Around Del Mar, you’ll find more than a pretty coastline. You’ll also discover sprawling lagoons and wetlands teeming with wildlife. All that natural beauty makes for some of the region’s best hiking. So whether you follow alongside a docent or go solo, these are routes worth lacing up for.
First: Fuel Up at Elixir or Pacifica Breeze Café
Start your active day off right with a quick stop at Elixir, where you will find an extensive menu full of healthy options. Their Blueberry Popeye smoothie with spinach, grass-fed whey protein, and acai will surely get you ready to sweat, or create your own smoothie from an array of ingredients. Feel like indulging before your big day? The Banana Walnut waffle, complete with rum caramel and whipped cream, at Pacifica Breeze Café will satisfy any craving.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Spectacular hiking trails can be found at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve 12600 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla 92037. Sandwiched between Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course on the south and Del Mar on the north, this coastal park offers exquisite ocean vistas and is home to the nation’s rarest pine tree, Pinus torreyana. Free guided tours are available weekends and holidays at 10am and 2pm, beginning at the Visitor Center (The Lodge). For those who prefer to explore alone, the trail system offers easy to moderate routes, with more moderate trails running parallel to the coast at the lower levels of the reserve, and steeper ones that switchback their way down toward the coast. Day-use parking is $10 and the park is open from 8am to sunset daily.
Check out torreypine.org.
Beginning at the corner of Durango Drive and Del Mar Heights Road, observe the ultimate showcase of San Diego’s chaparral ecosystem. Nestled inbetween residential communities, the Crest Canyon Trail is filled with coastal sage scrub and enormous Torrey Pines trees, with the backdrop of the blue San Dieguito Lagoon. The trail has many different beautiful paths to explore– however, the 2.6 mile loop will allow you to fully experience all the trail has to offer. Parking on Durango Drive is first come, first serve!
Scripps Bluff Preserve
The Scripps Bluff Preserve is a slightly lesser known trail than Torrey Pines, which means you won’t have to worry as much about crowds. There’s a short route from Dog Beach that goes up to the preserve, so your canine companion can take the stroll with you. The top of the trail overlooks Del Mar to the south and has views you’ll be thankful you brought your camera to capture. Tip: the view is even more spectacular during sunset. After taking in the colorful sky, enjoy dinner right across the street at the Brigantine. Famous fish tacos, anyone?
San Dieguito Lagoon
A stone’s throw from the beach on the north side of Del Mar, you’ll find San Dieguito Lagoon. If you’re a birdwatcher or photographer, this ocean inlet is not to be missed. The lagoon serves as a stopover site for many migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway and as a nursery for endangered species, including the California Last Turn, the Light-Footed Clapper Rail and California Brown Pelican. To help identify these birds, refer to the chart at the lagoon’s viewing dock. To access the dock, take Jimmy Durante Blvd. to San Dieguito Road. The viewing area is on your left. To access the lagoon trailhead: go east on Via de la Valle, turn right on San Adres and park anywhere along San Andres. Access trail at kiosk.
After hiking, reward yourself with salt and vinegar fries (maybe throw in the Three-Way Beet Salad to balance it out) at Viewpoint Brewing, situated just steps from the Lagoon trail head. If you brought your furry companion with you, they are more than welcome to join as well!
Riverpath Del Mar
Soak in some sun and scenery while walking along the San Dieguito River on Riverpath Del Mar. This quarter-mile route is on flat land, making it ideal for a leisurely stroll or picnic on the riverbank. To access the path, go west on Via de la Valle, then south on Jimmy Durante Blvd, just past the bridge over the San Dieguito River. The trail is located along the south shore of the river, west of Jimmy Durante.
View map at sdrp.org.
San Elijo Lagoon
Nestled between the cities of Solana Beach and Encinitas is the San Elijo Lagoon, one of San Diego County’s largest coastal wetlands. The sprawling 1,000 acres is home to more than 700 species of plants and animals. The trail system offers eight trails, most of which take about an hour and a half to hike. There are free naturalist-led walks every Saturday from 10-11: 30 am beginning at the San Elijo Lagoon Nature Center, which is located at 2710 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, 92007.
For information, visit sanelijo.org or call 760-634-3026 or 760-436-3944.