Why You Should Be Cautious While Hunting Down San Diego's Hidden Swings

There's no disputing that locals usually know best when it comes to hunting down the best of what a city has to offer. Whether you're looking for the best hand-rolled tacos, the prettiest crowdless beach, or the best sunset point, San Diego locals have a strong grasp on the pulse of their hometown. Sitting near the top of a long list of hidden gem destinations are a few secret swings located in the trendy La Jolla community, one of the most alluring neighborhoods in the county. 

There are at least 15 hidden swings nestled among various hiking trails throughout Southern California, creating an enticing quest for visitors to hunt them all down for the perfect pic. While it's unclear where each swing came from, several were installed by a local Los Angeles couple hoping to inspire the community to rekindle a connection with nature. It's plausible this idea spread like wildfire throughout various counties, leading to an Instagrammable sensation.

However, at least one creates a dangerous endeavor for San Diego's hidden swing-seekers, given its treacherous location. The city does not consider these swings official installations, making it essential to rely on sources such as blog posts or Instagram clues to reach these secret spots. The hashtag #hiddenswingslajolla reveals over 2,000 search results on Instagram of users sharing local insight on how to find San Diego's top-secret swings.

Track down La Jolla's swingable sensations

The first of La Jolla's swing sets is located near the Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography on Expedition Way. A faded trailhead and footbridge behind the aquarium's parking lot are the only guideposts leading visitors to the swing. Ascending the trail about 50 yards, you'll soon stumble upon a battered plank of wood hanging over the ground by two sets of chain links. Inspirational words left by visitors make the trek that much more worthwhile, with previous messages like "It's the world's job to come at you in waves. It's your job to learn to surf," and "Love is the language of the universe," strategically placed at the back of the swing for the perfect photo op.

Perhaps the best part is the panoramic views of the San Diego skyline, endless palms, and the Pacific Ocean. According to local insight, this swing is the most popular in La Jolla. Planning a morning hike to this lookout point is essential to avoid crowds, especially if you have a photography session in mind.

La Jolla's second swing isn't far from its chain-linked sibling. Parking at the intersection of Discovery Way and La Jolla Shores Drive, swing-seekers can easily spot an old wooden gate and a canonical-roofed gazebo marking the path. Rather than follow the paved road, the swing is located just over the hillsides, attached to an old birch tree. Like its twin, the swing overlooks a canopy of verdant treetops and stunning vistas of La Jolla shores just beyond.

A risky adventure

La Jolla's third and final secret swing takes the concept of "risky" to new heights! Roughly 10 minutes from the Birch Aquarium, visitors could find this social media sensation in downtown La Jolla along the community's popular Coast Walk Trail that begins behind the Cave Store — a historic sea cave. Unlike La Jolla's secret swing duo near the aquarium, this third hidden gem required a dangerous trek to reach the wooden plank hanging from a palm tree on the edge of a cliff above La Jolla Cove. 

This coveted locals' spot managed to attract quite a bit of attention from city news outlets that expressed concern over the safety of this swing. An article by La Jolla Light revealed that the original swing had been mysteriously removed in late 2022, only to be replaced a week later by an even more harrowing version. The new installation was tied onto what was left of the rope when the first swing was cut down, creating an unreliable support system. 

An unofficial group of residents known as "Friends of Coast Walk Trail" works to preserve this area where you can hike along the California coastline. One member of the organization expressed concern about the potential of a palm weevil infestation weakening trees in the reserve and leading to injuries or even deaths of swing-goers. Blogger Le Travel Style reported that the swing was cut down again in February 2024, along with the tree. But with such widespread love for SoCal's famous secret swings, you can bet it won't be long before another one pops up nearby.