San Diego isn't a city known for its wooded areas. Parks and beaches, yes; but woods, not so much. Which is why it's extra special that Torrey Pines exists -- a piece of wooded hiking bliss that is located right next to the beach in Del Mar, just north of La Jolla.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a protected piece of land that is located on a gradually sloping hill of auburn rocks and dirt trails that taper off into the beach from a high bluff scattered with the rare Torrey Pine tree and other shrubbery and plants. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has two parking lots -- one at the base of the reserve (the north lot) and one up at the top (the south lot). Parking in the south lot at the top gets you the closest access to the start of the trails. A great thing about Torrey Pines is that there are hiking trails of varying difficulty, making it an ideal place for most visitors' fitness levels. You'll also have varying views of the ocean and sometimes even be able to see marine life from Torrey Pines' scenic trails.
Here is a breakdown of the main trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve:
Guy Fleming Trail
This trail is named after the man who helped turn the land into a protected state park in the early 1900s. The trail is two-thirds of a mile and is an easy, mostly flat loop route that runs peripheral to the ocean horizon before curving back into a more heavily wooded area. After turning away from the ocean, look for the many Torrey Pines and a sign explaining the history of the trees.
Parry Grove Trail
This trail is a half-mile loop that is a good hike for those who want a good leg work out as there are 100 stairs to get down to the trail and exit from it. This trail is very dense with trees and has a native plant garden at the trailhead.
Razor Point Trail
This trail is two-thirds of a mile to the end lookout point and along the way there are many smaller trails that branch out to other small cliffs for some great photo ops. Though there aren't as many trees on this route, the views of the ocean are fantastic.
This is the route you'll want to take to get down the hill to the ocean. It's fairly steep in some parts and at the bottom you'll run into stairs to descend the rest of the way to the sand. It's a three-quarter mile hike down to the beach. Though it's not as scenic as the other trails, it's the fastest route down to the waves.
Broken Hill Trail
This trail starts half way down the hill and can be reached by taking either the North Fork Trail or South Fork Trail down to it. These two trails go through heavily wooded areas before descending into more rocky terrain for the Broken Hill Trail portion. At the bottom of Broken Hill Trail you'll reach the beach and Flat Rock. From North Fork it takes 1.2 miles to reach the bottom and from South Fork it is 1.3 miles.
While hiking Torrey Pines, also take time to visit the museum by the south parking lot, where you'll see stuffed creatures like bobcats, mountain lions and rattlesnakes. There is also a display explaining the geology of Torrey Pines. The museum also has an interactive area where kids can touch bones and rocks found along the trails.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Quick Tips
Address: 12600 North Torrey Pines Road, San Diego
Cost: Vehicles are charged to park: Monday - Thursday, $11; Friday - Sunday, $15
Hours: Opens at 7:15 a.m. Gates close around sunset and all vehicles must be vacated from the lot. There is a sign by the parking lot saying what time the park closes on that day so you're not left guessing what time sunset is.
Rules: All food and beverages with the exception of water are prohibited from Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. No camping is allowed.