“When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go”.-  Alexandra Stoddard

There are some places in the world that seem to cast a spell on you, and always drive you back. For me, one of those places is Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego. Every time we visit San Diego, I feel an incessant pull towards visiting the park on the first night we arrive so I can watch the sunset across the beach. I am never disappointed and I am always mesmerized by the sheer beauty of this magical place.

Located along the rocky coast of the Pacific Ocean between La Jolla and Del Mar, the 2,000- acre Torrey Pines Reserve affords one of the wildest stretches of land along the Southern California coast. Named after the nation’s rare pine tree, the Pinus torreyana, this beautiful wilderness area offers several hikes affording spectacular panoramic views of the ocean and craggy cliffs leading down to a vast, unspoiled beach. It has been a favorite of mine ever since we first visited San Diego for Spring Break in 2015.

Since I am somewhat of a fanatic about sunset, we always try to plan our visits to Torrey Pines at least two hours before sunset so we can first do a hike in the park and then play on the beach before watching the sunset unfold. There are two places you can park your car depending on how long of a hike you want to take. If you want the shorter option (which is great with kids), you can drive your car all the way up to the top of the bluffs and park near the visitor center. The only downside is that someone has to hike back up to get the car at sunset. If you want a longer hike, you can park your car at the beachside parking lot or even out on the street for free. From the beachfront, you can walk up the long, winding road to the top of the bluffs and then hike down to the beach.

This time we unfortunately arrived a little too late to do the hike and only had time to play on the beach. I forgot that the sun sets very early in the winter and the park closes at sunset (which tends to be a little after 5 pm in December).  However, as soon as I saw the sky my disappointment disappeared. We were in for a special treat. The clouds, the sun and the light beams aligned. We could have had fog or no sunset at all. How lucky we were to have such good luck!

As the kids walked along the beach, playing in the water I snapped away at the changing light. Soon I realized my daughter was the perfect subject to capture the serenity of the place. Where earth meets sky, waves strike land and the smell of salt water satiates your soul.

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

I watched my daughter walk along the shore and was engulfed in this moment of time and beauty. At eleven, she is still a girl but it won’t be long until she become a young lady. If only I could bottle up her innocence!

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

As the last rays of light illuminated the water and the shore, we realized with regret that we only had a little more time before the park closed. I wondered if I was fortunate enough to live in San Diego, would I be able to slow down enough to watch the sunset every night or would my life be equally if not more crazy than it already is living here in Minnesota raising two kids?

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

Torrey Pines State Reserve, California

When the sun dipped into the horizon, I sat still taking in the ocean air, the sound of the birds, and the salty smell that put me at ease. Why is the ocean is so calming and tranquil? There is no place like it on earth.

What a brilliant reward to watch the sun set once again over Torrey Pines. I can hardly wait to go back! But next time, we will get there with enough time to do the hike.

Planning a Trip to San Diego? Check out these posts on Torrey Pines and San Diego:

An Afternoon at Torrey Pines

A Return to Torrey Pines

Top Five Things to Do in San Diego with Kids

For more information, please visit www.torreypine.org


  1. I’m not sure if you’d have any more time if you lived in California, but you’d certainly have a lot less money! 🙂 I love the feel of the endless sky in your shots today, Nicole. Hope you’re keeping warm. We’re anticipating temperatures around 30 on Sunday, a veritable heat wave after the last several weeks. 🙂


    1. Yes I know! California is very expensive so there would go the travel budget. Lol. I just get tired of the cold. I love to be outside so much. With the dog, I’m still out every day a few times walking in this weather but it has been tough. I can’t wait until tomorrow!!!! 30! It will feel balmy. 🙂

    1. I love San Diego. Wish we could live there. I know it is very expensive and for a reason. But I still love it a lot. Perfect temperature!

  2. Beautiful photos, Nicole, especially with your daughter’s silhouette in there. It’s also nice to have a place that you return to time and again as a family; your kids will not forget this special beach!

    1. Thanks Lexi! Yes it is so nice because now when we visit my parents in Tucson we then add on San Diego as it is only a six hour drive. It has been so nice! I love it there.

  3. I live about a fifteen minute walk from the beach, and it has been probably two weeks since I have had time to make it over there…just like anywhere else, you get busy, and important things aren’t the priority they should be. I promised myself when I moved back here again, ten years ago, that I would go to the beach every day. Unfortunately, I haven’t honored that promise. Thanks for reminding me how lucky I am to live so close to the beautiful Pacific Ocean. There really is no other place like it.

    1. Yes life is so busy isn’t it? You are truly lucky to live so close. It is such a beautiful place! We also went to Point Luma to watch the sunset at Sunset Cliffs. It was very nice too but there is just something about Torrey Pines that I truly love. I also love the temperature in CA! Yes, get back down to the beach! Enjoy!

    1. I sure do love it there LuAnn. If there is one place I wish I could live, it would be San Diego. I know it is very expensive but I really love it there so much. Hiking, ocean, beaches, sunsets, wine country, restaurants and the perfect weather. My favorite!

  4. What a very special place. Looks like heaven on earth. I agree with you too Nicole, there’s no place quite like the ocean to make you feel alive.

    1. Yes it is beautiful. I bet you have a lot of gorgeous beaches like this in Australia judging by all your photos and blog posts. 🙂

  5. Glorious skies, Nicole! 11 is just young enough to still be innocent in these ever changing times of ours. Wonderful to have these moments to treasure. Make them last as long as you can! 🙂 🙂

    1. Thanks Jo and yes my daughter is still very sweet. The kids are at a wonderful age right now. 🙂

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