Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve truly feels a world away from San Diego when in reality it’s only around 25 minutes away from downtown. This reserve is home to the rare Torrey Pine that is only found in this area and on the island of Santa Rosa Island that’s off the coast of Santa Barbara. It’s easy to spend a whole day here exploring the seaside trails that are perched high above the surf. Here are the best Torrey Pine hikes to take, whether you are looking for an easier workout or a more advanced trek.
Where exactly is Torrey Pines SNR?
This reserve is located between La Jolla and Del Mar in northern San Diego. It’s an hour and 45 minutes drive from LA and around an hour and twenty minutes from Orange County. It’s located conveniently right off of Highway 5.
Best Time To Hike in Torrey Pines
The best time to go hiking in Torrey Pines is on cooler days since there is little shade on the trails. Note that while summer days can be hot, summer mornings can be ideal if there is a marine layer present. September and October are some of the warmest and most humid months in Southern California, so take that also into consideration.
Getting to Torrey Pines SNR
It can be confusing for those visiting for the first time where to go. Once you enter the park off Carmel Valley Road, you will find the North Beach lot. This lot is for those people who want to go to Torrey State Beach or take a really long hike up the mountain to the reserve. If you continue on N Torrey Pines Road you will come to the South Beach lot where there is an entrance booth. Here you will pay the general admission day use ($10-$25 depending on demand).
You can park in the South Beach lot or if you want to avoid a significant hike up the mountain you can park at the top where the trailheads are located.
Torrey Pines Hiking Essential Info
- Take note of the hours – the reserve opens at 7:15 daily and closes at sunset. There is no camping/RVs allowed.
- Learn more about the area in the Visitor Center – there is a small museum as well as a gift shop. Step outside and be treated to more spectacular views of Del Mar/Carmel Valley. It opens at 9 am daily and closes around sunset.
- Be prepared for minimal shade – there are hardly any large trees in the reserve that provide shade, so plan accordingly with the proper sun protective gear. Even on cloudy days, the sun can give you a good burn!
- Wear proper hiking shoes – avoid wearing open-toed shoes since there are cacti and rattlesnakes on the trails, especially during the summertime.
- Bring your own food – there are no places to buy food once in the reserve. Note also that food is not allowed to be consumed on the trails.
- Cell phone service is decent – due to it being close to coastal cities and its relatively small perimeter, you can still use your phone to get directions, etc.
What to Pack for Hiking in Torrey Pines
- binoculars – you never know when you will spot marine life!
- plenty of food/water – including high protein snacks and electrolytes
- sun protection – hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
- layers – t-shirt, sweatshirt, light jacket
- first aid kit – including tweezers for cactus spine removal
The Top Torrey Pines Hikes
Torrey Pines SNR has six trails that you can use, most are relatively easy and short (under a mile). You can combine them to make a longer hike since they intersect at various points.
Guy Flemming Trail
Distance: 2/3 mile loop
Level of difficulty: easy
This is the easiest trail, that is relatively flat and has some shade. It’s ideal for families with small kids and those with mobility issues, but it’s not suitable for strollers and wheelchairs. You can choose to enter the loop either on the left or right and take in scenic views at two lookouts that are situated above the ocean bluffs. During springtime, the wildflowers are in full bloom along the trail.
There is a water fountain at the trailhead, as well as parking.
Parry Grove Trail
Distance: 1/2 mile loop
Level of difficulty: medium
Located to the north of the Visitor Center, this trail is more secluded than Guy Flemming and has a steep entry/exit in the form of 118 stone steps. This trail is the best place to spot the rare Torrey Pines and was named after Charles C. Parry, who was the first person to record the species. At the trailhead, there’s Whitaker Garden, where you view plants native to the area. EB Scripps Overlook is to the left of the loop before you descend the stairs.
There is also a water fountain at the beginning of the trail as well. The best parking is near the Visitor Center and the parking lot near Razor Point Trail/Beach Trail.
High Point Trail
Distance: 100 yards with steps
Level of difficulty: medium
Don’t let the length of this trail fool you, since you need to climb up to reach the highest point of the reserve at 300 feet. Once at the top you are rewarded with panoramic views of the ocean, the reserve, the lagoon, and further inland. This is a great spot to understand the layout of Torrey Pines SNR from above.
Razor Point Trail
Distance: 1/2 mile to overlook
Level of difficulty: medium
For close views of the reserve’s rocks formations, this trail provides spectacular views of the rugged landscape and the ocean beyond. The trail shares a trailhead with Beach Trail and you will take a right when the trail branches off. Make sure to check out Red Butte, a massive sandstone formation that appears a little after you get onto Razor Point Trail. The end is Razor Point Outlook, where you can see the cliffs and the ocean below.
To get back to the trailhead you can either go back the way you came or take the first fork in the road and turn right. You are now on the Beach Trail and can turn right up ahead to reach Yucca Point outlook or turn left and go back up the hill to the trailhead.
Parking is available at the trailhead, as well as restrooms.
Distance: 3/4 mile
Level of difficulty: hard
If you want to dip your feet in the ocean, this popular trail leads directly to Torrey Pines State Beach. The trail passes by Red Butte as well as a route to meet up with Razor Point Trail and see the Razor Point outlook. The trail ends at the Yucca Point outlook, but there are stairs that go for 300 feet down to the beach. An alternative way to get back is to walk along the beach toward the South Parking lot, which makes it about a 3-mile walk.
Beach Trail shares the same parking lot as Razor Point Trail.
Broken Hill Trail
Distance: 2.5-mile loop
Level of difficulty: hard
Great for those who want to get away from the crowds, the North and South Fork Trails both eventually intersect with the Broken Hill Trail and are roughly the same length. The South Fork Trail features the South Fork Overlook as well as the Broken Hill Trail Overlook, though these two overlooks can be easily accessible from the North Fork Trail as well. There is access to the beach from the Broken Hill Trail as well.
Park in the same lot as Razor/Beach trailhead and then walk back onto the main road, turn right and go past the sign that says “the road is closed to vehicles beyond that point.” The trailheads for the North and South Fork should be on your right a little ways ahead.
Torrey Reserve Extension Trails:
Located on the other side of Carmel Valley Road (north of the Penasquitos Lagoon), there are four different extension trails you can take. They are best accessed from Del Mar Scenic Parkway (via Carmel Valley Road), Mar Scenic Drive, or Mira Montana Drive (via Del Mar Heights Road). Best of all, parking for the extension trails is plentiful and free on all three streets mentioned above.
- Mar Scenic Trail – 1/2 mile, sandstone formations with a few hills, stay to the left at the trail split in the beginning for ocean/lagoon views. The right trail is actually the West Ridge DAR Trail, which intersects with the DAR trail
- Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Trail – 1/2 mile, features views over the marsh to the main reserve and ocean
- Red Ridge Trail – 1/3 mile, boasts views of the lagoon, the main reserve, and geologic formations
- Margret Fleming Nature Trail – 3/4 mile, brings hikes through coastal sage scrub
Here’s a helpful map of the extension trails and the nearby streets.
Things To Do Around Torrey Pines
Famous for its panoramic waterfront views, this upscale San Diego neighborhood is an ideal area for spending a day by the ocean. The biggest draw is La Jolla Cove, a scenic stretch of coastline that has a walking path along the water and where you can spot the smelly, but adorable sea lions. Scripps Park is located right next to the cove and is perfect for stopping to take a break on its grassy lawn or have a picnic at one of the provided picnic tables with a hard-to-beat view.
This glitzy beach town is known for events like the Del Mar Horse Races and San Diego County Fair located on the Del Mar Fairgrounds during the summertime. Spend the afternoon at picturesque beaches like Del Mar City Beach, and pup-friendly Dog Beach.
A whole afternoon can easily be spent at the Cedros Design District, where you can shop for home interior goods, stop into a café for a quick pick-me-up or browse the numerous art galleries. For outdoor adventures, Fletcher Cove Beach is a sheltered inlet where you can take a swim or surf.
This eclectic seaside surf town has stunning beaches like Moonlight State Beach and Swami’s to spend a lazy afternoon lounging on and watch surfers do their thing. Further inland, the San Diego Botanic Garden has over 4,000 different plants from around the world, including rare bamboo groves and an intriguing undersea succulent garden. Head back to town and walk through historic downtown Encinitas to get lunch at The Taco Stand.
Photo sources: wildflowers