Black's Beach was named after William Black, Sr., an oil millionaire who owned and developed land along the cliffs near what is now the Torrey Pines State Reserve. Originally including the current Torrey Pines State Beach, Black's Beach was the first and only public nude beach in the country for several years in the mid-1970s. Subsequent laws made nudity illegal, however, and the sun worshippers had to move their activities to a more secluded location.
The area today known as Black's Beach can be found south of Torrey Pines State Beach between a steel buoy near the outcropping called Flatrock at Mussel Mesa and what would be the end of Salk Institute Road if it were extended to the shore. This "clothing optional zone'' is frequented by members of the Black's Beach Bares, a group of beach users affiliated with The Naturist Society who host nude Sunday picnics here all summer long.
There is no easy access to Black's Beach. It requires a steep climb, a long hike, or entry via water (not recommended). Many take the steep trail down from the Torrey Pines Gliderport on the cliffs. Others make the trek along La Jolla Shores north or from Torrey Pines south.
Although the beach has no formal facilities, there is plenty to keep visitors occupied. Sunbathing, picnicking, dolphin sighting, and building sculptures in the damps sand are popular activities, as is enjoying the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whose temperatures range from the mid-50s in winter to the mid-70s in summer and fall.
The surf at Black's Beach is rated among California's biggest and best. Surfing conditions are especially good in winter, drawing spectators as well as expert surfers who are willing to take on the big swells, aware of the strong rip currents that form on narrow parts of the beach. Visitors swim at their own risk, however. Budget cuts have eliminated lifeguard staffing from Labor Day through May, and only two lifeguards are on duty at Torrey Pines State Beach the rest of the year.
Bird watching is another much enjoyed pastime at Black's Beach. Seagulls are perhaps the most common birds seen here, including Western gulls, Heermann's gulls, and ringbills. Sometimes difficult to sight, a number of other species are usually present, too, such as cormorants, red-tailed hawks, ospreys, sandpipers, snowy egrets, and blue herons. Terns and pelicans can often be seen flying by offshore, too, although they rarely land on the beach.
Black's Beach is not without its dangers. Poisonous jellyfish have been seen in the surf, as have stingrays. Sharks have also been sighted offshore on occasion. But the greatest danger here is not the sea life but the unstable sandstone cliffs that tower 300 feet above the beach. In August 2009, for example, a 57-year-old tourist was killed when tons of debris from a sea-bluff collapsed on him in the middle of the day. Visitors are advised to keep their distance from the cliffs, especially when newly fallen rocks are seen on the beach.
Several rules must be adhered to at Black's Beach. Among items prohibited here are alcohol, glass beverage containers, fires, and dogs. Prohibited activities include camping and vending. Smoking, however, is allowed.
Because there is no trash collection at Black's Beach, visitors should pack out whatever they pack in. Photographing people without their permission is highly discouraged, and overt sexual activities are not allowed. For reference, the nearest restrooms are the port-a-potties at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, 300 feet above the beach.
Black's Beach is located below the 12000 block of North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, California 92037. If coming from Interstate 5 by car, take the Carmel Valley Road exit and head west to Camino Del Mar. Turn left, enter through the gate, and park wherever available. Black's Beach is about two miles south from the city beach.
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