Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of San Diego’s most scenic attractions. There are many hiking opportunities, but arguably the most exciting is the hike from the visitor’s center down to the beach. This is our guide to Torrey Pines Beach Trail.
Starting Point: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve upper West Parking Lot
Length: 1 mile each way
Elevation: 350 foot gain and loss
The first thing to mention is that we like to combine the Beach Trail with other trails to make a loop. Unfortunately, our favorite loop, hiking the Beach Trail to Broken Hill Trail up to either North Fork or South Fork Trail is closed until late 2019.
Our current favorite loop hike is to do a 4-mile hike that starts from the lower parking lot and incorporates the Beach Trail and some other trails in Torrey Pines. You can see that hike here. This shorter hike is an out-and-back walk that also incorporates Red Butte. You can also choose to add-on either Yucca Point or Razer Point (or both).
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has paid parking. The parking fee varies by year but ranges from $10 to $20 per vehicle (more in summer and on weekends). There is upper-level parking lot by the visitor’s center. Access to the Beach Trail starts in the West Parking Lot across the street from the visitor’s center. Just note that on busy days the upper lots can fill up.
There is a lower parking lot that provides access to the beach. From this parking lot, you can hike up a fairly steep trail along the road to the visitor’s center (about 0.8 miles each way with 300-foot elevation gain). This is where we usually park for our 4-mile loop.
At the trailhead for the beach trail, there are full restroom facilities and also a kiosk that is often staffed with a ranger providing information. The trail is clearly marked and starts right from the parking lot. When you first start you can take the short walk to the accessible West Overlook which provides a nice view of Red Butte and the hike you will take. Go here to see our guide to accessible hikes in Torrey Pines Reserve.
The first part of the trail is a fairly flat towards the Red Butte rock formation. As you approach Red Butte you have the option to go right towards Razor Point and Red Butte. The actual Beach trail continues to the left. However, if you go to the right you will meet up with the Beach Trail at Red Butte.
Red Butte clearly sticks out as one of the highest points in Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. We always stop here for the short climb to the top. You can get great views and this is a favorite place to take pictures. Kids love climbing on the rocks.
When you are done with Red Butte you head to your left towards the ocean to once again join the Beach Trail. Once again it is clearly marked. The trail starts the 300-foot climb to the beach. A short distance down you will see the turnoff for Yucca Point to your right. This is a short out-and-back walk to a cliffside beach overlook. We have a less strenuous hike that incorporates Red Butte, Yucca and Razor Point.
You can go to Yucca Point or continue down to the left down Beach Trail. As the trail gets close to the beach there are some steep sections. This area can be prone to rock slides which will sometimes close off parts of the trail.
Near the final section, you will see the currently closed Broken Hill Trail. When this reopens it will provide a nice loop hike. The final section to the beach is down a metal staircase. When you get to the beach, conditions will vary based on tide levels.
We like to do this hike at low tides. The big attraction is Flat Rock which sits a short distance out in the ocean. At low tide, you can actually climb on Flat Rock. There are interesting tide pools that collect on the surface of the rock.
At high tides, Flat Rock is not accessible. When there is a true high tide, much of the beach may not be accessible. In many cases, high tides require walking closely along the cliffs across rocks.
Fun Diego Family 360: The 30-second view on the trail by Flat Rock
If you are just doing the Beach Trail simply head back the way you came. As mentioned, we often like to do a loop where we walk back the half-mile along the beach to the lower parking lot. Beyond Flat Rock to the south is Black’s Beach area. We have hikes that incorporate this area, just note that if you go about a mile to the south it becomes a nude beach. See our guide to Black’s Beach.
Whether you do the Beach Trail by itself or in combination with other trails, this is probably the best hike at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. It can be fairly strenuous, especially for small children. If you want a shorter hike without a significant climb, consider Guy Fleming Trail. While this does not go to the beach it provides great views of the ocean below.