Native only in southern California, Torrey Pine is the rarest pine tree in the United States. Besides Torrey Pines State Park, it can only be found on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara. Its long, stiff needles are in fascicles of five. The seeds of its cones are attractive to birds, insects, and rodents.
After I took the photo along the trail, I found a silver, cone-shaped thing a few yards from the tree. I thought I found a UFO! After I got closer I realized it's a tent. Camping is not allowed in the park, but a young couple picked a perfect, secluded spot all to themselves!
The recent rain brought erosion to the trails of Torrey Pines, but also brought lush green and lots of wild flowers. According to a local hiker, this area is usually dry and brown. When I went I saw only green. Most hikes in Torrey Pines are easy, and you can cover everything in about half a day. But I took my time and spent more than that. Lots of wild flowers. The photo shows a vista point called Yucca Point.
The photo shows the view from Yucca Point. On the top of the photo is Flat Rock as described in my previous tip. The whole Torrey Pines State Park is a bluff made of sandstone rising from the Pacific Ocean, creating many photo opportunities. Popular photo angles include looking down at the beach from top of cliff like this one. (Enlarge the photo to see the person walking on the beach to get the scale.) Or you can look up at the cliff from the beach, such as my opening photo on intro page, which was the exact opposite angle to this one -- I was standing on Flat Rock looking at Yucca Point.
Spend some time at the beach if you visit Torrey Pines State Park. It's quite different. As seen in photo, the sand has brown color with black highlight -- brown is the original color of the beach while black is the sand washed down from the cliff. The beach is also dotted with pebbles and guess what, pine needles!
When I took the photo I was standing on the top of Flat Rock. You can see this part of the Beach Trail hugs along the cliff wall with interesting scenary. On the top of Flat Rock there are some tidepools.
Torrey Pines State Park is basically a sandstone bluff rising up from the Pacific Ocean, but I didn't expect to see an alcove on the beach. It reminded me of Arches National Park in Utah, where alcoves are usually arches-in-the-making. Wow, perhaps some day, in 50 years or so, I'll see a natural arch here. It also reminded me of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, where ancient Americans chose to dwell on the cliff right beneath the alcoves. Here they can surf too.
The photo shows the last section of the Beach Trail that takes you from the top of the mesa down to the beach. This is the only opening in the 2-mile cliff wall. Despite the runoff, you can see some hikers are doing it.
The flat-topped rock sticking out in the ocean is called "Flat Rock". From the Visitor Center you can take the Beach Trail to get here. The last 200 feet of the trail is a steep decend from the top of cliff down to the beach, and Flat Rock marks the end of your hike. The day I was there, the steep decend was a small waterfall due to runoff. So I took the photo and turned around.