We decided to take it easy this weekend, just as we did the last, and it went about just as well. Summer had definitely hit San Diego with full force, and we were both drained from the heat. Instead of going for a hike in the mountains or desert, we chose to go the other direction and spend some time at the beach, enjoying the cooler coastal temperature and some much needed time in the ocean. I have not set foot in the water in probably two years, which must seem absurd to some. I live in a beach city for crying out loud! Like with anything in San Diego, even the mildly accessible beaches in San Diego are overcrowded. If you’re not there at the crack of dawn you could spend hours trying to find parking and a place to set up, so I usually just talk myself out of it before even trying. We had no doubt that anywhere we would go would be packed, and we were trying to avoid this as much as possible. We planned on heading north, maybe towards La Jolla, but hadn’t really decided where we wanted to go. On a whim, while sitting in the car waiting for Jeremy to run back into our apartment to retrieve a forgotten item, I decided to look up trails in that area. I knew there were some coastal trails that were pretty easy, and I figured it might be fun to explore the coast a bit more. With our tired bodies and the overwhelming heat, I definitely wasn’t looking for anything intense. By the time he returned to the car, I had fully researched the trails at the Torrey Pines State Reserve and presented him with my findings.
He was interested in the idea as well, so I ran back in and grabbed some of my hiking gear, and off we went. Though we got there early, our detour back home had cost us and any parking within a reasonable distance had been snatched up long ago. The parking lot itself is absurdly expensive, costing up to $20 for a single car. Even the street parking on N Torrey Pines Rd. was metered for something like a mile, and only gave you a few hours. With the long walk just to get to the trails, walking the trails themselves, and time spent on the beach we knew it wouldn’t be enough. We ended up having to park on Carmel Valley Rd. and walk around and through the north parking lot, which was about a mile. The sun was already beating down on us at this point, and even the ocean breeze wasn’t enough to dull the suffocating feeling of hot air in your lungs.
From the parking lot you follow Torrey Pines Park Rd. up the hill to where the trails are located. The trails themselves are pretty darn easy, however the hill is a bit brutal when you’re out of shape and it is hotter than hell outside. You can drive to the top, which is ideal for families and those who are physically unable to walk up the hill, but again the entrance fee is a bit hefty. Once you’re at the top all of the trails are easily accessible, some of them connect with one another and all wind around towards the ocean for a lovely view of the water from the cliffs.
There is additional information on alltrails, as well as a number of other websites. This is, after all, one of the most highly trafficked trail areas in San Diego from what I have seen. They show it as one big loop though, from the parking lot and using the road to reach the trail to the beach, and then following the beach back towards the parking lot. All of the actual trails branch off from the road.
Thankfully the marine layer moved in, which offered some reprieve from the heat (though not from the sun). We wandered around these trails for a few hours, taking in the sights. There isn’t really much to these trails, to be perfectly honest. The view of the ocean is similar from each of them, though it is lovely. I think that the big perk here is an easy going day that still allows you to be in nature, which is exactly what we were after. The first is the Guy Fleming Trail, which offers views to both the east and west, as well as some gorgeous plant life.
It would be a stunning view, if not for the parking lot below.
The next loop is the Parry Grove Trail, but it was so ridiculously packed with people that we just passed right by it. Plus the heat was getting obnoxious, so we figured it was time to start making our way down to the beach. This shot is from the road towards the trail, and you can see someone on the path above. What you cannot see is the enormous crowd just to the left of them, as this trail is near the top parking lot so a lot of people can access it easily from their cars.
The next trail actually breaks off into a few different loops, which all connect and lead down towards the beach. We mostly stayed on the Beach Trail, but ventured off briefly towards Razor Point. Again, the crowds were a bit too much for our liking so we didn’t spend too much time exploring these paths.
Though you cannot see them, there were probably 30 or more people sitting up on this rock next to where Jeremy is standing. It kind of reminded me of when you see dozens of sea lions all packed onto a single rock.
We finally reached the end of the Beach Trail, which of course descended down to the beach. This trail was definitely the worst when it came to the crowd, at one point we stopped and stepped off to the side to let people pass and at least 100 people walked by us. No exaggeration, I felt like I was being herded out of an arena after a huge concert. People were lugging huge coolers, lawn chairs, you name it. I have managed so far to mostly keep people out of my pictures, so maybe it seems like I’m full of it. I guarantee you that even though these trails are pretty, if you’re looking for peace and quite away from the world this is not where you want to go. But as I mentioned before, the easy access should already indicate that.
Though there were a lot of people on the beach, there is so much space to spread out that it didn’t feel quite as crowded as the trails did. I did really enjoy this part of the trek, since the cliff faces have such interesting textures that had been carved out by years of being battered by the elements. Jeremy didn’t want to swim until we had reached the main beach, by the entrance where we had come in, so we walked along the water admiring the cliffs that we had only recently been standing atop of.
Once we reached the front of the beach, the marine layer cleared up and we hopped into the ocean as quickly as possible to cool off. Like many things, I have a bit of a fear of the ocean. Well, not so much of a fear as a cautious respect for what she can do. I know that I am completely out of control when in the ocean, and the idea of not being able to see something sneaking up on me… well, let’s just say it makes me uncomfortable. However, I practically ran full speed into the water and dove into the waves. I was so overheated, and because I hadn’t been in the ocean in so long once I was there I just couldn’t resist. The water was mostly clear, and the temperature was absolutely perfect. I ended up staying in there for probably a good hour, and then sat on the beach for a while actually enjoying the sun.
It isn’t exactly the most awe inspiring stretch of beach, I mean you’re literally sitting there next to dozens of cars and probably breathing in exhaust fumes from the road. If I were to go here again I would definitely get there much earlier, forget the trails and walk down the beach to where you’re a bit more cut off from the people and cars.
I think this is the first outing so far that I am not sure I would recommend, though I suppose it would depend on what you’re after. When you live in the city sometimes this can mean that being in nature and getting away from people aren’t going to align, so if you don’t have the energy for a long trek you may have to sacrifice the latter desire. We were tired and didn’t feel up to a big adventure, so we had to go somewhere easy. And easy means lots of families, large groups, etc. If you’re looking for somewhere to take your family or spend a day at the beach with your crew, then this is probably right up your alley. However if you’re looking for a quiet day on the trails, the combination of an over abundance of people and mostly underwhelming scenery may make this one worth skipping. If you want to see if for yourself, just make sure that you either go on a week day, and/or go as early as possible.