Torrey Pines State Reserve
Just before you reach the city of San Diego, there is a large area set aside to preserve the natural beauty of coastal pines and sheer cliffs. It is a 2000-acre State Park in La Jolla Village – but close the city of Del Mar.
The park is home to a large variety of animal and plant species like bobcats, foxes, coyotes, rabbits, cacti, coastal chaparral - but most prominent inhabitant is the rare Torrey pine.
With 8-miles of trails running through this park, it is a major attraction to hikers. Both casual and serious hikers come to enjoy the challenges of the hike and the stunning views overlooking the ocean.
The beach far below is also very popular with swimmers and surfers.
Tip: Entrance fee for cars is $20. After you enter, note that there are 2 main parking lots. One is at the bottom, close to the beach and another at the top next to the Visitors Center. If you can, park at the top which is closer to the trails.
If you do park at the lower lot, then expect a long and steep hike just to get to the first trail.
The park offers 8 trails of varying difficulty and scenery.
Guy Fleming Trail
Also known as the north grove, it is the easiest hike with ¾ a mile loop. As you start through this diverse trail you will see the pine trees handing of off cliffs, the Peñasquitos Marsh down below and some strange rock formations.
Further down this trail and as you make a left turn into the loop, you will start enjoying views of the beach way below.
Along the trail, there are a few strategic overlooks where you can take a rest and pose for photos. And up in the distance to the south, you can see La Jolla Village.
During my last visit, the trees on the highest hill were shrouded in fog giving the hike an eerie feeling.
Razor Point Trail
This trail does not have a lot of Torrey Pines, so it is not well shaded. So, bring lots of water and make sure you are protected from the sun.
Tip: This is a natural reserve, so the main goal is protection and restoration. To help with that goal, there is a strict rule about No dogs, no food or drink above the beach area – except for water.
Along the way enjoy wildflowers, deep ravines and lots of shrubs with the occasional wild animal if you are lucky. There are plenty of benches for resting and admiring the views.
Towards the end of the trail, you can view the ocean from well-placed overlooks.
Once you are down at the beach level you can just walk on the sand to the lower parking lot. But be aware that during high tide, this route is not passable unless you are swimming or wading.
This trail also has almost no shade, so be prepared for the sun and bring lots of water.
You can also start your hike from the lower parking lot, down the beach and then climb up the Beach Trail to the visitor center.
The Visitor Center
The best feature is the outside balcony that overlooks nice views of the trees and the wetlands. There is also a theater showing a film about the park.