On a thin coastal strip of San Diego County, 2,000 to 3,000 Torrey Pines survive even though they are surrounded by some of the most populated areas of Southern California. At one point during the 20th century, only 100 trees survived the harsh environment. Conservation efforts have permitted the wild population to increase to current levels.
The Torrey Pine is the rarest pine species in the United States and can only be seen on a natural reserve located between the cities of Del Mar and San Diego or on Santa Rosa Island (part of the Channel Islands National Park).
During my visit to the Torrey Pine State Natural Reserve, I felt extremely blessed to appreciate the beauty of the pines which lend its name to the reserve. Nevertheless, the reserve offers 8 miles of trails on a plateau with cliffs that overlook the beach. Many different kinds of wildlife and flora are found within the reserve, including bobcats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, rabbits, cacti and coastal chaparral.
In other words, this is an opportunity to enjoy one of the few wild stretches of land in Southern California.
Torrey Pines Hikes and Trails
There are several moderate and beautiful trails within the reserve. It is a good idea to park at the top of the reserve, close to the visitor’s center and get a map with instructions. Others park at the beach level to avoid the entrance fee and access the reserve on foot.
Here is a summary of the trails you can hike at Torrey Pines:
- Guy Fleming Trail – Length: 2/3 of a mile
- Parry Grove Trail – Length: half a mile
- High Point Trail – 100 yards with steps
- Razor Point Trail – Length: 2/3 of a mile
- Beach Trail – Length: ¾ of a mile
In addition, you can walk along the beaches in the area (the State Beach or Black’s Beach)
Since we allocated the entire day for the Torrey Pine hikes, and since the trails are short and connected, we decided to explore as much as possible.
The first highlight of our walk was Red Butte, a terracotta promontory from where the entire reserve and even downtown San Diego can be seen.
It was interesting to spot unusual formations in a small canyon located next to Red Butte.
We continued moving towards the ocean with the desire to check Yucca and Razor Points. These two areas are probably the most well known in the reserve. They can be conceived as rippled, curvy walls of rock. Patches of terrain besides them are reminiscent of badlands. Some spots look like melting chocolate ice cream while others present domes of colors (think of soft pinks and pale yellows).
We checked Yucca Point first.
Then, we moved on to Razor Point.
After delighting our eyes with the curious rock formations, we made our way to the southern end of the park (where Flat Rock is located) thru the Beach Trail.
Let me be clear from the beginning. Black’s Beach is known as San Diego’s unofficial nude beach and as you can imagine people make a big fuss about this place. To be fair, let me also say this is a famous surfing spot where big swells can be experienced due to an underwater canyon.
I have read about the seclusion of this place, how the access is very difficult, how people get caught in the high tide and how some have even died to try to get there (falling from the cliffs while trying to follow ‘trails’ left by others).
So, we arrived at the Flat Rock area (which is in Torrey Pines State Beach) and saw a stretch path over the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. We followed the crowds and landed on another beach. In the distance, a pier was seen a mirage because of the thick marine layer. We decided to walk to that pier.
As we walked, I realized we were approaching the Scripps Pier (‘cause it is the only one in the area) and that could only mean one thing: we were in Black’s Beach. I still had my doubts since there was a crowd walking in the same direction and there was no indication in the reserve’s map. Plus, the access was so easy, nothing to do with the tangled descriptions found on the Internet.
After passing thru a rocky area, the beach widened. It was then when I saw some people, close to the bottom of the cliffs, sunbathing in a natural state (let’s call it that way). We didn’t pay much attention and continue walking. We realized the pier was not that close and decided to go back.
I don’t understand from where all the commotion about Black’s Beach comes from. Even the San Diego Tourism Authority presents it as one of the top attractions in the city because of its beauty (yeah, right). To me, it was a meh beach (nice cliffs but not much more). I have seen better in the area.
Walking in Torrey Pines State Beach
So, we made it back to Flat Rock and started to walk north thru the Torrey Pines State Beach. This is another way to appreciate the reserve since the cliffs are very colorful and full of crazy formations. To me, the view from the bottom is fascinating since it is almost impossible to determine what lies at the top.
A lagoon that is vital to migrating seabirds is also within the reserve limits. It is visible from several lookouts.
Torrey Pines Paragliding
The Torrey Pines Glideport is located next to the State Reserve and it is considered one of North America’s top paragliding and hang gliding locations.
Classes and tandem flights are offered on site. If you do not have time to visit, you probably feel encouraged to make future plans once you see the many gliders flying over the beach (it is a very cool experience to watch them).
- The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is located about 18 miles north of Downtown San Diego.
- Surfing and swimming are popular at Torrey Pines State Beach. The usual facilities (restrooms, changing rooms and lifeguards) are available.
- Guided nature tours are offered during the weekends.
- Parking inside the reserve is $10.
- Roadside parking is also available.
- Be careful when accessing Black’s Beach. The only maintained routes are the Beach Trail coming from the State Park and a trail coming from The Glider Port. A lot of people have been involved in accidents while trying to get access descending the cliffs.
- Drones are not allowed at the reserve
- Dogs are not permitted on the reserve
- Food and drink (except for water) are allowed on the hiking areas
For more information about hikes and trail on the Torrey Pine Reserve, visit the following sites:
More about Southern California
If you are interested in learning more about what Southern California has to offers, you have to check out my area guides:
- Los Angeles Bucket List
- Ultimate San Diego Bucket List
- 150+ places to go in Orange County, California
Have you visited Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve? What do you think about the Torrey Pine hike (s)?
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Lauren Meshkin says
Absolutely gorgeous! I stayed at the Lodge at Torrey Pines a few years back for work (amazing hotel) but never got a chance to thoroughly explore the area. I must return!
Thanks for sharing. Happy travels 🙂
It would be cool to return and hike around. I am even making plans to explore more since I am sure I missed cool places.
I love Torrey Pines! There is a trail (Ho Chi Minh) that some of the surfers take down to Blacks. Have you heard of it? It’s a really cool trail, but there is one part where there is only enough width for your feet to barely fit and it always amazes me that guys take their surfboards down it. You captured some great shots!
Thanks for the compliments. No, I haven’t heard about that trail (what a funny name) but it is hard to imagine people with boards descending those cliffs. Scary!
Ruth your posts are always so fabulous – this one included! I’m happy they saved the rare pines and also gave us a place to hike in roam in beautiful surroundings. Pinned and shared
What an interesting place to visit and explore, Ruth. I love hiking around unusual formations like these and the fact that it is next to the ocean is a plus. Did you find anything interesting shells or sea glass washed up on shore? I’m glad the unique pines are being protected.
image-in-ing: weekly photo linkup says
You got some delightful shots here!
Thanks for linking up at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2018/02/some-more-from-nasher-museum.html
Photo Cache says
I heard about this place and actually is in my list to visit when I go back to San Diego (hopefully this year).
Lady Fi says
Stunning rocky landscape going down to the sea!
Fabulous photos. I felt as if I’m on holiday when I saw them. Thanks for posting.
This area looks absolutely gorgeous! I’ve been to Torrey Pines before, but it’s clear that I barely scratched the surface! These rock outcroppings are absolutely incredible!
I haven’t been to San Diego for a long time, and we just drove straight through it when we were last in Cali. But this park looks right up my (and my family’s) nature loving alley so I would definitely try to go next time!
Great landscape! Love Red Butte! #wanderfulwednesday
Your photographs are absolutely beautiful! It has always been a dream of mine to explore more of California than the usual LA and San Fran, so thank you so much for the travel inspo!
Ahh I apparently used to live RIGHT by here, but I was way too young to have gone (I’m talking 2 or 3 years old). I wish I could live there now haha- hiking is my favourite thing and I can’t believe I missed this!
Emily Culhane says
Wow I have spent a lot of time in California and didn’t know about these places.. They are absolutely stunning!
I’m planning a trip to California driving PCH and while I discovered the Torrey Pines through my research, as it turns out we won’t be in California long enough to make a point of going to see the park. After seeing your post, now I know I need to plan a return trip. Thanks for sharing the gorgeous images! Love seeing those cliffs next to the Torrey Pines beach!
My daughter and I go to SoCal every year, and I had no idea about these Torrey Pines! How cool is that. And I really like Yucca Point, too – the landscape is so different. We’re definitely going to have to include this in one of our upcoming trips!
Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders says
So beautiful! All of your pictures remind me why I love California so much, and more specifically the coast, because it’s just so pretty to look at! I’m definitely going to ask our friends to take us here when we visit them in San Diego!
California Globetrotter says
I never did make it down to do this hike! It definitely is beautiful and worth hiking!! Would love to do it the next time I’m home! #WanderfulWednesday
Wow, the landscape looks just stunning. You made some really amazing pictures! I would love to hike there.
Always so jealous when you’re I read about the hikes in California, lol. Might be time focus less on leaving the country and more on getting out west.
There’s just so much beautiful natural scenery, I have to explore in the U.S. The Torrey pines is now included. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I can’t believe how diverse the formations are in the land. And you have some spectacular hiking routes laid out for us. I have so much more to discover in the US. To explore your own country is sometimes less of a priority, but I know we have some treasures, like Torrey Pines.
Joy Generoso says
What a beautiful landscape and the amazing rock formations! This is an awesome place for adventure. Would love to visit here in the future. For now I’ll add it to my list.
Incredible rock formation and coloring, and they’re not that long, too. It’s funny how you found people doing their natural sunbathing. I’m putting this in my bucket list for when I go visit my cousin who lives in Carlsbad.
Trippin' Turpins (Kelly) says
Beautiful post. I love all your photos. This place looks very rugged and stunningly beautiful. Just the sort of place we’d like to visit. Thanks for sharing.
There were some stunning cliffs and rock formations along your journey. This is another area you’ve introduced me to that I had no idea about. Keep them coming. 🙂
Ruth, I live a few miles from this amazing place! I didn’t know until a few years ago that Torrey Pines are so rare. This is one of my favorite places to hike. Your photos capture it beautifully. And you’ve provided lots of good info for visitors. Next time you’re here, let me know and we can meet and maybe go for coffee :).
Sol Solntze says
I know I should be excited about the pines, but actually, the geology looks so exotic, not to mention the wildlife. Very cool!
Lindz @ I've Been Bit! says
I’ve never even heard of Torrey Pines, but this area looks absolutely breathtaking! With 8 miles of trails, it definitely sounds like my jam. I’ll have to keep it in mind for when I get down to that area!
Samantha (Vibrant Yogini) says
I didn’t realize that San Diego had so many natural beauty spots! It looks like a wonderful place to visit and i love a good hike in the sunshine!
This couldn’t be any more perfect as I’m headed to San Diego next month and Torrey Pines has been on my list for awhile now. Beautiful photos of a beautiful place!
Looks gorgeous! I am always looking for new beaches to visit on my travels!
The rock formations are really similar to a small beach town that I was living in Brazil!
I love going on hikes and this looks right up my alley! That’s amazing how much wildlife you can see although I wouldn’t want to run into a skunk or bobcat. The Yucca Point looks beautiful with its rugged landscape against the water. I hope that I can go and visit one day!
What an amazing place to go hiking Ruth! You have some beautiful photos of the crazy rock formations.
Wow, this is so beautiful. I’m glad I found your post since I’m leaving for San Diego in a couple weeks. I will have to check it out in person!
Deborah Regen says
They say San Diego has about the best weather in the USA, so I’m sure that leads to many great day hiking opportunities. Those cliffs and odd rock formations by the ocean look like a geographer’s dream. They are not quite as appealing to me, but all the same I wouldn’t mind the views while walking along one of these trails and enjoying the wind against my face and breathing in the fresh air. Thanks for posting. #TheWeeklyPostcard
The scenery there is stunning and your pictures are gorgeous. I would love to do one of those hikes next time I am in the area. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.
Vanessa Brune says
Those views are incredible! I’d love to combine a hike with a dip in the ocean – that’s something you can’t really do much here in Norway 😉
Rhonda Albom says
The rough cliffside views are amazing. I love the colours of the rocks with the blue of the ocean. I’ve seen paragliding by me but never thought of doing it (even with a tandem flight).
Wau this great place I’ve never heard about it. I love your pictures and it’s exciting that the landscape of the park is very diferent. #TheWeeklyPostcard
I can’t remember ever being in Torrey Pines, although my husband swears that we went. I guess that since I have no recollection of this place we probably haven’t seen some of these beautiful places that you mention here. I would have surely remembered that terracotta promontory, Red Butte. Torrey Pines is not that far from us, we can go again I guess. #TheWeeklyPostcard
The cliffs are beautiful. What a wonderful way to spend a day. It’s interesting how people (or tourist boards) will make a big deal out of a place, and then it turns out to be okay at best.
Thanks for co-hosting this week. #TPThursday
Wow, this looks like heaven on earth! I’ve never been to Torrey Pines but would love to.
Travel Lexx says
I didn’t get to go to San Diego as we continued on to Las Vegas from Los Angeles but there are plenty of reasons I want to go back and check it out. Now that I know you can hike in the area, I’m sold! Looks spectacular and it’s good that there are so many manageable trails offering incredible views! Are there any longer day hikes?
Gorgeous scenery, I would very much enjoy the secluded Black’s Beach. Although I would definitely be the odd one out, neither surfing nor nude sunbathing, just taking photos, haha
Sam | Away She Went says
Those views are beautiful! I haven’t been to San Diego in a really long time, but I’ll have to add this to my list for whenever I make it back. I’m glad they were able to save the pines! It would have been such a shame to let them die out.
So, I used to live on Torrey Pines Dr in Las Vegas…I had no idea what a Torrey Pine was! And I have been to So. Cal many times, and have never seen anything as stunning as these rock formations! I love your posts.
Recently I’ve seen a few posts on the California coast and they’ve been making me and more interested in finally visiting. I love the erosion patterns in those rocks, plus I love a good coastal hike! #feetdotravel