Parks in San Diego: Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

There are certainly plenty of parks in San Diego to visit alone for some peace and quiet, as a couple for a romantic stroll or with the family for a fun hike or day at the beach. Contributing writer Heather Leigh shares with you why Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is an amazing place to visit and a must-do on your vacation in San Diego.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
By: Heather Leigh

Natural splendor is exactly what this small park on the edge of the ocean is all about. There is nothing artificial here at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, with the exception of cars, trash cans and modern conveniences for park goers. You will encounter a place that invites light hiking and a laid-back atmosphere.

There are lightly marked trails surrounding a dirt parking lot and steep cliffs overlooking an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean. This is San Diego before lifeguard towers, urban sprawl and downtown skyscrapers.

You can pause for self-reflection in the small eucalyptus grove, gaze out at the silhouettes of surfers down below, and catch pelicans soaring in their trailing “V” shapes. The turf is indigenous chaparral and you should be on the lookout for small patches of cactus. We love feeling a slice of life before San Diego was ever a city.

Getting to the park is half the fun. We recommend driving here via Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, which hugs the coast just south of Bermuda Street. If you do, you can stop at one of the many small parking lots along the way to the park. You will be a witness to the breathtaking beauty of San Diego’s great ocean. You may even see cormorant birds, more surfers, wildflowers, and cliff divers.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is one of our favorite places to watch the sunset. What could be better than a quiet beach to witness the magnificent sun settling down for the evening? It’s like having your own personal nature show set up just for you.

We suggest getting here an hour before sunset to hike for a bit then settle down to watch another day of California sunshine melt into the sea. It is also a great picnic spot—just be sure to bring a blanket, as natural parks do not include benches.

If you are comfortable with climbing, there is access to a small remote beach. It is worth the climb as you can see the surfers up close and the beach is less crowded than other San Diego spots.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is located about two miles south of Newport Drive, the shopping district of Ocean Beach. The leashed dog rule is: No Dogs Allowed November 1 to March 31 from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M., and Apr 1 to Oct 31 from 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. With these hours you can bring your dog along in the early evenings to share in watching the setting sun.

This natural park is different from the other more populated beaches of San Diego, which makes it another wonderful way to experience southern California!

(For more ideas on fun things to do in San Diego, especially if you’re on a budget, check out one of our recent blog posts “7 Fun Things to Do in San Diego for Less Than $20.”)


~Edited by: Dawn-Reneé Rice

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