Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

torrey pine sandstone cliffsOne of the things we have missed while in San Diego is hiking in the wilderness, without having to drive a great distance to do so.  We have not been able to get to  Mission Trails Regional Park yet so the next best thing was to head out to Torrey Pines State Reserve, about a 6 mile drive south for us.  We heard the hiking was nice and read that this is one of the wildest stretches of land remaining on the southern California coast so we were counting on some pretty spectacular views.

torrey pine tree
The not-so-rare-looking Torrey pine

This day use only park  is home to the nation’s rarest pine tree, the Torrey pine, named after the renown botanist Dr. John Torrey of New York, back in 1850.  Ironically Dr. Torrey never set foot in this part of the country but instead was bestowed this honor by a colleague of his, Dr. Charles Christopher Parry, who did travel here and took action in 1855 to protect this species of pine.  Where this rare pine once covered a large area, it now only grows here and on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara.

You can park down at the beach in the day use parking lot and walk up to the top (which would afford you the most exercise) or drive up and park where the network of trails begin.  There is a nice little visitor center and museum to peruse and interpretive nature walks are provided on the weekends.  To keep the park pristine, no food or drink except water and no pets or bikes are allowed on the trails.

Eight miles of trails criss-cross the park, some hugging the sandstone cliffs, offering stunning 360º views.

Sandstone cliffs with views of Del Mar and Cardiff

Other trails take you through chaparral, prickly pear cactus and Mohave yucca, just beginning to bloom.  You can catch a glimpse of the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course through this shrubbery.

Mohave yucca
Flowering Mohave yucca

The Beach Trail descends 300 feet to Torrey Pines beach and lagoon, an area vital to migrating birds, with views of Flat Rock.  South of this rock is San Diego’s “unofficial” nude beach, Black Beach.

Flat Rock at Torrey Pines beach
View of Flat Rock on Torrey Pines beach

The Torrey Pines Park Road was once part of the main highway running between Los Angeles and San Diego.  Originally a dirt road built in 1910, it was paved a few years later.  Even paved, its steep grade posed a problem for the vehicles of that era.  Because Model Ts used gravity to deliver gas to the engine that was set in front of the car, motorists had to climb the road in reverse!  This road is now used by those wanting to enjoy the views while working up a sweat.

With the sound of the pounding surf and the salty smell of the ocean tantalizing the senses, you can forget that you were here for some exercise.  If you are looking for a heart-pounding hike, this is probably not going to get you there but you definitely can’t beat the views!

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