bayside Trail — collectively an essential experience for all San Diegans as well as a recommended activity for visitors.

From the main parking lot, climb first to the old lighthouse, then start descending on the signed Bayside Trail, which follows a quarter-mile of pavement to begin with. The remaining three-quarter mile of trail, coated with gravel, descends gradually east and finally north, losing some 300 feet of elevation. Large metal interpretive plaques have been installed along this part of the trail, detailing the cultural and natural history of the area.

Point Loma’s bay slope is honeycombed with the ruins of a World War II defense system of mortars, observation bunkers, generators, and searchlights. You will see some of these remains along the trail. At the point where the trail ends (or, rather, runs into off-limits Navy property), you’ll still be about 90 feet above the water surface. This is a good place to observe the sailboats and ships maneuvering in and out of the bay’s narrow entrance. There are also aerial acrobatics to watch, courtesy of gulls, terns, and pelicans — plus aircraft taking off and landing at the North Island Naval Air Station across the bay.

Return to the lighthouse the same way you came, uphill all the way. Tempting as they may be, don’t take shortcuts — the vegetation is easily trampled and the soil eroded by one footprint too many. Besides, off-trail exploration is strictly forbidden within the national monument.

Bayside Trail
Hiking Point Loma’s Bayside Trail is a classic San Diego experience.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 10 miles
Hiking length: 2 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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