The La Jolla Heights Open Space clings to a patch of chaparral-clad hillside overlooking the village of La Jolla. Pottery Canyon is essentially a secluded ravine, right off busy Torrey Pines Road. Both are small parcels of land open to limited public exploration. If you want more of a drive-around as opposed to a hike-around experience in the scenic La Jolla hills, and plenty of great views to boot, pay a visit to both locales. (Note: It’s ever so much more pleasant if you avoid peak traffic times anywhere around La Jolla. How about early on a Saturday or Sunday morning?)
To get to the highest heights of the La Jolla Heights Open Space, turn south (away from the village) from Torrey Pines Road onto Exchange Place. After three blocks, veer right on Country Club Drive. Continue uphill, and at the next fork in the road, swing left on Romero Drive. After a couple of blocks, hang a left on Brodiaea Way, and after further steep uphill driving, turn left on the dead-end Encelia Drive. Park where you legally can do so along this cramped street, and walk down past Encelia’s dead end. A tiny trail system originates here. You wend your short way amid native chaparral growth as well as some fine, nonnative succulent plants. In no time at all you reach a resting bench perched, it seems, to take advantage of possibly the most comprehensive view of the village, the ocean, and the curving cliffs and coastline stretching north to Del Mar and beyond. (These remarks apply particularly to clear days and not to those plagued by May gray or June gloom.)
The second destination, Pottery Canyon Open Space, can be reached by driving north on Torrey Pines Road from its intersection with La Jolla Parkway/Hidden Valley Road. Make a right at the first traffic light on basically a driveway, and within a short distance check out the interpretive plaque on the right, which details the history of the long-gone La Jolla Canyon Pottery Company.
Drive onward another one-quarter mile to an unpaved parking lot for the Pottery Canyon Open Space. Much of the area all around is filled with privately owned luxury houses and mini-ranch properties, yet you can forge your way up a couple of short trails on public easements. To the right of the parking lot, a path leads upward along a hillside to a locale offering a peek view of the Pacific Ocean. Straight ahead from the parking lot, you can go right up the Pottery Canyon ravine bottom, under the shade of mature eucalyptus trees, some of which exhibit great shards of perpetually peeling bark. A more serene place would be hard to find anywhere else nearby.
Two La Jolla Gems
Discover two of La Jolla’s obscure open-space parks.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 14 miles
Hiking length: Less than 1 mile for both • Difficulty: Easy