Taking in the stunning beauty of Torrey Pines State Natural reserve, it’s easy to forget you’re just minutes away from the center of America’s sixth largest city. A remnant of the coastal sage scrub that used to cover the coast of Southern California prior to European settlement, Torrey Pines is also home to the rarest tree in the United States, Pinus torreyana.
The 2000 acre reserve offers a network of eight miles of trails that wind through the sage and cactus scrubland. The reserve is split into two sections by Los Penasquitos Marsh Natural Reserve. The south side of Torrey Pines abuts the coast and is the most popular with visitors. The northern section, on the otherside of the marsh, is surrounded by neighborhoods, but connects to both Los Penasquitos and the rest of Torrey Pines via trails.
One way to explore the southern section of Torrey Pines is to enter the reserve and drive up the hill to the upper parking area, then hike down towards the ocean. The trails bring you along sandy trails to sea cliffs and the reserve’s beach. Hikers can also explore this section of the reserve starting at the lower parking area, near the park entrance on the south side of Los Penasquitos Marsh. It’s also possible to hike along the beach from the lower parking lot, then hike up into the trails.
The northern part of Torrey Pines reserve is known as The Extension. You can enter this section of trails from Del Mar Scenic Parkway via Carmel Valley Road, or from Mar Scenic Drive or Mira Montana Drive via Del Mar Heights Road.