A narrow beach surrounded by eroded sandstone cliffs, Torrey Pines State Beach is right off the main highway yet swathed in natural beauty. With Torrey Pines State Reserve at its south end, the beach is great for parents who want a little hiking exercise while on vacation.
Atmosphere: Due to the scenic trails, the beach attracts runners and local hikers. The only things within walking distance are a lagoon and the Reserve’s visitor center, so the area feels isolated even on crowded weekends.
Parking and Entrance: For the best beach access, pay to park in the Reserve’s lower lot, which is right next to the bathrooms and showers. Trails start in the Reserve’s upper lot, so if you want to hike you’ll have to walk up the long paved road. If you’re willing to walk a little farther to the Reserve or are just going to the beach, there is minimal free parking along the highway. A larger lot sits east of Highway 1 and leads to the beach via underpass; the “hidden” entrance to this lot is off Mc Gonigle Road (a side street off Carmel Valley Road).
Nice Walks and Views: The Beach Trail goes from the top of the Reserve to the beach, but you’ll need a baby carrier as it has stairs, is downhill and narrows toward the end. From any of the shorter trails, you can catch a great view of the protected Torrey pines with an ocean backdrop. An easy hike with a jogging stroller would be to Flat Rock. There are only a few stairs, and the trail is plenty wide and flat enough for a stroller.
Activities for Toddlers: Stones and rocks cover the beach and there are interesting native plants to see in the Reserve. The visitor center also has some cool sand exhibits and animal displays.
Bathrooms: Bathrooms and showers are at the south end of the beach and there are bathrooms at the top of the Reserve near the trailheads.
Perks for Parents: Appreciate hiking again with baby in his carrier, then enjoy a long walk on the beach once the white noise of the waves has lulled him to sleep. Also, for dads with a hall pass, Torrey Pines Golf Course is just south.
Baby-friendly Restaurants: Drive east on Carmel Valley Road for some casual local restaurants like Roberto’s Mexican Food.
What Else to Do: Feeling adventurous? Hike down to Black’s Beach, an unofficial nude beach with a steep entry.