I am a horrible driver, and do everything I can to avoid driving on the freeway. Luckily, I live right off the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, the 101, etc) so I have access to the best parts of San Diego without having to get on the dreaded 5 or 15.
One of my favorite morning hikes is the Torrey Pines State Reserve located just south of Del Mar. Right off the 101! The trails are popular, but there are so many to choose from that it rarely feels crowded like so many other popular hiking locations.
You can either park at the beach and walk up (a very steep, but paved!) hill or you can drive up to the top and walk down from the cliffs. The view from the cliffs are gorgeous, especially on a clear day. There are tons of fun rocks to climb (see my first picture, haha) and gorgeous wildlife that can only be found in the chaparral (world's smallest biome! woo!)
For more info on the park: http://www.torreypine.org/
Plus, if you're heading back to north county afterwards, stop by Ki's cafe for an awesome smoothie or burrito bowl!