If you are in the San Diego area and like to get your steps in, this is the best place to go.
The reason this is one of my favorite hiking places in San Diego is because there are so many options depending on who is hiking with me and how much time I have. You can chose a small easy loop or hike all the way up and down the hill for more of a work out. You can do it cheap and park along the Coast Hwy or pay about $15 and drive up to the top.
If I have the boys I nanny with me, I have always driven up the mountain, then we hike down to the beach and back up on trails because it’s more interesting. In my opinion, it feels like more work to walk up the hill along the paved street than to hike up the dirt trails. It’s so beautiful and distracting on the trails, I forget I am hiking up a mountain. The next time I take them though, I am planning on going up along the paved way though just to save the entrance fee. I would rather use the $15 to take them for fro yo or lunch after the hike.
If/when you take yourself on this hike, drive on Interstate 5 to Carmel Valley Road and go West to the coast. Drive south on Camino del Mar (Coast Highway) and try to find a parking spot along the coast. If those spots are all taken, you can park in the paid parking.
Note: Torrey Pines State Reserve is named for the pine trees by the same name that only grow naturally in two places; Torrey Pines (area) and Santa Barbara (area). A way to identify the Torrey Pine is the needle clusters have five needles each.
Whether you hike or drive up the hill, you should stop in the small museum/visitors center located at the upper parking lot. You will see the rich history of this area. There are photos and books to see including the old Coast Highway that goes through the reserve.
Every season looks a little different depending on what is growing and what is dormant.
There are several trails to chose from and if you hiked up along the paved road, you passed several of them before getting to the top. As you will see, some trails connect to other trails but only the Beach Trail leads you down all the way down to the beach. Be sure you stay on the trails as I have seen both a rattle snake and a baby bobcat along the trails. There are rangers that will fine you for going off the trail and no food or dogs allowed here. Only water is allowed and recommended.
Just below the museum/visitor center building is a short trail called High Point. Take a minute to see the panoramic view up there. There is a trail across the street from that trail head called Parry Grove if you want to explore that one. I like to take the main street up a ways to one of the Broken Hill Trail. (There are two entrances) the other a little farther. When you come to the Broken Hill Overlook, go up that path for the view.
Wind down until you see a sign that says Beach Trail to go down to the beach.
If you parked by the beach, you can just walk the beach back to your car.
If you go with young children or someone who can’t walk hills, I recommend driving partway up the mountain to the curve and park in a small dirt parking lot near Guy Flemming Trail. This is a flat loop that is not very long but you still get some great views.