Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Experience the natural beauty of San Diego's wilderness and beaches at the iconic Torrey Pines Nature Reserve.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
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History of Torrey Pines
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Explore the iconic Torrey Pines!

Located within the city limits, Torrey Pines is a stunning natural reserve synonymous with San Diego.

Bordered by the well-known Torrey Pines Golf Course to the south, Torrey Pines offers hiking trails for all levels, stunning untouched beaches, sandstone canyons and most importantly, a safe haven from development.

The reserve is over 2,000 acres of protected coastal land, dedicated to preserving native plants and wildlife.

The reserve was named after the resident Torrey pine tree, Pinus torreyana, which is the rarest pine tree in North American. Dr. Charles Parry discovered the tree in 1850 and named it after a botanist from Columbia University, his mentor, Dr. John Torrey.

The Torrey pine is well protected on the reserve, and over 3,000 Torrey pines thrive on the reserve. The only other place they grow is Santa Rosa Island, off the coast of Santa Barbara. In addition to the Torrey pine tree, the reserve also protects a waterfowl refuge and one of the last salt marshes in California.

Visitors should appreciate that Torrey Pines is not a park, but is a reserve, with a focus on preservation over recreation. Hikers and nature enthusiasts are welcome to enjoy the beauty of the area, and are asked to do their part in conservation.

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La Valencia Hotel
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Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
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The Lodge at Torrey Pines
$343
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Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine
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History of Torrey Pines

Early Days

This coastal area was once inhabited by the Kumeyaay Indians - the first people in San Diego. They traveled the coast and hunted for fish and sea animals.

In 1899 the San Diego City Council began preservation, starting with 364 acres as a park. In the early 1900s, philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps bought additional lands and donated it to the city for preservation.

Expansion

In the 1920s, naturalist Guy Fleming became the District Superintendent for the Southern California State Park System and mapped out the reserve's first trail system in 1921.

An ordinance in 1924 expanded the park to almost 1,000 acres, including cliffs, mesas and canyons. The State of California took over protection as a state park in 1956, for the purpose of strong protection for the reserve.

Preservation and restoration

The Torrey Pines Docent Society was started in 1975, with the purpose of promoting preservation and the establishment of the Visitors Center. It was named as a U.S. Natural Landmark in 1977.

The current name, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, was coined in 2007.

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Enjoy Nature

In addition to the Torrey Pine tree, there are many other natural wonders to enjoy. The landscape includes stunning sandstone cliffs, and a wide offering of wildlife and vegetation. The Santa Ana winds cause the area to be quite dry, and coastal sage scrub and coastal strand thrive in this unusual climate.

Birds

A variety of birds call Torrey Pines home year round, including Red-tailed Hawks, Quails and California Thrashers. Other species of birds have been spotted in the lagoon, temporary visitors to the lagoon during their migration down the coast.

Other animals

Mammals in the reserve include mule deer, jackrabbits, skunks, and coyotes. Reptiles include multiple species of lizards, and also rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes are seen year round, and visitors should keep an eye out!

Enjoy everything Torrey Pines has to offer!

Check out the trails

There are over eight miles of trails at Torrey Pines, offering hikes of various difficulty and lengths, earning a spot as one of the Best Hikes in San Diego. The Guy Fleming Trail is an easy choice, just under a mile, and suitable for hikers of all levels. Though an easy trail, the rewards are great.

There are two overlooks with stunning panoramic views. From the North Overlook, you can see the Torrey pines and Peñasquitos marsh, and from the South Overlook you can see La Jolla to the south, and as far out as the Santa Catalina Islands. Keep an eye out for migrating whales if you're visiting in the winter!

Broken Hill Trail is the longest trail, at about 1.3 miles. This trail winds through sagebrush and chaparral, and offers an exciting viewpoint of eroding sandstone. It also joins the Beach Trail above Flat Rock.

The Beach Trail is 3/4 of a mile, and leads down to Torrey Pines State Beach. This trail is less scenic than others, and can be very steep at parts. It ends at a beach staircase that leads down to the coast.

Local Tips
Are there any rattlesnakes?
The 2 most common rattlesnakes you will see here are the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake and the Red Diamond Rattlesnake. The Southern Pacific Rattlesnake is the one you will most likely run into in the park. If you see one please, turn back and notify a park employee or volunteer.

Gorgeous beaches

Torrey Pines State Beach, located directly below the towering cliffs, are clean and beautiful. There are 4.5 miles of amazing beaches to explore, from Del Mar in the north and ending at Black’s Beach in the south. The beaches are open daily from 7:15am - sunset.

There are two sections of the beach, north and south. The north beach offers a traditional beach experience, great for families looking for a swimming spot, or other traditional beach goers. The south beach is popular among surfers seeking the thrill of the swells at Black's Beach or nudists seeking a private beach.

The lifeguard's home base is set up at the north end of the beach, year round. During the summer, there is lifeguard supervision along the beaches, however, there are never any lifeguards stationed below the bluffs. Swimming in this area can be dangerous, and at your own risk.

The state of California oversees the beach, and offers day parking for a fee, $10-25, based on demand. There is also an option for an annual pass for residents.

There are restrooms available in the beach parking lot, which are the only restrooms available on the reserve.

Swing by the Visitor’s Center and Museum Shop

The Visitor Center is open daily from 9am- 6pm during summer and 10am- 4pm during winter. This building was originally called Torrey Pine Lodge, which was also a restaurant. There are many taxidermied animals that are found in the reserve, and exhibits to learn more about the culture and history of the reserve.

The Museum Shop offers a variety of memorabilia including reserve themed clothing, books, reusable water bottles and art made from Torrey pine wood.

Guided tours leave daily from the Visitors Center at 10am and 2pm, and last about an hour. These guided tours are open to the public and are limited to 10 people.

Educational programs and events

There are many educational programs available for various groups at Torrey Pines. There are programs for school age children, from elementary school through college aged. It is recommended to keep groups to 10 people or less, and have one chaperone for every eight children.

If you're planning a special event at the reserve, a permit is required, which can be obtained from the Visitor Center. The reserve is available for weddings, vow renewals or private hikes, among other occasions. Groups gathered without a permit will be asked to leave and may be cited.

Get involved!

If you're passionate about conservation and preservation, there are two programs for you to consider. Both contribute greatly to the reserve.

Members of the docent program lead nature walks, staff the Visitor Centers and Museum Shop, and serve in the children's educational programs. To become a docent, you must complete a comprehensive training program.

Volunteers require only a brief review of the rules and regulations of the reserve, and are focused on maintenance. Groups or individuals are welcome to volunteer. Some tasks of volunteers include trail maintenance, removal of non-native plants, weeding, and beach cleanup and restoration.

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The Lodge at Torrey Pines
Outside View at The Lodge at Torrey Pines
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How to get to Torrey Pines

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Street Parking
Street Parking

The reserve is located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, bordered by Del Mar to the north and the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course to the south.

Torrey Pines is one of the most popular San Diego Points of interest, and this is reflected in the parking. Prime time is 10am-1pm, so it's best to plan your visit around those times, if you want to avoid the crowds.

From Interstate 5, exit at Carmel Valley Road and head west for 1.5 miles until you reach South Camino Del Mar. Turn left, and drive along the beach for approximately half of a mile. The entrance to the reserve will be on your right.

There are two parking options within the reserve, the north and south lots. Both charge a fee, which varies from $10-25 based on demand, daily from 8am until sunset.

The south beach lot is directly past the gate, with minimal additional parking at the top end of the road. This parking lot often fills quickly, and the blinking light signals when the south lot is at capacity, and visitors should head to the north lot.

There is also free street parking along Highway 101/Pacific Coast Highway. Be prepared for an uphill trek to start your day, if you're heading to the trailheads from the south lot or street parking.

If you're looking to get to Torrey Pines via public transportation, you're in luck. Check out the schedule for 101 bus, which makes its way to the reserve.

Planning Ahead

Remember, this is a reserve, not a park!

Since Torrey Pines is a reserve rather than a park, there are many rules that are necessary to keep the area as natural as possible. Be prepared to pack in, pack out. There are no trash cans, water fountains, or places to purchase food and water like you might see in a park.

Picnicking

Food is only allowed to be eaten on the beach, and only water is permitted on the trails. Absolutely no alcohol anywhere in the reserve.

Facilities

The only restrooms available are located in the beach parking lot.

Keep your dog at home

Dogs and horses are not permitted, even in the parking lots.

Dress appropriately

Some of the trails are strenuous and steep. Sturdy shoes, extra water, and protection from the sun are recommended.

Fire danger

Torrey Pines has a high fire danger, and therefore smoking is strictly prohibited, along with open fires of any kind.

Drones

Within the boundaries of the reserve, drones are prohibited in the spirit of preserving the wildlife and vegetation, along with the undisturbed scenery of the reserve. Drones are permitted north of the reserve, which is at 6th Street in Del Mar.

Respect the wildlife

The goal of the reserve is to provide an untouched habitat for the wildlife and vegetation. If you encounter any of the 'residents' of the reserve, please do not disturb them. Even rattlesnakes are protected- keep an eye out for them!

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Stay Nearby

La Valencia Hotel
Luxury Hotel
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from $325 / night
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Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
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from $235 / night
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The Lodge at Torrey Pines
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from $343 / night
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Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine
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