You’ve probably visited Torrey Pines State Beach, stretching from La Jolla to Del Mar, but if you haven’t headed up the hill, you’ve seen only a fraction of what the park has to offer.

Just off Carmel Valley Road, the Torrey Pines State Reserve is actually 2,000 acres of protected land. Home to one of only two areas where the Torrey Pine grows naturally, the Reserve also includes the saltwater estuary and bird sanctuary, the beach, and neighboring sandstone cliffs.

If you are one of the many San Diegans who hasn’t explored the Reserve, visiting on the weekend will make you wonder where you’ve been. The road leading up to the lodge is filled with people walking, biking and jogging their way to the top. Once you arrive, it’s not hard to see why.

The adobe lodge, built as a restaurant in 1923, sits atop the bluffs with breathtaking views to the north, east and west. The road, which rises 300 feet in less than a mile, is a popular destination for local hikers looking for a challenge, and offers beautiful views at the top and sand and surf at the bottom.

The Visitor’s Center, housed in the lodge, opens daily at 9 a.m. and hosts children’s tours during the school year, junior ranger programs throughout the summer and free guided nature walks each weekend. Docents are available to help you find your way or you can explore on your own.

Volunteer Frank Burham led the walk on our recent visit, sharing a wealth of information about the local flora and fauna, the geological history and the Torrey Pine, the rarest species of conifer in the U.S. Frank led us on a short, easy hike to the Red Butte bluff, where the view was spectacular and where he says one can enjoy fabulous whale-watching in the winter.