Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

The Torrey pine tree is a beloved San Diego icon, and she is the star of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. You’ll have to visit the reserve’s trails and museum to see what the attraction is all about, and why California protects these rare American pine trees.

Before heading out to the trails, let the kids meet the native plants that embellish the Visitor Center walkway. Most of the plants are labeled. They are the supporting actors of the sage scrub and maritime chaparral plant communities. Get to know them because it’s nice to recognize a few familiar faces when you’re out in the wild. And if your kids like to hike with a purpose, bring along the American Nature Tale  Torrey Pines Nature Hunt, so they can keep track of each plant they identify.

Next, you’ll want to checkout the Visitor Center where the park volunteers and rangers hang out. They are a well-informed group and eager to help others appreciate this treasured reserve. Ask a few questions about the Torrey pine, and you’ll have a park friend for life. Take a naturalist led tour and your excursion to the reserve will be even more fulfilling. The docents will also help you decide on the best trail for your family. The Visitor Center is loaded with goodies, including wildlife exhibits and interactive activities for the youngsters.

Be prepared to hit the trail! Bring water, a sun hat, and your field guide. Pets and food are not allowed, but picnics can be enjoyed at the beach below the reserve. I’ve walked Beach Trail, Yucca Trail, and Razor Point Trail, and as much as I enjoy the gorgeous ocean vistas with headlands jutting along the coast for miles and miles, my favorite part of each hike is trying to identify the familiar, but often forgotten plant faces. I’ll be back at Torrey Pines in May—that’s when the plants put on their best performance.