Torrey Pines Loop
The Trail and the Plants
Torrey Pines State Park is a unique coastal haven for rare plants and epic views. The Torrey Pine, namesake of the park, is found in only 2 locations, here and on Santa Rosa Island. The native plants found here are members of the coastal or maritime chaparral, a very select habitat. The trails wander over the canyon and bluff with fabulous views ocean and beaches below.
This is a 3.36-mile loop hike that takes in 3 trails in the park, the Guy Fleming Trail, the Beach Trail and the Broken Hill Trail. We begin at the Guy Fleming Trail. Although there is parking there (about 8 spaces) many hikers park at the bottom beach area and walk up the old road (the original Highway 1) to the trailhead. Right at the start there are Torrey Pines, a rare pine with 5 gray-green needles in a cluster. This is a beautiful pine that is often windswept into artful forms.
Hugging the pines are Black Sage and yellow flowered Deerweed. In the shade under these shrubs white-blossomed Milkmaids make an early spring showing. They are on the left and scattered off the trail on the right. There is Toyon and Lemonade Berry with yellow flowered Sea Dahlia all around. Quickly there is a trail junction and interpretive sign, go to the left, we will return on the right.
Chamise and the pungent grey leafed California Sagebrush join in; both are key members of the Coastal Chaparral. Climbing through the shrubs is Wild Cucumber with sprays of small white flowers. On the right is a twisted Torrey Pine. The slender yellowish-green leaves of Bush Rue are sporting small white flowers. This multi-branched shrub has a spicy aromatic fragrance. Clumps of Coast Prickly Pear cactus will have large yellow flowers in spring. Tall spires of Twiggy Wreath Plant in summer and fall have deeply divided glossy green leaves and light purple flowers. . The trail drops into a low point and the sharp pointed, stiff leaves of Spanish Bayonet are found on the right. This Yucca-like plant will have a large but short spike of flowers in spring. There is a bench nearby.
I found a new plant here recently, a cream-white flowered form of Ground Cherry. I have hiked the trail countless times and had never seen it before. It is common in Desert areas. An old favorite is on the left (there are many on this trail), the erect, spreading branches of Violet Snapdragon. The small purple flowers greet me every year, an early sign of spring’s arrival.
As we climb out of the low drainage the sound of waves crashing alerts to the ocean vistas ahead. On the right is Shaw’s Agave with its very tall flower spike topped with yellow blooms. This is the most northern range of this species. It was one of the most important food and fiber plants for the Native Americans.
The mounding perennial California Four O’clock with deep pink flowers is on both sides of the trail. The large yellow daisies of Bush Sunflower brighten the area. Another yellow bloom, in clusters on blue-grey leaves comes with the 2-3’ tall Bladderpod first showing on the right. Deerweed’s small deep yellow flowers line slender stems clothed with narrow deep green leaves. Many annuals spring up as we near the ocean bluff. Yellow Pincushion and Beach Primrose add to the golden colors. At the bluff there is a short side trail to a viewpoint.