Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, CA

As its name implies, the Torrey Pines State Reserve is one of only two places in the world where the rare Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana) grows. To my eyes, the Torrey Pine is a squat, hearty tree that makes its way in the world by clinging to the sandy cliffs of the La Jolla area. Coastal storms and the harsh desert environment that the tree calls home have twisted some of the plants, but many look unexceptional. Nonetheless, I always find myself enjoying the company and experience of rare species; there’s something special about being in their presence.

Torrey Pine! (c) AB Raschke
Torrey Pine! (c) AB Raschke

Outside of visiting for the trees, the Torrey Pines State Reserve also has a set of trails that weave through the dry, coastal environment of San Diego, and it sports a long, sandy beach perched just under the crumbling cliffs of the shrubby bluffs that characterize the park. It also home to the Los Penasquitos Marsh, which has been closed to all use save one trail. The components that constitute the reserve make it a varied place, that is appealing to hikers, travelers, and beachgoers and which kept me busy for more than half the day.

When I visited the park, I hiked up the north beach first. In the morning, the crowds were fairly limited for a California beach, but there were swimmers, sunbathers, and surfers scattered all the way from the parking lot to the northern end of the park. There was also a large group of devoted volunteers combing the beach for trash when I was there, and I always find it heartening to run into people spending their time caring for the environment. The beach seemed otherwise unremarkable, and it was made somewhat unpleasant by the close proximity of a busy railway.

Neat coastal, sandstone formations (c) AB Raschke
Neat coastal, sandstone formations (c) AB Raschke

The southern half of the reserve was more appealing, but due to my lack of research before visiting, I was somewhat surprised by the fact that I had to pay for parking two separate times as my ticket for the northern parking lot didn’t work for the other half of the park. The northern half of the reserve is home to most of the Torrey Pines hiking trails, has a visitor center, restrooms, and its own beach.

Many of the trails here meander through the green capped dunes of hard packed sand, that are crisscrossed by increasingly deep ruts and ravines that have been carved out of the cliffs over the years. These paths can take hikers out towards the cliff edge, where you can gaze out at the ocean, and take in the adventurous nature of the Torrey Pines, as many of them grow along the cliffs and in the recesses of the water-carved sandstone. I took several of these trails, and enjoyed the unique vegetation and beautiful scenery of the ocean along all of them, however, the path down to the beach from the northern bluff to Flat Rock, was my favorite place here.

Beautiful views in Torrey Pines (c) AB Raschke
Beautiful views in Torrey Pines (c) AB Raschke

And if you have any questions about Torrey Pines or my travels feel free to leave me a comment. 🙂

My next update will be on New Years, and will be about my first impressions of New York City. I can already say that I do not enjoy the cold!


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