La Jolla’s Best-Kept Secret

La Jolla’s Best-Kept Secret

Carved out of the hills in an area of rarified wealth, La Jolla Heights Open Space is, at 42 acres, a tiny nature preserve atop Mt. Soledad, just outside San Diego.

We’d rented a ludicrously overpriced Airbnb, complete with a 22-page instruction manual (wish I was kidding) in the hills above Pacific Beach, intending to bring our adult children and their significant others together.

I’d indulged myself in pool time with our two daughters and the boyfriend of one, soaking up the rays and the coastal views. Meanwhile, Teddy endured the southern California traffic as he headed to meetings for much of the week.

When Friday arrived, he was ready to make the most of a morning off with a good hike. We drove the ten miles or so up Soledad Mountain Drive, oohing and aahing along the aptly named Amalfi Street, catching tantalizing views of the coastline between gorgeous houses, most behind gates, all the way in.

The trailhead was tough to find, but winding through the streets in La Jolla Heights, past exquisite houses proliferating with bougainvillea and manicured shrubs, was certainly no chore. Everything was quiet and pristine, with not a real estate sign in sight. We agreed nobody would leave willingly.

We parked our little rental car on the side of the road near Olivet Street and walked a short bit on Al Bahr through the neighborhood, under a lovely bridge that looks like a Roman aqueduct, until we found the brown trailhead sign.

The trail is steep, climbing 655 feet over 1.3 miles (be mindful of loose gravel) and provides one of the only rustic and naturally beautiful hikes in the area.

The Open Area is maintained by the City of San Diego, but most of the vegetation grows wild. It’s a precious sliver of what La Jolla looked like in its unspoiled state. And the 180-degree views of the coastline from the summit are breathtaking and worth the anaerobic burn.

As with all things in San Diego, the higher you go, the posher the homes. Brace yourself for some serious house envy. As you climb, you’ll see on your right the golf course at the exclusive La Jolla Country Club.

The trail is just long enough to be a moderate workout, but it won’t take you a full morning. Post-hike, we headed about 15 minutes away to The Lodge at Torrey Pines, where the staff was entirely gracious to us as we breakfasted in our sweaty workout clothes.

On the way, we passed the Salk Institute, a world-renowned scientific research institute and an architectural marvel providing stunning vistas over the water. It is open weekdays only, and reservations for self-guided tours are required. I visited in 2017 and highly recommend it.

There are also lots of cute eateries in La Jolla Village. See here for a great resource from

If You Go:

Plan for about 45 minutes to summit and descend

Wear tennis shoes or hiking boots

In hotter months, bring plenty of water

Dogs are allowed but must be leashed

Watch out for mountain bikes traveling at high speeds down the mountain

At the top of the hike, there are “No Trespassing” signs, but they refer to the reservoir and not the trail

Sue Lyon-Springfield is Editor-in-Chief of The Replete Life.

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