Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a great San Diego attraction. In the past, it was known for its fairly rugged hiking trails. However, in recent years the park has done a great deal to make many of its trails ADA accessible. Most of these trails start right from the upper parking lot by the visitor’s center. This is our guide to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Accessible Trails and Visitor’s Center.
The Torrey Pines area is noted for its rare Torrey Pines trees which only grow here and on Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara. This area was established as a state park in 1959. However, efforts to protect this area had been going on for many years prior. The visitor’s center is actually housed in a historic lodge that opened in 1923.
The lodge was actually a restaurant located on what at the time was the main road between Los Angeles and San Diego. Today that road is only used to drive the 300 feet up from the south parking lot to the visitor’s center parking lot.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve has paid parking. The parking fee varies by year but ranges from $12 to $25 per vehicle (more in summer and on weekends). There is an upper-level parking lot by the visitor’s center. Access to South Fork Trail and most of the accessible trails start right 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 paved road to the visitor’s center (about 0.8 miles each way with 300-foot elevation gain).
The park accepts the Disabled Discount Pass (DDP). A DDP pass allows you to get into the park at half of the going rate. You can apply for this pass at the official California State Park website.
The visitor’s center is definitely worth a visit. In the front of the center, there is a guide to the many plants in the park. It is open 9 to 6 during daylight savings time and 10 to 4 in winter. The visitor center is also home to a gift shop. There are often events at the visitor’s center. On weekends there are nature walks at 10 am and 2 pm.
In the patio at the back of the visitor’s center, you can pick up brochures for self-guided geology walks. Most of these short walks are on the accessible trails right by the visitor center.
Inside there are interesting exhibits on the animals and geology of the area. This includes stuffed animals and bones. The visitor’s center is hands-on and they encourage touching many of the objects. There are also craft activities for kids. An interesting mural shows how this area used to be under the ocean and was carved out as the ocean receded. It turns out our house used to be beachfront property! Now we are 5-miles inland.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Accessible Trails
Most of the accessible trails are a short distance from the visitor’s center. The trail right by the visitor’s center is the 0.13-mile Discovery Trail. This trail is along a bluff that overlooks the Penasquitos Lagoon area to the north and east.
West Parking Lot Trails
Across the street from the visitor’s center, you will find the West Parking Lot Overlook Trail. A short distance down the road (turning right to the north from the visitor’s center) is Whitaker Garden and Scripps Overlook.
In the West Parking Lot, you will find full restrooms. There is also a kiosk that is often staffed with a ranger. A bulletin board has a map and lists upcoming events.
Both West Parking Lot Overlook Trail and Scripps Overlook led to observation areas that overlook the bluffs of the park to the ocean. The West Parking Lot Trail is 0.14 miles and connects to the Beach Trail and the trails to Red Butte and Yucca and Razer Points (these trails are not accessible).
Scripps Overlook is a short 0.08-mile walk from the start of the Parry Grove Trail. This is one of the best overlooks in the park. It also goes through Whitaker Gardens which features many of the plants of the area. The actual Parry Grove Trail is a steep climb down over 100 stone steps.
South Fork Trails
For our full hike on South Fork Trails to Broken Hill Overlook go here.
The longest accessible hike is now the South Fork Trail. This trail was restored so that it is fully accessible, with wood bridges over the rough areas. Overall it is about a 2-mile walk out and back. The first section goes along the now-closed historic road that ran between San Diego and Los Angeles.
The South Fork trail itself runs almost to Broken Hill Overlook. However, the accessible section ends a short distance before the actual overlook. The end of the accessible section is clearly marked and there are benches that overlook Broken Hill and the Torrey Pines Golf Course.
Currently, North Fork Trail and Broken Hill Trail are closed for reconstruction. They will probably reopen in late 2019. Our assumption is that South Fork Trail and North Fork Trail will eventually combine to form a fully accessible loop hike.
For more information on the hike along South Fork Trail see our guide here.