Tucked between La Jolla and Del Mar, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is home to 2,000 acres of sandy beach and coastal bluffs. One of the largest stretches of untouched land along the Southern California coast, the San Diego–based reserve and surrounding area is a popular spot for sunbathers, surfers, bird-watchers, and hikers. More luxury-minded pastimes include hitting the links at the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course or spending a weekend at the stately Lodge at Torrey Pines.
Things to See and Do at Torrey Pines
Torrey Pines earns its name from North America’s rarest tree. Explore groves of the Torrey pine to see the tree’s windswept arms stretching toward the ocean atop sandstone bluffs. Visit the reserve’s southern side to watch daredevils float over the ocean at Torrey Pines Gliderport—or get in on the action with a tandem paragliding or hang-gliding ride.
Make your way from the Gliderport down Black’s Beach Trail, where rugged stairs down to the secluded (and unofficially clothing-optional) beach make for moderately challenging terrain. For a more traditional beach day, access Torrey Pines State Beach from the north. No hike is necessary, and the swimmers, surfers, and sandcastle builders will all be fully clothed.
Golf enthusiasts should make a reservation at the bucket list–worthy Torrey Pines Golf Course. It provides two options: the North course and the South course. Both feature sweeping ocean views, but the latter plays host to the annual Farmers Insurance Open where greats such as Tiger Woods and San Diego native Phil Mickelson have won big.
Best Hikes in Torrey Pines
If you’re up for a hike, there’s an option for every level. More than eight miles of trails wind through Torrey Pines Natural Reserve. For ocean vistas, gentle terrain, and plenty of pine groves, the 0.7-mile Guy Fleming Loop can’t be beat. For a longer trek (2.5 miles), try the Broken Hill Trail, which takes trekkers through carved sandstone cliffs, sagebrush, and wildflowers. In the winter, look for gray whales making their annual migration. Traverse the bluffs all the way down the sand on the Beach Trail (1.1 miles one way). Try to plan this walk right before sunset to travel alongside the sun.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
Perched on the 18th green of the Torrey Pines Golf Course sits the luxurious Lodge at Torrey Pines. The 6.5-acre grounds include two restaurants (the casual Grill at Torrey Pines and the upscale A.R. Valentien), a full-service spa and fitness center, and a glamorous pool complete with underwater speakers. Choose from 170 California craftsman-style rooms, including 2,500-square-foot suites with unobstructed ocean views. Book a signature treatment at The Spa at Torrey Pines (think Coastal Sage Salt Scrubs and Sea Leaf Wraps), relax in the gazebo-shaded hot tub, or aim for the wickets with a game of croquet on the Arroyo Terrace. And if you’re considering a stay during the holiday season, don’t hesitate: The Lodge goes all-out with its Christmas decorations and creates an especially festive atmosphere.
2023 Centennial Celebration
To recognize the 100th anniversary of the completion and inauguration of the Torrey Pines Lodge, the original lodge and present-day visitor center (not to be confused with the hotel), the Torrey Pines Conservancy will host historical walking tours of the reserve on April 8. For more on the region’s famous pines and other natural attractions, check out the La Jolla Historical Society’s exhibit, Rare Trees & Sacred Canyons: Torrey Pines - San Diego's Symbol of Preservation, on display from February through May 28.
The natural beauty of Torrey Pines makes the reserve a popular spot, so parking fills up quickly on summer weekends and the hour before sunset. There’s no entrance fee to the park itself, but lots cost $10 to $25 per vehicle. If you get there early, you might be lucky enough to snag free parking along Highway 101 near the northern entrance, but either way, be prepared to do some circling.
If it’s your first time, the Visitor Center is a good place to start. On weekends, the center offers free one-hour guided walks at 10 a.m.
No dogs or alcohol are allowed, so leave the pups and picnic wine at home. Keep in mind that beachside cliffs can succumb to natural erosion. Park officials recommend timing beach visits for low tide to allow for a wider stretch of sand. Always leave at least 10 feet between you and the bluffs.