With windswept sandstone cliffs, and stunning year-round views of the Pacific Ocean, Torrey Pines State Reserve is one of San Diego’s most popular parks. Even though it is a park that is popular with locals and visitors alike, few people realize that the park was established to protect the Torrey Pine, which is one of the rarest trees on the planet, as it only grows in and around the confines of the park and on Santa Rosa Island. While there are many spots within the park where one can walk under, view, and get close to the pinus torreyana, there is only one spot that demonstrates the risks that these rare trees still face, and that is the Parry Grove Trail.
The Parry Grove Trail was one of the three original reserve trails plotted out by the first park ranger of the park, Guy Fleming, and as such is one of the oldest trails in the park. From its inception through 1980, the trail led through a grove of Torrey Pines, similar to those along the nearby Guy Fleming Trail. But, in the 1980’s, during a drought, the trees in the Parry Grove fell victim to a bark beetle infestation and died. Today, the bones of these dead trees are still readily visible along the trail, and the area is a lone clear spot between the separate surviving groves of trees in the reserve. Despite the loss of the trees, the Parry Grove Trail like the other trails in the region is a great walk with great coastal views in all directions.
Directions: The Parry Grove Trail is located a short distance to the North from the main visitor center for the reserve, and there are many signs leading visitors from the parking area to the trail. However, as the parking area near the visitor center is small, it is common to have to park at the bottom of the reserve, where the state beach is located, and walk up the park road to access the trail, which ads a respectable 1.2 miles (.6 miles each way) roundtrip to the hike. From the road, the trailhead is well-signed, and has an excellent description of what the hike entrails. The trail first passes the Whitaker Garden on a level stretch before heading down 118 stone steps over a hundred feet. The trail as a whole was recently repaired and renovated in 2014-2015, and the stone steps into the basin where the Parry Grove used to be features some of the fine work which was done to bring the trail into the twenty-first century. From the bottom of the steps, the trail loops around in a circle providing great views to the North, South, and the West. From the road, the trail is a moderate half mile (.5) loop that, aside from the 118 steps, is relatively flat, and overall, accessible to all skill levels of hikers.