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Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and State Beach

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is located right within San Diego city limits. This special 2,000 acres of land is a glimpse into what Southern California was before the development of San Diego when European settlers first embarked on this magical land.

Torrey Pines

The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is much more than your average California State Park. First it has what is called a Natural Reserve status. A Natural Reserve status is given to a specific wilderness area that contains threatened unique plant life and habitats, threatened or endangered wildlife, or rare geological formations. In fact, of all of the 279 State Parks sprinkled throughout the Southern California region only 14 have the designation of being a Natural Reserve.

This fragile environment is one of the only two places that the nation’s rarest pine tree – Pinus torreyana thrives. At one point in time this tree covered a larger area but now grows only in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and on Santa Rosa Island off the coast near Santa Barbara. I hope this gives you an idea of the untouched, wild stretches of land that Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve truly is!


There is nothing better in my opinion to fully explore a place than on your own two feet. When you hike you get to immerse yourself into your surroundings while feeling that natural high you get from the fresh air of the great outdoors. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has many hikes to choose from throughout the dedicated 1,750 acres of sandy beach shores and cliffs of the upper reserve. From easy strolls to more strenuous treks here are a few recommendations to try:

  • Torrey Pines Beach Loop Trail: At around 2.3 miles roundtrip this trail is an easy and popular one to check out. The loop takes you down and along the beach where you are rewarded with amazing views and the opportunity to see a sea creature or two.
  • Red Butte, Yucca Point, and Razor Point Trail: This short length trail may only be just shy of 2 miles but it is full of viewpoints! This trail gives great opportunities to take in the overhead cliffs, the classic San Diego coastline and more with minimal effort.
  • Saigon Trail: Located just south in the city of La Jolla is this more adventurous trail. It is rated difficult even though the trail itself is less than a mile long. Be prepared for steep terrain, exposed ledges, rock scrambling, and maneuvering through rock canyons. If you are up for the challenge this is a fun hike to try!
  • Broken Hill Trail: A popular and easy rated trail that clocks in at 2.5 miles with a 308 elevation change. It is very well maintained with views of both the distant mountains and rugged coastline.

Where to Eat 

After a day hiking throughout Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve you may have built up quite the appetite. And since food is not allowed except on the beach, you need to know where the best spots are to eat. Here are some delicious noms right near the reserve.

  • Seasalt Del Mar: Besides the drool worthy seafood selection, the views from this sophisticated restaurant are incredible. Here you can relax as you enjoy fresh dishes and a wide menu of wines and specialty cocktails. Stop by for Happy Hour between 3pm and 8 pm for small plates and drinks on the private deck.
  • The Grill at Torrey Pines: Located in La Jolla on the southern edge of the reserve right next to the golf course is this laid back restaurant. The dishes are composed of locally sourced ingredients as well as regional wine and beer selections to amplify the heart of California. Brunch is especially good with its Belgian Waffles, Wood Roasted Vegetable Quinoa and Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Omelets.
  • Caliente Mexican Food: Although not the fanciest spot this Mexican food haven promises tasty, massive portions for very budget friendly prices. The Loco Burrito is popular with its grilled shrimp, beer battered fish and house made salsa. The vibe here is friendly with its welcoming staff.


In Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve there are many activities to try for just about anyone. There is a nice 3 mile bike trail located within the park. This paved, flat pathway is perfect for the entire family to go for a spin on. You can also opt to roller skate or simply go for an evening stroll.

For those who enjoy clothing optional adventures you can take the moderate rated hike starting at Gilderport down to Black Beach. This short .6-mile descent brings you to the clothing optional yet popular nude beach. Be warned; this is definitely not a family friendly trek.

When visiting Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve stop by the historic 1922 building which is now home to the Ranger Station and Visitor Center. Visitor Center hours are daily 9 am to 6 pm during summer and 10 am to 4 pm during winter.

The iconic Torrey Pines Golf Course also calls this Southern California park home. Owned by the city of San Diego, golf enthusiasts can play on the 36-hole municipal golf facility with sweeping views of the ocean.

On your way to and from Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve stop by the Fallen Star art installation. Crafted by South Korean artist Do Ho Suh, this large art piece is located on the grounds of the University of California San Diego on the main Jacobs School of Engineering building. You will be amazed by the sights of a typical beach cottage perched at an angle off the edge.

Before You Go

  • No food or drink, except water, is allowed in the Reserve above the beach.  Feel free to pack a picnic for the beach areas as long as there is no alcohol involved.
  • Unfortunately you will need to leave your furry friends at home. Dogs are not permitted anywhere within the park.
  • Be prepared to “Pack it in-pack it out”. There are no trash cans in the upper Reserve or along the beach. When you leave you can deposit your trash in the recycling bins or dumpsters available in the beach parking lots.
  • No smoking please.
  • Although very cool, drones are not allowed anywhere in the Reserve or Beach.
  • Rockslides and cliff collapses occur without notice. Always keep a minimum distance of 10 feet from the bluffs.
  • Try and time your beach visit at low tide. This is when there is more sand available between the cliffs and the waves to enjoy.
  • General Admission Day Use fee is $15 per vehicle or you can use your annual California State Parks Vehicle Day Use Pass.

There you have it! All the fun, exciting, and unique things to do and see at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and Torrey Pines State Beach.

Happy adventures!

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Kaitlin Musser
Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her tall-one husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they wouldn’t be a forever home for all of them they were able to adopt their daughter buckets and are legal guardians of their son monkey.