Got a little daredevil on your hands? If your stuntman/woman in training is ready to graduate from jumping off the back of the sofa across the ‘hot lava’ floor below, head to the Torrey Pines Gliderport for a paragliding adrenaline rush that even the youngest thrill seekers can experience. Once their feet are back on the ground, fuel up at Cliffhanger Cafe and then take a hike around picturesque Torrey Pines. Read on to see where to make the leap to end up somewhere over the rainbow… literally.

Photo: Torrey Pines Gliderport

Fly High at Torrey Pines Gliderport
Treat the kids to an epic afternoon at Torrey Pines Gliderport. Just a few miles south of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, this is one of the county’s best spots to watch a sunset, enjoy a meal and experience the adventure of a lifetime. Your family will have a spectacular time at the Gliderport, watching people run, then leap off the cliffs with vibrant sails carrying them like rainbows toward the ocean.

Photo: Helen Y. via Yelp

Take the leap
Anyone of any age can paraglide tandem with an expert instructor. Really! Check the gliderport’s website for photos and videos of brave kids (and adults) who took the leap on this daring adventure.

Before You Go:

  • Ready? Reservations are not possible. Since flights depend on ideal wind condition, you’ll need to call ahead of time and see if flying is available on the day you’re interested. Be patient… you’ll have to wait your turn––which can take hours on a busy day.
  • Set! You will sign a waiver that releases the company of any liability, then meet your pilot who will give you some basic instructions and help you into gear. Their helmets are equipped to mount a Go-Pro. If you own one, bring yours for a terrific memory of your flight.
  • Jump! Your paragliding flight will give you 20-25 minutes of pure exhilaration over the magnificent serene coastline. Check that one off the bucket list!

Good to know: Blacks Beach, a nude beach, is beneath the paragliding area. Explain the naked factor to young gliders ahead of time should low winds cause them to have to land on the beach.

Torrey Pines Gliderport
2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Dr.
La Jolla Ca 92037
Phone: 858-452-9858
Online: flytorrey.com

Open daily 9 a.m.-sunset
Cost: $175, $165 cash; Photos $40

Photo: Torrey Pines Gliderport

A Meal with a View
Enjoy cool ocean breezes, panoramic views and an unforgettable meal at the Cliffhanger Cafe. Open air patio seating offers a picturesque vantage point of the Pacific. The cafe serves gourmet soups & sandwiches including our fave: The Torrey Pine sandwich piled high with chicken breast, Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard, lettuce and tomato. On weekends from May-Sept., you can also order from the grill and listen to live bands here. Want to bring a picnic instead? No problem. There are plenty of grassy spots and some benches and tables where you can set-up your feast.

Good to know: The only restrooms are porta-potties… and dirty ones at that.

Cafe open 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Online: flytorrey.com/the-cafe/

Photo: Girl Gone Child

Parking on the Path to Your Hiking Adventure
Based on your kiddos’ stamina, choose the parking set-up that best suits your clan. There are two options for parking before you start out on your hike.

  • The Easy Road: Park in the lot at The Visitor Center. You’ll avoid walking the steep grade that leads up from the beach.
  • A Steep Climb: Park at the beach. Lucky ducks will find free spaces along the road. Otherwise, park in the lot and pay at the booth. Walk up the steep service road to the top of the bluffs. This is the most strenuous part of the hike.

Parking Lot Fee: $15/day

Starting Point : A Visit to the Nature Center
A good first stop is the Visitor Center, which is a museum housed in a unique adobe building. Take a peek at exhibits showcasing animals, plants and insects native to the region. While there you’ll learn about the rare Torrey Pines that made this reserve possible. The Scripps family recognized the beauty and significance of the pines and bought the land to preserve their wild beauty. They grow only here and off the coast of Santa Rosa Island. Knowledgeable docents who work with kids each day at the reserve are glad to share their expertise and answer questions.

Photo: Beth Shea

For a Lovely Leisurely Wander: Guy Fleming Trail
Just up the way to the right, you’ll find the Guy Fleming Trail, a 2/3 mile loop that winds toward stunning ocean views. The nearly flat trail is wide and well-marked, perfect for pint-sized hikers. Stroll through the tree lined path and arrive at a beautiful vista point. There aren’t too many cliff sides to worry about, but always be aware of children’s proximity to the edges during your hike. Soak up majestic views, take photos and look for whales during migration season Dec.- April. Docents can give you tips on how to spot other wildlife here too. Free public guided walks for families and small groups are offered on weekends and holidays at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Meet at the Visitor Center entrance.

Photo: Erin Buss 

For Sure-Footed Hikers: The Beach Trail
Older kids and families who hike regularly will enjoy the Beach Trail. Past the Guy Fleming Trail, this popular path takes you further up the hillside, then leads you down through chaparral beauty which is covered in wildflowers during spring. The trail ends up at steep stairs that lead down to the lovely shoreline.

Insider’s Tip: Check the tide table before you begin this walk. During high tides, there may not be enough room to walk safely between the cliffs and the ocean. The beach is rocky.

Hiking Tips: Be aware of and follow the preserve’s rules to help keep it pristine for all hikers.

  • No food allowed along the trail. There are no trash cans, so they want to keep it trash free. Eat a snack beforehand and bring one in your bag for afterwards.
  • No dogs allowed on trail.
  • Stay on the marked trail to avoid trampling native plants.
  • Do not pick or collect anything.

Good to know: Restrooms are available at the beach level entrance and there are portable toilets in the west parking lot at the top level, across the street from the Visitor Center. Water fountains are available at the Visitor Center, the restrooms and on the Guy Fleming Trail.

Open Daily 7:15 a.m.–sunset

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
12600 N. Torrey Pines Rd.
San Diego, Ca 92037
Online: torreypine.org

Have you gone paragliding or hiking at Torrey Pines? Share your experience in the comments below.

–– Cherie Gough