There are no shortage of hiking trails in California. A Torrey Pines hike offers magnificent coastal views. Sprawling over 2,000 acres of land, the coastal Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is located in La Jolla, in San Diego, California. The Torrey Pines State Reserve is known for its plateau of cliffs, which peer down over Torrey Pines State Beach, as well as its amazing hiking trails.
The Torrey Pines State Reserve is technically located within the San Diego city limits, this scenic stretch of wild Southern California coastline offers incredible hiking with breathtaking ocean views.
The entire reserve was given National Natural Landmark status in 1977 and no wonder, as the desert landscapes are home to an abundance flora and fauna, as well as a lagoon habitat for migrating seabirds. Along your hike, you may encounter bobcats, skunks, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, or even coyotes! During whale migration season, if you’re lucky, you might even spot gray whales from the cliffs.
In terms of flora, you can admire cacti, shrubs of chaparral, and the namesake of the reserve, the Torrey pine, the rarest pine in North America. The Torrey pine is endemic to this area of Southern California and an endangered plant species.
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The Indigenous History of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
This area was once the home of the Kumeyaay (also known as Tipai-Ipai, named for two related groups which resided each side of the San Diego River), a Native American group that lives in the land in the southwest of the United States and the northwest of Mexico, largely California and Baja California.
The name Kumeyaay means “those who face the water from a cliff” and the settlements on Kumeyaay territory date back an incredible 12,000 years. Spaniards first entered Tipai-Ipai territory in the late 18th century, while American settlers seized lands between 1870 and 1910, including what is now Torrey Pines.
At the time of contact with European settlers, estimates of the Kumeyaay population vary greatly between 3,000 and 19,000, though today there are estimated to be 1,200 on reservations and 2,000 off-reservation (as of 1990).
Hiking Gear Suggestions for a Torrey Pines Hike
You don’t need any special hiking equipment for the trails at Torrey Pines, normal workout clothes are fine. However, make sure you have sunscreen, a hat, plenty of water and your swimsuit (if you’re looking to cool off at the beach at the end of your hike).
Here are some of my favorite essentials for hiking.
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|I would highly recommend wearing a sunscreen when hiking in California.|
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8 Hiking Trails in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has eight hiking trails of different lengths, which range in difficulty and scenery (although some sites list only six – minus the Yucca Point and Discovery Trails). The three most popular are Beach Trail, Razor Point Trail and the Guy Fleming Trail.
Many of these hiking trails connect together, so you may wish to combine sections to create a longer, more scenic hike that takes in the best scenery that a Torrey Pine hike has to offer.
1. Guy Fleming Trail
Length: 0.7 miles (loop)
Scenery: Peñasquitos marsh, views of La Jolla and Del Mar, as well as potential whale sightings in winter.
This trail offers two scenic lookout points (North Overlook and South Overlook), as well as a diverse variety of flora, including fields of wildflowers (especially in the summer), ferns and cacti.
At North Overlook, you can see the rare Torrey pine trees – you’ll know you’ve found them when you can count their needles (five in a bundle).
The view looks out to the Peñasquitos Lagoon, which is a wetland habitat and great for birdwatching. Three rare species to have your binoculars out for include the California clapper rail, the least tern and the Gelding’s savanna sparrow.
At South Overlook, you can see La Jolla, San Clemente and the Santa Catalina Islands, as well as dolphins and gray whales (winter only), if luck is on your side.
The trail is named for Guy Fleming, a Nebraska native who moved to San Diego in 1909. Working as a gardener, Fleming had a passion for botany and preserving the rare Torrey pine tree that grew south of Del Mar, and often took visitors on a trail to see the endangered pines in the wild.
The path is very smooth, so there’s no danger of erosion, and the trail is so flat and short you can easily hike it in an hour or less, or saunter along to enjoy the outdoors on a long journey.
2. Razor Point Trail
Length: 1.4 miles (loop)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Scenery: Ravines, badlands, and the ocean.
The first 0.6 miles of this trail takes you to Razor Point Overlook, winding through coastal sage scrub. You’ll be treated to the beach and cliff-side coastal views, stunning scenes of sculptured sandstone gorge, as well as twisted, gnarly trees.
Moving on to Yucca Point Overlook, which also features on the Beach Trail, you’ll see yucca plants in full bloom in the spring, as well as eroded sandstone and tafoni patterns.
3. Beach Trail
Length: 0.75 miles one way
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult.
Scenery: Less scenic, but the beach reward at the end makes the trail popular.
This footpath starts in the Upper Reserve and descends down to the beach first by trail and then by staircase. Though the difficulty level is “moderate,” be aware that it’s very steep (and obviously, a little tougher on the way up than down), so make sure your shoes have a good grip.
Along the trail, you’ll visit Yucca Point Overlook, as well as Flat Rock, where you can feel the ocean spray come up to meet you. This trail also connects to others, including Razor Point Trail and Broken Hill Trail.
*Note that as of October 2019, there is repair work taking place on the stairs, so this trail does not currently offer beach access. Check the Torrey Pines website and latest news for more details.
4. Parry Grove Trail
Length: 0.5 miles (loop)
Scenery: Gorgeous ocean views, as well as the wildflowers of Whitaker Garden.
This secluded trail may be short, but it’s also steep, as it starts and ends with over 100 stone steps. However, the shady trail through the woodlands is also quiet, making it perfect for a solitary, contemplative stroll.
The trail’s namesake is Charles Christopher Parry, who was born in England in 1823, but later moved to New York. Parry trained as a doctor, which in the 19th century meant studying botany, as many doctors had to make their own medicines – and Parry’s love of plants was sparked.
In 1846, the U.S. warred against Mexico and in 1848 the two countries agreed to a treaty that saw Mexico cede land to the United States. A commission was required to survey the new boundary and Parry was a botanist on that expedition.
During his time surveying the area, Parry wrote to Professor John Torrey at Princeton, “I here found a new species of pine growing in sheltered places bout the bluff. Its characters are so unique I am in hopes it may be nondescript…. if new I wish it with your permission to bear the name Pinus Torreyana…” and so the name “Torrey pine” was born.
5. Yucca Point Trail
Length: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Scenery: Beautiful California coastal scenery, and they
Yucca Point Trail is a small garden-loop breakaway trail that connects to other trails, such as the Beach Trail.
6. High Point Trail
Length: 0.1 miles
Scenery: 360-degree views of everything.
Though the ascent is steep, the panoramas at the top show off the whole reserve, the lagoon, La Jolla and the wider San Diego area. Choose this trail, or add it to your longer Torrey Pines hiking itinerary, to experience the area’s natural beauty.
7. Broken Hill Trail
Length: 2.5 miles (roundtrip)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Scenery: Chaparral, trees and incredible views out to the Pacific.
Torrey Pines’ longest hike and the trail that is guaranteed to give you the best workout, the Broken Hill Trail starts at either the North or South Fork and follows a path out to Broken Hills Overlook.
After taking in the beautiful views, the trail goes back on itself to the fork and then connects to the Beach Trail. This trail is also technically wheelchair-accessible via the South Fork, in compliance with ADA standards.
8. Discovery Trail
Length: 0.13 miles)
Difficulty: Very easy
Scenery: Torrey pines, coastal scrub, chaparral plants, and other fauna, as well as views out to the ocean and La Jolla.
This short, wheelchair-accessible trail is a short distance from the visitor’s center and winds along a bluff looking out to the lagoon.
Visiting Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is open every day of the year, from 7:15 am to sundown. Sunset varies from 5 pm in the winter to 8 pm in the summer, so check before you start your hike! All vehicles must leave the reserve by closing time.
Remember that Torrey Pines is a reserve, not a park, therefore the focus here is on conservation. With that in mind, you must abide by the following rules:
- No food or drink within the reserve, except water – although food is allowed on the beach, alcohol is not permitted.
- Dogs are prohibited unless they are a service dog.
- Take your trash with you. There are no garbage facilities in the Upper Reserve, or along the beach, so whatever you take into the reserve, you must take out.
- No smoking.
- Drones are prohibited.
- Large groups of 10 or more people may require a permit (and payment of a fee).
- Camping is not allowed at Torrey Pines State Beach. The nearest beach camping sites are at San Elijo State Beach and Carlsbad State Beach.
- Bikes are not permitted on the trails, only on the paved roads.
If you’d like to join a guided tour, there are some available on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays at 10am and 2pm. They last an hour or two and can be tailored to the participants.
Make sure to check the park website for updates on closed trails.
Torrey Pines Hike Map
Before heading out on a Torrey Pines Hike, check the Reserve’s online map of Torrey Pines for restroom information as well as water stations and parking.
Safety at Torrey Pines
Note that the steeper trails (Broken Hill Trail, Razor Point Trail, and Beach Trail) are closed during wet weather, as these hikes can be slippery and dangerous, as well as prone to soil erosion.
Check the Torrey Pines website before you visit, as there have been some instances of cliff collapse and therefore some trails or sections of trails are closed. Inside the reserve, remember to always stick to the marked path to avoid accidents.
Be aware that Torrey pines are a habitat for snakes, including rattlesnakes, gopher snakes, and racers. For best practice, do not go off-trail, be vigilant and keep children close. Very rarely, you’ll see a snake basking on a sunny trail, but mostly they’ll slither away at the sound of people approaching. Remember that a snake will not attack unless provoked.
Getting to Torrey Pines
You can get to the reserve via public transport on the North County Transit Bus 101, which stops both at the Upper Reserve (National University stop, then walk to the Reserve South Entrance) and down at the beach (a few hundred yards north of the entrance).
If you’re driving, there are parking lots available at the South Beach entrance and North Beach, plus two small lots on the mesa near the lodge. However, these can get full, especially on weekends and the summer period, so try to arrive before 10:30 am. Parking/entry fees are as follows:
- High Season (Spring Break to the end of September, plus Thanksgiving and Christmas Break) – $15 Monday to Thursday and $20-25 Friday to Sunday
- Low Season (October to Spring Break) – $12 Monday to Thursday and $15 Friday to Sunday
- High Season (Spring Break to the end of September) – $10 Monday to Thursday and $15 Friday to Sunday
- Low Season (October to Spring Break) – $10 Friday to Sunday
- Holiday Season (Thanksgiving and Christmas Break) – $20
An annual pass costing $195 (valid for all State Parks) is available for purchase at the South Beach entrance kiosk or online. If you’re a holder of a Disabled Discount Pass (DDP), then you are entitled to a 50% discount.
More Hiking Trails in the Torrey Pines Natural Reserve Extension
For even more hiking options, consider the Mar Scenic Trail (0.5 miles), Daughters of the American Revolution Trail (0.5 miles), the Margaret Fleming Nature Trail (0.75 miles), or the Red Ride Loop Trail (0.33 miles), which can be found in the reserve extension.
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