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Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension

See magnificent and rare Torrey pines in this lesser-known state reserve.

The Daughters of the American Revolution Trail is dotted with gnarled Torrey pine trees, views of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, and the ocean. - Image by Joe Fader
The Daughters of the American Revolution Trail is dotted with gnarled Torrey pine trees, views of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, and the ocean.

San Diego is a unique and exciting city for many reasons, and the remarkably rare Torrey pine is near the top of that list. Most San Diego residents can probably tell you where to find it, whether or not they realize the tree’s uniqueness. That’s because the well-known Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve between La Jolla and Del Mar offers beautiful ocean vistas, secluded hiking, and, of course, plenty of opportunities to see Torrey pine trees in their natural habitat. Slightly less famous, but equally worthwhile, is the Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension, located just across Los Peñasquitos Lagoon from the main reserve. These less-traveled extension trails offer spectacular pine specimens as well as a rich collection of other coastal sage scrub and chaparral plant life.

While a stroll through either the main reserve or the extension may convince you that the magnificent Torrey pine is relatively abundant, it grows nowhere else in the world except a thin strip of coastline south of Del Mar and a tiny fragment on Santa Rosa Island of the Channel Islands. With only a few thousand individuals in the wild, the Torrey pine is considered rare, threatened, and endangered by the California Native Plant Society. It is a perfect example of why San Diego is globally known as a “biodiversity hotspot,” a region with very high numbers of plant and animal species, particularly endemics, or species that occur nowhere else.

The dry, sandy soils favored by the Torrey pine are also preferred by a variety of other San Diego natives. This coastal sage scrub habitat is rich with wildflowers, various shrubs, and, as the name suggests, sage. Both white and black sage can be found here, as well as the unrelated (except in smell) California or coastal sagebrush. California poppy and sunflower bloom here in late winter/early spring, with many additional wildflowers blooming in the spring months.

Begin the extension trail at the end of Del Mar Scenic Parkway. The trail forks early and turning right will follow the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail to the east side of the wide basin. The half-mile trail climbs sandy bluffs overlooking the entire basin and continues on to Mira Montana Drive. The north and west side of the reserve is explored by turning left at the fork and following the Mar Scenic Trail, which climbs to the other side of the basin and terminates at Mar Scenic Drive. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Trail can be accessed from this trail, as well. Follow it along a ridge dotted with gnarled Torrey pine trees to access spectacular views of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon and the ocean. A short offshoot trail descends from here into a pleasant, shaded pine grove.

Directions from downtown San Diego: About 20 miles. Allow 25 minutes’ driving time. From I-5, exit west on Carmel Valley Rd. Turn right (north) onto Del Mar Scenic Pkwy. Go to the end of the road and park. No facilities.

Hiking length: 2.0 miles round trip.

Difficulty: Intermediate; up to 200 feet elevation change.

Canyoneers are San Diego Natural History Museum volunteers trained to lead interpretive nature walks that teach appreciation for the great outdoors. For a schedule of free public hikes:

http://www.sdnhm.org/education/naturalists-of-all-ages/canyoneer-hikes/

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The Daughters of the American Revolution Trail is dotted with gnarled Torrey pine trees, views of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, and the ocean. - Image by Joe Fader
The Daughters of the American Revolution Trail is dotted with gnarled Torrey pine trees, views of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, and the ocean.

San Diego is a unique and exciting city for many reasons, and the remarkably rare Torrey pine is near the top of that list. Most San Diego residents can probably tell you where to find it, whether or not they realize the tree’s uniqueness. That’s because the well-known Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve between La Jolla and Del Mar offers beautiful ocean vistas, secluded hiking, and, of course, plenty of opportunities to see Torrey pine trees in their natural habitat. Slightly less famous, but equally worthwhile, is the Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension, located just across Los Peñasquitos Lagoon from the main reserve. These less-traveled extension trails offer spectacular pine specimens as well as a rich collection of other coastal sage scrub and chaparral plant life.

While a stroll through either the main reserve or the extension may convince you that the magnificent Torrey pine is relatively abundant, it grows nowhere else in the world except a thin strip of coastline south of Del Mar and a tiny fragment on Santa Rosa Island of the Channel Islands. With only a few thousand individuals in the wild, the Torrey pine is considered rare, threatened, and endangered by the California Native Plant Society. It is a perfect example of why San Diego is globally known as a “biodiversity hotspot,” a region with very high numbers of plant and animal species, particularly endemics, or species that occur nowhere else.

The dry, sandy soils favored by the Torrey pine are also preferred by a variety of other San Diego natives. This coastal sage scrub habitat is rich with wildflowers, various shrubs, and, as the name suggests, sage. Both white and black sage can be found here, as well as the unrelated (except in smell) California or coastal sagebrush. California poppy and sunflower bloom here in late winter/early spring, with many additional wildflowers blooming in the spring months.

Begin the extension trail at the end of Del Mar Scenic Parkway. The trail forks early and turning right will follow the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail to the east side of the wide basin. The half-mile trail climbs sandy bluffs overlooking the entire basin and continues on to Mira Montana Drive. The north and west side of the reserve is explored by turning left at the fork and following the Mar Scenic Trail, which climbs to the other side of the basin and terminates at Mar Scenic Drive. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Trail can be accessed from this trail, as well. Follow it along a ridge dotted with gnarled Torrey pine trees to access spectacular views of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon and the ocean. A short offshoot trail descends from here into a pleasant, shaded pine grove.

Directions from downtown San Diego: About 20 miles. Allow 25 minutes’ driving time. From I-5, exit west on Carmel Valley Rd. Turn right (north) onto Del Mar Scenic Pkwy. Go to the end of the road and park. No facilities.

Hiking length: 2.0 miles round trip.

Difficulty: Intermediate; up to 200 feet elevation change.

Canyoneers are San Diego Natural History Museum volunteers trained to lead interpretive nature walks that teach appreciation for the great outdoors. For a schedule of free public hikes:

http://www.sdnhm.org/education/naturalists-of-all-ages/canyoneer-hikes/

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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