Familiar to most people around Del Mar but unknown to many 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 State Reserve. The extension area offers some distinct advantages for hikers. Its narrow, seldom-trodden pathways offer a sense of peacefulness and isolation. The Torrey pines clinging to the stark, eroded sandstone bluffs here are larger and more robust than many of those that inhabit the main reserve. You’ll find three kinds of sage (white sage, black sage, and coastal sagebrush), all exuding resinous fragrances that are the essence of wild San Diego. Bowers of wild cucumber vines affixed to the larger shrubs have set forth their spiny, heavy-hanging fruits. Bright yellow encelia and sea-dahlia bloomed a month or two ago but are fading now.
To get to the reserve extension, exit Interstate 5 at Carmel Valley Road. Drive 1.1 miles west to Del Mar Scenic Parkway on the right. Proceed to the end of that street, where curbside parking is available and where the trail system begins.
Straight ahead on the trail, there’s a split. Take either the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail “A” to the right, which goes up a sage-filled basin sparsely dotted with Torrey pine trees, or the Trail “B” to the left, leading straight to the Mar Scenic Trail and Mar Scenic Drive to the north. The latter route gives you access to the superb D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) Trail. It 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 twisted Torrey pines.
If you climb upward toward the eastern side of the reserve extension, you’ll eventually come to a sandstone ridge capped with reddish rock. This is part of the Linda Vista Formation, which is the common cap-rock of many of San Diego’s coastal mesas.
This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.
Torrey Pines Extension
Discover the obscure Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension in Del Mar.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 18 miles
Hiking length: 1 to 2 miles