To qualify as a State Reserve in California, an area must have
outstanding or unusual natural or scenic values. The California
Parks & Recreation Department, which oversees the Torrey
Pines State Reserve, has been dubbed by that department as "a
wilderness island in an urban sea." The reserve is a fragile
environment, which is why you can't picnic or camp there. It
is home to the nation's rarest pine tree—Pinus torreyana.
While this tree species was once more abundant, it now grows
only in the Torrey Pines Reserve and on Santa Rosa, an island
off of Santa Barbara, California. The reserve not only protects
the pines, but also Southern California's last waterfowl refuges
and salt marshes. The topography is spectacular here—high
broken cliffs and deep ravines on headlands that overlook the
Pacific Ocean. Hikers can choose trails of varying difficulty
through the stands of the pines that have been sculpted by the
wind. You can also reach Torrey Pines State Beach by trail.
Pines are only part of the reserve's rich plant community. You'll
see wildflowers in spring. In the early mornings of the fall
and winter, you can witness California quail gathered in coveys.
At the reserve, you'll find a rustic, pueblo-style building
that was constructed in 1923 as a restaurant called the Torrey
Pines Lodge. Among other things, it featured lampshades made
of Torrey Pine needles. It now houses the Visitor Center, which
features interpretive displays and recounts the history of the
reserve, beginning with the Kumeyaay Indians.
$6 parking fee ($5 for seniors)
Open daily 8 a.m. till sunset
Visitor Center open daily at 9 a.m.