Torrey Pines State Park, La Jolla

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve covers 2,000 acres of land, and is one of the most primitive stretches along the Southern California coast. The carefully preserved reserve remains as it was before the development of San Diego. It includes a complex ecosystem including pristine beaches, a lagoon that is essential to migrating seabirds, aquatic scrub, a salt marsh and waterfowl refuge, and the rarest pine tree – Pinus Torreyana, better known as the Torrey Pine. While the primary goal is to preserve this area, it’s also a great place for visitors to enjoy a challenging hike, walk a serene trail, or gaze out from a heady overlook. Torrey Pines Reserve features steep broken cliffs, deep valleys on headlands that overlook the ocean, and trails lined with Torrey Pines.

What to Do at Torrey Pines

There are two beaches you can access while in the Torrey Pines Reserve; they are aptly named North Beach and South Beach. The park is made up of several trails, and at least one leads down to the beach where visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, and strolling the shoreline. It is important for guests to check tide tables, as high tide typically leaves no room to walk safely between the ocean and the cliffs in some places. Visitors should stay away from the bottom of the cliffs because rock slides can occur at any time. The wide range of trails allow for visitors to choose from rigorous hikes, or leisurely strolls; many lead to resting points that provide amazing views of the ocean.

Torrey Pines Reserve offers free guided walking tours given by docents on weekends and holidays. Morning tours at 10 a.m. and afternoon tours at 2 p.m. meet at the entrance of the Visitors Center. These walks are a great way to learn about the natural and cultural history of the area in a beautiful and tranquil setting.

The Visitors Center also has a small museum at the top of the reserve. Knowledgeable staff guide guests through an in-depth look at the reserve’s history, as well as answer any questions one might have on park ecology and trails. The museum has a collection of taxidermal park animals. Guests can purchase nature related items from the Visitors Center gift shop like shirts, walking sticks, books, art, reusable water bottles, and other environmentally conscious items.

Torrey Pines Park Essentials

Dogs are not allowed anywhere in the Torrey Pines Reserve. Food and drinks are not allowed in the park above the beach. Guests can have food on the beach, but no alcohol. The Reserve has a strict “Pack it in – pack it out” policy. This means whatever visitors bring into the park must come back out with them. There are no trash receptacles in the upper reserve or along the beach. Guests can rid themselves of their trash at parking lot trash/recycling bins and dumpsters. There is absolutely no smoking or fire of any kind allowed anywhere in the Reserve. Showers are no longer available beachside in order to conserve water.

Visitors can park in the South Beach entrance parking lot, the North Beach parking lot, or in one of two small lots on the mesa close to the Visitors Center. Any vehicles that enter the Reserve will have to pay a per vehicle fee. Prices vary between mid-week times, and weekends and holidays. There are also seasonal variations. The North Beach lot is the only lot that allows guests to pay by the hour; others are day use passes. Bathrooms are available at beach parking lots, and at the west parking lot in the upper Reserve. The park is open 7:15 a.m. to sunset all year. Exact closing times are posted at the South Beach Parking lot entrance daily.

Near Torrey Pines

Just to the north of Torrey Pines is the charming neighborhood of Del Mar, a European-styled beach town with excellent boutique hotels. Les Artistes Inn boutique hotel, L’Auberge luxury hotel, and Clarion Inn Del Mar offer a mix of accommodations. Del Mar Plaza is the epicenter of the neighborhood, filled with exciting galleries, ocean view dining, and boutique shops. Visitors can also find hidden gems like the Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary. Del Mar is home to the famous Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds, and two popular waterfront parks – Powerhouse Park and Seagrove Park.