A Quick & Scenic San Diego Hike: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

STAFF, USA MAINLAND, Scenic Wonders, WALKING/HIKING — By on June 23, 2017 at 23:23

Text & photos © Catherine Nichols

Vacationing in San Diego, California is a dream for many people, and I know how lucky I am to be here. During my 30+ years in San Diego I’ve appreciated the climate, the endless assortment of outdoor activities, and the natural beauty that surrounds me every day. Rarely is it hot, humid, or rainy—but on those rare occasions when it is hot, humid, or rainy, I appreciate the temperate climate even more when it returns to “normal”!

Rooted, yet it seems to flow

Rooted, yet it seems to flow

People who visit often ask what they should do while here. One activity that no San Diego tourist should miss is to hike Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in La Jolla (pronounced La Hoy-uh), on the cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach. It’s right up there with experiencing the tide pools at Pt. Loma (see my Cabrillo National Monument story here on Milliver’s Travels).

A hike you should not miss, even if you're not athletic

A hike you should not miss, even if you’re not athletic

Don’t be put off by my use of the word “hike.” You can make it as hard as you want, or easy enough for someone who prefers walking over hiking. The hills can be steep but well worth the huffing and puffing for the beauty that awaits.

Stunning views!

Stunning views!

My husband and I visited Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve on a particularly beautiful day with blue skies, a gentle breeze to dry the sweat, and not too many people. Be aware that many locals use the trails for their daily exercise so watch out for the dedicated runners! Get ready to admire the tenacity of the people who run from the visitors’ center, down to the ocean, and then back up to the top. Even at my most fit, I could never do that run!

Amazing rock formations

Amazing rock formations

People who love nature will love Torrey Pines. Not only will you see the endangered Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)—one of the rarest pines in the world—but you may also see snakes—one rattlesnake slithered in front of us!—a variety of birds, native plants and, because the ocean is visible, dolphins playing in the waves. We saw many dolphins on the day we went. Watching the dolphins jump and play is a real treat. Depending on the time of year, you may also see whales migrating south.

Layer upon layer of colorful ancient history

Layer upon layer of colorful ancient history

Those interested in rock formations will also find lots to study and admire, both on the trails and at the bottom of the trails on the beach. The dramatic patterns are worthy of close-up inspection. Erosion by the natural elements has exposed the history in the layers of rock, colored as a glorious neutral rainbow.

Dramatic patterns

Dramatic patterns

Visitors to Torrey Pines may also witness the paragliders who take off from the Torrey Pines gliderport. It’s spectacular to watch the gliders sailing the air currents above the water. (See feature photo.)

Although I’ve never done even the less scary tandem paragliding, I’ve decided to add it to my bucket list. If you want to add paragliding to your San Diego trip, you can learn how to do that by visiting flytorrey.com.

The perfect Instagram shot!

The perfect Instagram shot!

Be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, water, walking shoes, and a snack or lunch to eat on the beach. There’s no food allowed in the reserve but you can eat on the sand. There’s a fee to park and it varies, so be sure to check Visit the Reserve on the official website to find out how much it costs.

Hiking Torrey Pines: a breathtaking way to get down to the seashore

Hiking Torrey Pines: a breathtaking way to get down to the seashore

Everyone who visits San Diego must spend a few hours at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in La Jolla to see Mother Nature in all her glory. You’ll leave feeling rejuvenated and vowing to come back another time.

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Milliver’s postscript: I had the pleasure of hiking Torrey Pines a few years back and can vouch for what Catherine wrote: You’ll leave feeling rejuvenated and vowing to come back another time. As I prepared this story for publishing I did make this vow and can’t wait to visit again. — Milli Thornton

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Cathie Nichols, staff member at Milliver's Travels

Catherine Nichols

Originally from the East Coast, Catherine Nichols has spent the last 29 years in San Diego, and stays in the area because of its extraordinary beauty and a lovely lack of humidity. Accused by her three children of looking at too many rocks while visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon and the deserts of Nevada, she continues to marvel at the ever-changing southwest landscape. With trips to Washington DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, and Europe planned, Catherine plans to reawaken her desire to see the world, and leave no stone unturned. Catherine writes in her blog at iBloggoneit.com and tweets as @bloggoneit.

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