Ho Chi Minh Trail (San Diego)
- Location: The address 9880 La Jolla Farms Rd., La Jolla, CA 92037 will get you the approximate location from Google Maps. From I-5, take exit 28 for La Jolla Village Drive. Head west (turn left if you are coming from San Diego; right if from the north) and follow La Jolla Village Drive for a total of 1.1 miles (La Jolla Village Drive becomes Torrey Pines Rd). Make a hard left onto La Jolla Shores Rd. and almost immediately, turn right onto La Jolla Farms Rd. Follow La Jolla Farms Rd. for one mile and park where available on the right side of the street, noting posted restrictions. The trail is on the left side of the street, located in between two houses.
- Agency: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve (the Ho Chi Minh Trail is unofficial, not maintained and not patrolled). Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve takes no responsibility for injuries incurred on this trail and neither does this website.
- Distance: 0.6 mile (plus beach exploration)
- Elevation gain: 250 feet
- Suggested time: 45 minutes (plus beach exploration)
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Best season: Year round; terrain may be treacherous after heavy rains
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: Good near the beginning of the trail; weak to fair in the canyon and on the beach
- Water: None
- Restrooms: None
- Camping: None
- Recommended gear: Some hikers might find hiking poles helpful on the steep, loose descent, but they can also be an encumbrance in the narrow areas of the trail. Shoes/boots with good tread are essential.
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here
- Rating: 4
From its unpopular name to its social media presence that has led some to underestimate its difficulty and potential hazards to its high level of graffiti to its ending at a clothing-optional beach, the Ho Chi Minh Trail just might be the most controversial short hike in Southern California – or at least in San Diego. Nevertheless, for those who prepare appropriately, it is an unusual hike that provides a sense of adventure in the heart of upscale La Jolla.
The trail’s origins go back to the 1960s when it was used, as it still is today, by surfers to access secluded Black’s Beach. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to see surfers negotiating the difficult descent and ascent while carrying their boards.
Begin by following the trail heading west from La Jolla Farms Rd., threading its way between two properties. After a few dozen yards, you get a view of the ocean below and the descent begins. At first, it is steep but fairly easily negotiable. Soon you will likely find yourself using your hands as well as your feet. The exact conditions of the trail may depend on how recently there has been rain and other factors (a wooden plank mentioned in several online write-ups, placed to facilitate the crossing of gap, is missing as of May 2017). Some hikers may be more comfortable skirting the edges of the narrow chute while some might prefer to negotiate the trench itself.
Soon, you will reach a spot where the terrain drops sharply and you will lower yourself into a slot reminiscent of (but more difficult than) nearby Annie’s Canyon and the mushroom caves of the San Elijo Lagoon. Cautiously make your way down the slot where you are rewarded for your efforts with more uneven terrain. By this point, the beach will be in sight, so pick what looks like the easiest route across the sandstone slabs. A pair of ropes facilitate the final, steep descent to the beach, although with caution, it is possible to go down and up again without them.
After what seems like more than 0.3 mile, you arrive at Black’s Beach where you can enjoy the waves and explore in either direction (the clothing-optional area is to the north) before retracing your steps back up the canyon.
Text and photography copyright 2017 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.