Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of San Diego’s great scenic attractions. This beachfront park has several miles of cliffside beaches and great hiking trails. The area includes state beaches, a state-run nature reserve, a famous golf course, a gliderport and even a famous nude beach. This is our overview of the Torrey Pines area of San Diego.
The general Torrey Pines area we are referring to runs about 3 miles west of Torrey Pines Rd, starting in the south by the University of California: San Diego (UCSD) campus. It ends at the start of Del Mar at the intersection of Carmel Valley Rd (which is near the little known Torrey Pines Extension).
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
In 1959, a large area was set aside as a state park, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This area is named for the rare Torrey Pine trees which are only found here and on the secluded Santa Rosa island off of Santa Barbara. Most of these trees are found in the 2,000 acre Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. This reserve is accessed from the Torrey Pines State Beach South parking lot.
The parking fee varies by year but ranges from $12 to $25 per vehicle (more in summer and on weekends). There is a lower parking lot that provides access to the beach. From this parking lot you can hike up the road 0.8 miles to the visitor’s center and most of the trails in the preserve (there is a 300-foot elevation gain). There is also an upper-level parking lot by the visitor’s center. Just note that on busy days the upper lot can fill up. There is a smaller parking area with room for about 10 vehicles at the top of the hill by Guy Fleming Trail.
If you are willing to walk an extra mile or so, you can find free parking along Carmel Valley Rd. There is also the North Beach parking lot off of Carmel Valley Rd which is usually several dollars cheaper. If you are lucky you may be able to find free parking along the beach on Torrey Pines Rd just north of the paid parking lot.
There are over 8-miles of hiking trails in the reserve, although several of the southern trails have been closed for restoration. We have a complete hiking guide to trails for all ages. These hikes include:
Guy Fleming Trail
Parry Grove Red
Butte, Razer and Yucca Point
South Fork and Broken Hill Overlook
ADA Accessible Trails and Visitor Center
North Fork and Broken Hill Trail (currently closed)
If you don’t want to do a hike you can get great views and information about the park from the visitor’s center and the nearby overlooks. You can find our guide to these accessible areas here. Right by the visitor’s center there is also a short climb up some stairs to High Point Overlook. As the name implies, this is the highest point in the park.
There is also a little-known extension to Torrey Pines Natural Reserve. This extension is about 200 acres and was established in 1970. It is inland off of Del Mar Scenic Parkway. There is free street parking that usually does not fill up. Parking can be found on Del Mar Scenic Parkway or Carmel Valley Road. Some trails are also accessed on the other side of the extension off of Del Mar Heights Rd at the end of Mira Montana Dr and Mar Scenic Dr.
Trails in the Torrey Pines Natural Reserve Extension include:
Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Trail and Mar Scenic Trail (combined as one hike)
Margaret Fleming Nature Trail and Red Ridge Trail (combined as one hike)
Torrey Pines State Beach
This area is also home to several beaches that make up Torrey Pines State Beach. On the southern end is the famous clothing-optional Black’s Beach. There are several ways to reach this beach, but the most popular is via the trail from the Torrey Pines Gliderport.
Families will want to head about two miles north to either Torrey Pines Beach South parking lot (somewhat misnamed because it is on the northern end, or Torrey Pines Beach North parking lot. We have guides to both these beaches, as well as Black’s Beach.
Torrey Pines Beach South
Torrey Pines Beach North
Torrey Pines Gliderport
The Torrey Pines Gliderpoint is an attraction in its own right. This city-owned area starts at the beginning of Torrey Pines, across from UCSD and just south of the Torrey Pines Golf Course. There is plenty of free parking here and it is great fun to watch the gliders soaring 300 feet above the beach below.
Torrey Pines Golf Course
The Torrey Pines Golf Course is probably the most scenic public golf course in the United States. It hosts the annual Farmers Insurance Golf Tournament in January. In 2008, it even hosted the U.S. Open. The Torrey Pines Lodge overlooks the course and is famous for its Drugstore Hamburger. You can see our overview here.
The 36-hole golf course was built in 1957 on the site of the former Camp Callan, a WWII anti-aircraft artillery replacement training center. Camp Callan also extended into parts of what is now Torrey Pines Reserve.
This article is just an overview of the many things to do in this area. We have several longer hikes that combine Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, the State Beaches, the Gliderport and the Golf Course.
For the official website for Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve go here.
Overall the Torrey Pines area is one of the best places in the city for free/low-cost entertainment of the nature-oriented type. We are partial because we live a bike ride away in the Rancho Penasquitos neighborhood, so it is almost our backyard. However, our visitors usually ask to come here again and again.