Bayside Trail (Cabrillo National Monument)
- Location: Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma, San Diego. From the western end of I-8, head south on Nimitz Blvd. for 1.3 miles. Bear right onto Chatsworth, go 0.9 miles and turn left onto Catalina Blvd. Follow Catalina Blvd. to the park entrance (it becomes Cabrillo Rd. en route). Pay the entrance fee of $10 per vehicle (good for one week; annual passes are $20) and follow the signs to the visitor center and main parking area.
- Agency: Cabrillo National Monument
- Distance: 2 miles
- Elevation gain: 300 feet
- Suggested time: 1 hour plus time for Visitor Center, Point Loma Lighthouse and possible whale watching
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Best season: All year (daylight hours only)
- Recommended guidebook: California Hiking
- Dogs: Not allowed
- Cell phone reception: Weak
- Water: Fountain at visitor center
- Restrooms: Full restrooms at visitor center
- Camping: None
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here
- Rating: 7
The Bayside Trail isn’t exactly a secret in San Diego, but it receives less visitation than the other attractions of Cabrillo National Monument such as the tidepools, the lighthouse and the whale watching point. While those are all worthwhile sites, a hike down the Bayside Trail and back can truly make a visit here memorable.
On the way to the trail, you’ll pass by the statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to visit California (1542). Turn left on a service road leading past the historic Point Loma Lighthouse, which operated from 1855 to 1891. It was then decommissioned due to its vulnerability to coastal fog, replaced by the current lighthouse at the bottom of the hill. In addition to exploring the lighthouse, you can also take a short detour to the kelp forest and whale overlook. December through March is peak California Gray whale migration season.
To get to the Bayside Trail, descend the paved service road for 0.2 mile, enjoying views of San Diego Bay, before making a hard left, leaving the service road. The trail continues downhill toward the water. A few interpretive plaques describe the botany (California sage, buckwheat, toyon, lemonade berry, cholla cactus and more) and fauna, including rattlesnakes, coyotes and rabbits. You’ll also pass by a metal shed that used to house a beacon, some sandstone cliffs pocked with small caves and a few benches for sitting and enjoying the excellent views of the bay and city skyline (good to keep in mind for the trip back up.)
One mile from the start and 300 feet below the statue, the trail comes to an end. While you’ll likely have some company down here, it’s still a peaceful spot to sit and rest before retracing your steps uphill.
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.