During July, I flew out to San Diego California to visit two of my friends. They are a Full-Time RV traveling couple. She’s a traveling nurse and he started a macrame business. Check them out at The Traveling Kind to find out more about this awesome couple.
Since I knew people in the area, I chose to stay with them in their RV in Chula Vista, rather than spend a lot of money staying at a hotel in downtown San Diego. Not only did this save me money, but it meant I was able to spend more time with my friends and it cut down on driving time – no need to pick me up from a hotel before heading for our destination of the day.
A lot of our four-day itinerary included places all three of us wanted to see and places my friends enjoy revisiting. Hiking at Torrey Pines was something on both of our Want To Do Lists. So on my first full day there, we woke up early, donned our tennis shoes, grabbed our water bottles, and drove north towards the State Reserve.
Here’s what you can expect and look forward to when hiking Torrey Pines, San Diego’s Natural Reserve!
Address: 12600 North Torrey Pines Road, San Diego CA
Hours: 7:15 AM until sunset (exact closing time is posted at South Beach Entrance)
Entrance Fee: High Season/South Beach $15 Mon-Thurs and $20 Fri-Sun; High Season/North Beach $10 Mon-Thurs and $15 Fri-Sun;
Parking: South Beach parking options include beach level parking at the entrance and smaller lots at High Point and near the Visitor’s Center (closest to trails).
You’ll want to arrive at Torrey Pines by no later than 10:00 AM if you want a parking spot and less crowds. Another reason to get there early is the heat. There is little to no shade on this hiking trail, so starting early is a must.
My friends and I entered at the South Beach Entrance and hiked the trails in the Main Reserve. The North Beach Entrance is for trails in the Reserve Extension, which is not located along the coastline. We decided to take a chance and look for parking on top of the cliffs, at the Visitor’s Center, after watching others walking up the steep road. If you really want a workout, by all means start your hike at the South Beach parking lot. But if you prefer your hikes to have views and trails, and no cars, then I suggest trying to find parking up on the cliffs first!
Razor Point Trail
Almost all of the trails start across from the Visitor’s Center’s parking lot. There’s one main trail that leads hikers to Red Butte and then branches off in two directions. After standing at Red Butte, taking in the view at a slightly higher elevation, we continued down Razor Point Trail.
From the trailhead to Razor Point is roughly 2/3 of mile. It’s a well manicured, sandy trail weaving its way to the overlook. As you get closer to the edge of the cliff you’ll see why this particular overlook is named Razor Point. The sandstone erosion cascading down the sides of the cliffs is a spectacular sight. And is in sharp contrast to the surrounding soft sand.
The trails are not very wide so be prepared to make way for other hikers or waiting for others to pass before being able to continue on your hike. The popularity of these narrow trails means you’ll likely spend more time hiking than you think.
The Yucca Trail connects to both the Razor Point and Beach Trail so you have to take one or the other to reach the Yucca Trail and Overlook.
Its a short trek from Razor Point to the Yucca Overlook. From this trail you can see more of the sandstone erosion below the Razor Point overlook, and of course more of the coastline. You can also scope out where the Beach Trail meets the beach. If you take this trail, you’ll end up by the rock, pictured above, with a bunch of people on it. Depending on the time of year, you’ll also see huge blooms of yucca flowers at this overlook, too.
Note: watch out for snakes. There were a few signs warning of rattlesnakes but we didn’t see them until we were on our way back to the car. The signs are low, along the path and sometimes hidden by bushes. Remember, everything in the reserve is protected, including the snakes.
The Beach Trail, starting from the trailhead and ending at the beach, is 3/4 of a mile and descends approximately 300 feet. Below are photos of the trail. Its very sandy and has lots of steps and bridges to make the hike down a little easier. There are real stairs leading to the beach, and you’re likely going to have to wait your turn as people return up the stairs from the beach.
Note: Although not a difficult trail, the Beach Trail has sections that are steep and may require taking large steps down or up. Know your limits before choosing this route to access the beach. Also, a lot of people jog on these trails. be courteous and move to the side to let them pass.
Although it was only 11:00 AM, the sun was already blazing down on us, but it made the breeze blowing off the ocean all the more inviting. I wasn’t wearing a swimsuit but I did wear water resistant shorts, so I took off my shoes and ran straight into that ocean to cool off. I highly suggest getting in the ocean after this hike. Not just to cool off, but to help keep you cool on the hike back up!
A day at Torrey Pines would not be complete without a trip to the beach. It was the only time during my entire stay I actually stepped into the ocean. I’m definitely more comfortable in the woods or mountains than I am on a beach, as much as I love the views. Something about sand getting everywhere….But one cannot visit California and not get into the Pacific Ocean! So I did!
Although food and beverages (other than water) are not allowed within the Reserve, these items are allowed on the beach –just no glass. Just remember to leave nothing behind but footprints.
If you’re like me and don’t feel like swimming in the ocean, there are also tide pools in the large rock jutting out into the ocean, a few steps away from the trail stairs. I saw a few anemones, but mostly I saw crabs scurrying from one crevice to another, so be careful where you step!
What to Wear & Bring:
(1) Tennis Shoes or footwear appropriate for hiking on sandy trails
(3) Sunglasses and/or hat
(4) Swimsuit & Towel (if you take the Beach Trail and plan on swimming)
(7) Breathable fabrics (you will sweat on these trails)
Important Info to Know:
(1) No dogs are allowed anywhere.
(2) Only water is allowed on trails.
(3) Drones are not permitted on the reserve, including the beach.
(4) No restrooms at visitors center or on trails.
(5) The State Reserve is named after the Torrey Pine, an endangered species of tree growing only within this reserve. It cannot be found anywhere else in the United States.
(6) Look out for snakes. Encounters are rare but rattlesnakes are in the area.