Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Natural Reserve in San Diego, California

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Natural Reserve in San Diego, California

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Photo © Bryan Hughes

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Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

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Torrey Pines may be best known for the famed golf course that shares its name and location, but it is also a 2,000-acre California state park within the city limits of San Diego. Not to be confused with well-manicured city parks with swings, slides, and BBQ pits, Torrey Pines is a nature park with some of the most wild land along the Southern Californian shoreline. Named for the rare pine trees that grow there, the “Torrey Pines” are some of the most rare native pines in the United States. These trees only grow in the park and on Santa Rosa (Wikipedia Article) island near Santa Barbara. The park is a great place to see the natural flora and fauna of southern California, experience nature without leaving the city, bird watch, and view the sunset over the Pacific without the disturbances of urban America.

Torrey Pines can trace its history, in varying degrees, to 1899, though there have been significant changes and additions to the size, structure and limitation of the park through the years. Today, the park has over 1,000 acres of cliffs, miles of pristine beach, thousands of protected Torrey Pines, a lagoon, tide pools, and 8 hiking trails of varied length and difficulty.

To keep the park clean and the plants and animals safe, water is the only food or drink allowed in the park, dogs and vehicles are not allowed, and everything that goes in must come back out. In most of the park areas trails must be followed and deviations from established routes are not permitted.

A great place to start your day is the authentic adobe structure built in 1922 that now serves as the park's visitor centre. This is the spot to get up-to-date information on the park, see exhibits about the area, sign up for docent tours, and go to the bathroom before you head into the park since there are no facilities once you head out onto the trails.

If you are not ready to take on the routes by yourself, a guided tour would be recommended. The trails are rated by difficulty, but this is a walk into nature, and in addition to uncertain trail conditions and cliffs, you may run into wildlife including bobcats, fox, skunks, coyotes, and even rattle snakes.

In addition to its nature trails, Torrey Pines has many delightful beaches as well. Some of them are suitable for swimming, surfing, and other water sports while other areas are part of the nature reserve. The beaches that are part of the reserve are great places to experience tidal pools and all of the sea life they host. You can also spot many animals in the ocean from there, including whales, sharks, porpoises, seals, and sea lions. Beaches that are suitable for swimming include those in the park's northern section where lifeguards, showers, and bathrooms are present. Surfers and nudists will prefer Blacks Beach with great waves and a tradition of optional clothing.

The Torrey Pines Golf Course (Wikipedia Article) is actually two 18-hole municipal courses on the Torrey Pines Mesa. Set on the Pacific cliffs, the courses are regular PGA tournament venues. While the courses are public, you will need to make reservations well in advance not so much because the courses are the best, but because they have been made famous by the PGA tour and through several video games. The courses are modified for the PGA players to make them more difficult, but for most players the regular tees and pin positions will offer plenty of challenge. The best part of Torrey Pines, though, is not just the golf, but the spectacular views. If you like golf you definitely want to play this course if you get the chance.

Getting There

Torrey Pines is located at 12600 North Torrey Pines Road, San Diego.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is located between La Jolla and Del Mar, California, just north of San Diego city proper. From Hwy 5, exit on Carmel Valley Road and drive west for about 1.5 miles. When you reach the Coast Highway 101 turn left and proceed along the beach for about a mile.

Torrey Pines State Beaches can be accessed from the I-5. Exit Carmel Valley Road west to Torrey Pines Road south (Pacific Coast Highway).

To Torrey Pines Golf Course from the I-5 north exit Genesse Avenue and turn left until Genesee turns into North Torrey Pines Road. Turn at the large “Golf Course” sign. From the I-5 south exit Carmel Valley Road and turn right. Turn on Camino Del Mar until it turns into North Torrey Pines Road. Go past Torrey Pines State Beach and the Torrey Pines State Preserve and the golf course will be on your right.

Other Things to do While in San Diego

When in San Diego, consider seeing or visiting these other worthwhile sites: SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Wild Animal Park; the Gaslamp District, the USS Midway Museum; Coronado Bridge and Island, and Seaport Village. There are many other exciting things to see and do as well, but this will give you a good start.

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Author: Robert. Last updated: Apr 08, 2015

Pictures of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Hike, San Diego - Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Hike, San Diego - Photo by Amanda O'Kane

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve - Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve - Photo by Bryan Hughes


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