Monday, May 13, 2013

My Top 3 San Diego Hike: Torrey Pines State Beach to LaJolla Shores

The Coast Between Torrey Pines State Beach and La Jolla Shores
There are not that many places in Southern California where one can have an unobstructed beach hike for miles. The sharp cliffs cut off the sights of highway, railroad tracks, power lines and civilization beyond. These sharp cliffs limit road access to about 3 miles of beach between La Jolla Shores and Torrey Pines making this section of shoreline feel so quiet and pristine as if somewhere in a faraway island, not in US 8th largest city. Each time I take this hike I feel so thankful I do not have to spend tons of money for a quiet island vacation. All I needed is to hike away from the crowds of La Jolla Shores Beach and Torrey Pines State Beach. 

For some hiking information:

Distance: 10- 12 miles round trip.

Best Time of Year: Year-round! The weather in San Diego is very mild. It does not get too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter. It is mostly dry for a very pleasant hike year round.

Best time of day: During low tide ( if you are doing a round trip hike, must start 1- 2 hours before low tide). You can check tide data for La Jolla or Torrey Pines online or using cell phone tide apps. It is important to check tide in this hike since some portions may not be passable at high tide because there may be no beach to walk on since strong waves crash right on the walls of the cliffs.
Torrey Pines to La Jolla Shores @ High Tide 

Start of Hike: Either at La Jolla Shores Beach Kellog Park or at North Torrey Pines State Beach Parking area. If you can make it 2 hours before the low tide, North Torrey Pines State Beach would be a very strategic start. Why it is very strategic to start from Torrey Pines at 2 hours before low tide because  when you pass by Dike's Rock Tide Pool, the ocean life at the inter-tidal zone is already exposed. 
Sea Stars @ Dike Rock Tide pool, Scripps Coastal Reserve
Also, you get to access La Jolla Caves right in time. Most importantly, your hike is at a range when the water level is still at its low. Just don't stay too long in the tide pool area or enjoy a particular scenery so much you may have to climb up the cliffs if you get caught in high tide. If you would have to climb up the cliffs before Torrey Pines State Reserve, you may find yourself walking on city streets, which probably you don't want to.
La Jolla Caves ( accessible only at low tide ), southwest of La Jolla Shores Beach
Now, let me bring you to the hike. From North Torrey Pines State Beach parking area, we pass by Los Penaquitos Marsh and Lagoon.
Los Penaquitos Lagoon @ North Torrey Pines State Beach Parking Area
From the lagoon, we walk towards the beach, and then, start walking South towards La Jolla.
Where Torrey Pines State Beach and Los Penaquitos Lagoon Meet
Every part of this hike is a destination itself and so many sights to rest your eyes, heart, and mind. The sculpting and colored layers of the walls of Torrey Pine cliffs always makes me thankful to THE LOVING HANDS who created all these natural wonders.
Torrey Pines Cliffs from Torrey Pines State Beach
After about 1.5- 2 miles from North Torrey Pines State Beach, you will hit Flat Rock. If you are tempted to hop to the top of Flat Rock, don't stop yourself. You may be surprised as to what you may see from the top of the rock, as this is the first tide pool you will experience in this hike.
Panorama taken from Flat Rock 
(left side of the picture is towards North Torrey Pines State Beach, whereas right side of picture is towards La Jolla Shores )
Anemones at the Tide Pool Above Flat Rock
( you do not always have to go diving to see what underwater is like, you just have to see the rocky inter- tidal zone at low tide )
From Flat Rock, continue your walk South on a sandy beach towards La Jolla Shores. The sheer cliffs that parallels your walk reveals a slice of geologic past. At closer look, you will see layers of sandstone and some faults on the walls of the cliffs. On the sand, you will see so many shore birds enjoying their meals, they look like playing with the waves. 
If you take a closer look on water, you may see some surfers, partying sea birds that feed on the rich aquatic life, or playful dolphins. 
 Surfer Meets Dolphins
Sometimes, some sea lions would haul out on land. Like us, they needed some space and a break from their routine once a while.  We observe them from a distance only. 
Sea Lion Looking Up The Cliff ( I wonder if the sea lion think of climbing that high )
After about 3.5 miles, the sand disappears to give way to rocky terrain. This is Dike Rock tidepool. 
The Green World Exposed @ Dike Rock Tide Pool
Here, from a casual and more relaxed walking on fine sands, you start guarding your walk as the rocks are very slippery. Enjoy the tide pool here, you may be surprised as to how many sea stars you will see. 
How Many Sea Stars Do You See?, at Dike Rock's Tide Pool
Of course, aside from sea stars, you will see so many inter-tidal habitat here, such as anemone ( of different kinds ), spiny but beautiful sea urchins, funny looking sea hares, a lot of crabs, some lobsters,  etc. 
Green Anemone
If in case you got too entertained by tide pooling in this section, please be mindful of the time and of the tide. If the tide data would show highest tide coming in 1 to 2 hours, don't proceed anymore to La Jolla Shores and Caves, since you may be caught by high tide on your way back. However, if you are compelled to continue to La Jolla Caves, and find you would not have enough time to go back without being caught by high tide, you can always take the city bus at La Jolla Shores (bus 30 going North to UTC then transfer to bus 101going North at La Jolla Shores and North Torrey Pines Road) to bring you to Torrey Pines State Reserve if in case you think you'll get caught in high tide. We completed this hike several times without needing to take a city bus back to Torrey Pines since we pay attention always to the tide and time our hike. Dike Rock tide pool is not very long, after a while, the rocks disappear again for fine sands.
Me, under Scripps Institution of Oceanography Pier
South of Dike Rock, the first prominent structure of civilization you will see is the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Pier, which is primarily used for research purposes. Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for ocean and earth science research, education, and public service in the world.
Terns and Surfers @ La Jolla Shores Beach
South of the pier is La Jolla Shores Beach. There are now more people, because this beach is now accessible to roadways. Also, Kellog Park, which has a free parking space for beach goers are adjacent to the beach. Plus, there are many restaurants at the shores. In short, you now have reached the civilization portion of this hike. After a while of walking South of La Jolla Shores Beach, there is no way for you to continue walking South since you hit the La Jolla Caves area. At extreme low tide ( negative low tide), you can continue walking west on the rocky intertidal zone to access the caves which are now accessible by foot.
Me @ La Jolla Caves
The Tide Pool and Ocean from the inside of La Jolla Caves
Again, unless you plan to take the city bus to bring you back to Torrey Pines State Beach, or call someone to pick you up, don't stay too long in the caves because you do not want high tide to trap you in your 5-6 miles of walk back to Torrey Pines. It may be a long way back, but it is fun. 
Walk Back to Torrey Pines ( this is South of Dike Rock Tide Pool )
Why I love this hike? I know, a lot others dismiss this hike for having no challenge since there is no climbing involve and it is only a beach. Well, I see this place as more than just a beach. I see this hike as more than just beach hiking. It is about exploring the life both in the land and the sea. Quoting Albert Einstein,
" Look deep into nature,
and then you will understand everything better." -Albert Einstein 
Hiking for me is not limited to uphill and climbing challenges alone in the mountains and deserts. I welcome everything that explores nature. My love for the sea could be best described below ( you may click the picture to enlarge if the texts come too small ).
Though I love hiking in the mountains and in the desert, but I will always go back to the sea. I always get a high whenever I combine hiking and the ocean
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  1. my guess is close Beth, thought this would be on your top 2. alam ko kasi madalas kayo ni angels dyan. now can't wait for your top 1 and 2.
    busy-busyhan, will try to catch up when i can. i am running on scheduled posts, goal ko makapag-draft for at least a week in advance. hehehe, let's see how it goes with my busy schedule lalo na dadating sis ko and her family fri night for a vacation. tourist guide mode.
    enjoy the rest of the week. :D

    1. Hi Che, thanks. I believe your guess is correct, my most favorite (top 1) includes part of this hike, and high above the bluffs. Yep, it is TP :)

  2. This simple life is not simple for me.This kind of joy only exists in my dreams.Now I'm making money for my worldwide trip.That's my joy!

  3. It's like another paradise. How beautiful the scenery is, photo are well captured too.

  4. i never knew cali is such a haven for natural richness. those sea stars are beyond pretty and colorful creatures. are they big? can anybody hold them?

    1. Hi Riz, thanks. Yes, those sea stars are huge. Sometimes, strong pounding waves wash them to the shore, so we pick them up and return them to the rocks, where they feel most at home. So yes, we can hold them if they are not on rocks, but if they are, they are clinging so tight to the rocks, we just happily watch them.

  5. I will definitely go out for a hike each and every day if I will be given the chance to be on that paradise, Betchai!:-)

  6. always lovely to look at your beautiful pictures, it says it all how lovely a place is...these things are the one I hope to do someday! you're lucky and blessed to be around these areas...can't wait to read the top 1 and 2. :) btw, i love your picture under the scripps and in the cave, show's happiness for me! :)

  7. Man oh man, I think you have seen it all ate Beth, thanks for sharing thei majestic views with us.

  8. It doesn't get better than that!


  9. Again... you supply your readers with awesome photos. Thanks for the online tour. BTW ,Betchai what are you thinking about doon sa photo mo sa cave?

  10. hi there Betchai!!!!!! weeeeeeeee sigh, what can I say? I have been dreaming of Torrey Pines and La Jolla shores since the first day I found The Joys of Simple Life! :D

  11. I have to add the green world exposed is one of my favorites here and the oh so blue skies, the birds in flight and of course your smiles! :)

  12. I have just watched some videos about tent cities in LA, and was feeling down. Your post showed the beautiful part of our world, and lift my spirit. Gorgeous photos, Betchai!