Every once in a while, you’re lucky enough to find a trail that is short, yet full of fun scrambling and memorable views. Mostly trafficked by locals, Ho Chi Minh Trail is a surfer trail tucked away and tricky to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Just off La Jolla Farms Road (a fancy, though public, neighborhood with its own private security patrol), the trailhead starts at a gap between two homes. It leads out onto a stunning view of the ocean on the southernmost end of Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve.
At only 0.6 miles long, this trail can be a quick one if you’re sure-footed, however, for others it can be a test of balance. There are points where you will be required to balance across a beam and inch your way along a series of sandstone ledges (which is the point where a surfer will come running by you, barefoot, board in hand, and make you feel ridiculous for feeling as if you’ll fall into the crevasse with rushing water below).
Remember as you go along the trickiest parts of the trail, using handholds and small ledges might not be your best move. The difficulty of this trail is a bit higher mostly because parts of it might crumble away with pressure. The sandy top layers of the trail are worn away by the elements and hikers which may cause you to slip. Take small steps on the ledges and the parts with the most dramatic grade.
Part way through the trail, you’ll hit the coolest section where you’ll descend through weather-worn steps as walls of compressed sand rise around you. This will only last ten or so feet, but it’s a very photo worthy spot.
Once you emerge, there is only one more short descent left; this portion usually has a rope attached to aid those that need it. This part of the beach is typically the least busy as it’s south of the stairs leading down from Torrey Pines. If you’re still in the mood for more of a workout, you can head up those stairs and watch the hang gliders taking off from Torrey Pines for a bit. Just as a heads up, the beach beneath the stairs is Black Beach, which is clothing optional, and you may not be the mood for that.
My only precaution about the trail is that it is a little different each time you go. Due to the malleability of the path, heavy rains will cause the trail to change dramatically. I’ve gone twice, a year apart, and the dryness of the winter season meant that there wasn’t water rushing alongside of the trail, opening up different parts of the trail to explore. I recommend sticking to the left though, as the parts that open up are typically very narrow and come to dead ends.
All-in-all, I love this trail. It’s fun every time and leads out to a less populated part of the beach where you can surf or just spend a few hours in sun and water. Happy hiking!