I hope folks will find these useful, informative, or at the very least an entertaining diversion.
Name: Torrey Pines State Beach/Preserve
Location: Torrey Pines State Beach just south of Del Mar along the Coast 101 Highway
Description: Torrey Pines State Beach is a combination of coastal beach and the actual preserve for the Torrey Pines up on the summit with an extensive trail system weaving along the cliff formations. There is also a trail that leads from the cliffs down to the beach.
Difficulty: Medium (there is a huff-n-puff walk up the paved road from the lower parking lot to the top of the cliffs, going up about 7/8's of a mile with an elevation gain of 850 ft)
Experience: This is one of my favorite hikes to take which I have done several times as it takes one to the beach, offers a good cardio workout, then affords some glorious vistas and views of the San Diego coastal area.
You access the lower parking area off of North Torrey Pines Road either from the North coming from Del Mar or Carmel Valley, or from the South out of La Jolla.
I prefer to come via Carmel Valley Road and along the Los Penasquitos Lagoon and the two lane road as it slows the pace down and sets the mood for a relaxing time.
As you come down the Del Mar bridge there is an area of public unmetered 'free' parking spaces. These are not actually 'in' the State Park, but just outside.
But these fill up fast - even during weekdays. And people end up cruising or stopping in the hopes they can catch someone else just about to leave.
If you go past the public spaces, you can turn into the actual State run Preserve area - which has an Entrance Station run by Rangers and a $12/day fee.
Usually there are spaces open throughout the day because, well, it's $12/day. But if you have kids or a group - sometimes well worth it to avoid spending time trawling for one of the 'free' spots.
Sometimes at the height of the summer season this lot will fill up. When this happens, there is a second fee access area across the Lagoon - not as close to the beach, but within walking distance.
I'm fortunate in that DW and I bought a lifetime pass a couple of years ago. I just hang the pass from the rearview mirror and in I go.
Lot's of options on what to do once you are in. There is an access road to the top of the park with even more parking, but you won't be at beach level.
My favorite routine is to park at the bottom and walk the access road up as part of my workout. It gives a great cardio workout if you walk at a brisk pace - definitely breathing hard if you go the 7/8 mile non-stop to the top.
At the top there is a Lodge which has been converted to a type of Natural History Museum of local plants and animals and gift store.
Further on and across the street to the west/cliff side, there is a big Trail Map of all the different trails. I typically take the Beach Trail down to the beach, then along the ocean back to the parking lot in one big loop of about 2.75 miles.
The weather today was glorious! Clear, cool, nice ocean breeze - great for a brisk walk up and then along the beach.
The trails are well maintained and offer some fantastic views
The Beach Trail winds its way for about 3/4 mile from the top to the beach.
Once at the bottom, you can look South (left) towards La Jolla, which you can walk if the tide is right
But I go back North (right) and along the beach back to the lower parking lot along the cliffs.
You can walk this loop in under 1 hr, but I stopped at several points just to enjoy the experience and take some pics. There are benches at various points so you can just sit.
This time of year is perfect: a weekday, the local schools are still in session and it is still before the Del Mar Fair starts (which starts this Friday June 5). So easy parking (paid or pass), not too many people on the trails, and as you saw from the beach picture, not too many people on the beach.
You do need to watch the time of day to visit to make sure the tide is low or at least going out, because at high tide there can be little or NO beach at all.
I got there about 11am - tide just going out so by the time I hiked to the top then down the Beach Trail - perfect beach access.
After my hike it was about 1pm - perfect time to head up to Del Mar - the poor w*rking folks are back in their offices and the traffic not bad at all.
Lots of choices for lunch, but I opted to try the Del Mar Liquor and Deli Mart just past 11th avenue. Found a parking spot no problem, went in, ordered a hot pastrami sandwich and was on my way!
ER Rating: 5/5 - the stars aligned today for a great day