Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the most well known hiking destinations in San Diego. It is home to the rare Torrey Pine tree, which grows only in San Diego and Santa Rosa island. The Reserve was originally established in 1899 as a public City park, and throughout the years has been expanded and received increased protection for the unique and diverse plants and creatures living there.
There are a number of short trails at Torrey Pines, all of which provide some spectacular views of the geological artistry and uniquely shaped trees that permeate the area. You can view the Reserve’s trail map and devise your own route, or follow the route I describe below to hit most of the major highlights.
The morning of our hike was overcast and a bit muggy. We parked at the Beach Trail parking area, across the road from the Visitor’s Center. Our plan was to hike back down the road to the Guy Fleming trail we’d passed driving in and hike that loop. Then we’d go down the Razor Point trail and view the vista there, then south to Yucca Point, and backtrack to the Beach Trail. After going down to the water and having a snack, we would hike back up the Broken Hill trail, connect to the South Fork Trail, and finally take the paved path back to the parking area. This seemed to be the longest loop we could discern that would take us to the most interesting places.
The first stop on our multi-trail tour was the Guy Fleming trail. Named for Guy Fleming, the “John Muir of Torrey Pines” who was instrumental in preservation of the Park, this is an easy ⅔ mile trail.
To get to the trail head, we left the parking lot and walked back down the main road about a third of a mile. The trail forms a loop so we headed clockwise. The Reserve’s namesake Torrey Pine trees were scattered along the trail side, along with typical coastal sage scrub plants including sage and chamise.
As the path wrapped back towards our starting point, we walked through the quiet coastal forest noticing how the trees on this side grew higher and straighter behind the shelter of the hill.
We headed back up the road for our next leg. We would like to have done the short Parry Grove trail, however it was closed while work was being done to repair some erosion damage.
We got back to the Beach area parking lot where the path down to the beach began. We took a quick detour to the right to view the West Overlook, then made our way to the main trail. This is probably the most popular section of the very popular park, so we were constantly passing and being passed by other hikers. San Diegans know a good hike when they find one!
Almost every turn we made revealed another view of worn sandstone cliffs sculpted by endless years of coastal winds. To the northwest, we could see our aptly named destination jutting out from the trail.
At Yucca Point, the trail formed a loop which provided yet more awesome views of the coastline. We could see the next stop on our journey to the south – the end of the beach trail and the appropriately named Flat Rock.
From the Yucca Point overlook, we backtracked up to where we could connect with the Beach Trail, and descended towards the water. This stretch was densely populated and we encountered an almost constant stream of people.
After enjoying the surf, it was back up the stairs again, where we turned right to ascend the Broken Hill Trail. We got some more nice views of the beach below us before the trail turned eastward and began to climb. We wound our way up through the brush.
Although the scenery along this stretch wasn’t quite as great as before when we were looking out towards the ocean, we still got some nice views of the carved cliffs topped with the distinctive Torrey Pines.
We returned to the main trail, and took the South Fork Trail on the penultimate leg of our journey. The brush grew fairly high along this trail, and it was noticeably less populated than the previous trail sections we had traversed. We saw considerably more birds along the trail here, no doubt due to the relative solitude. In the distance to the southeast we could see the world famous Torrey Pines Golf Course.
We followed the former highway for about half a mile, and found ourselves back at the parking lot where we had started.
From I-5 take the Carmel Valley Road exit. Head west on Carmel Valley Road. Turn left onto S Camino Del Mar (turns into N Torrey Pines Rd). Continue ahead to the Torrey Pines Reserve on your right, pay your parking fee, and follow the road to the upper parking areas. map
|Total Distance:||5 miles|
|Difficulty:||Easy – Moderate|
|Elevation Change:||945 feet|
|Best Time of Year:||Year Round|
|Dog Friendly:||Dogs not allowed|
|Bike Friendly:||No bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Bathroom and drinking fountain in parking lot|
|Fees/Permits:||$10-$15 per vehicle (varies by day and season – more info)|
For more information visit:
California State Parks – Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve