Familiar to most Del Martians but unknown to most outsiders, the Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension conceals itself amid the coastal bluffs inland from Del Mar and just north of the main Torrey Pines reserve. The extension offers some distinct advantages: its narrow, ill-maintained, and seldom-trodden pathways offer a sense of peacefulness and isolation. The same cannot always be said for the popular trails of the main reserve. There are eroded sandstone formations here, and scattered, hardy Torrey pines that somehow escaped unscathed the ravages of the late-1980s drought.
Sea dahlia and Torrey pine
Here you'll find three kinds of sage (white sage, black sage, and coastal sagebrush), exuding resinous fragrances that are the essence of wild San Diego. Bowers of wild cucumber vines affixed to the larger shrubs have sent forth their spiny, heavy-hanging fruits. Bright yellow encelia and sea-dahlia have bloomed in recent weeks but are fading now.
Of the extension area's many entrances, the dead-end of Del Mar Scenic Parkway (off Carmel Valley Road, 1.1 mile west of Interstate 5) is perhaps the easiest to find. Park near the end of the cul-de-sac and choose either the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail to the right, which goes up a sage-filled basin sparsely dotted with Torrey pine trees, or the Mar Scenic Trail to the left, which leads to the superb DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Trail. The latter trail slants up and then along a linear ridge to the west. From the Torrey-pine-shaded south brow of this ridge, you can look across Los Peñasquitos Lagoon to the bluffs of the main reserve and out to the ocean horizon. West of this ridge, a spur trail descends into an intimate little hollow with picturesque sandstone walls and gnarled Torrey pines.
On the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail you eventually climb toward a ridge capped with reddish rock. This cap is part of the familiar Linda Vista Formation, which is well represented atop many of San Diego's coastal