Beauty and history on Torrey Pines Park Road.

Explore the south end of Torrey Pines Park Road at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and you’ll discover breathtaking beauty and fascinating history.

Last weekend I walked north along the paved trail, which a century ago was part of the main road from San Diego to Los Angeles. The following photographs begin near Torrey Pines Golf Course and end just short of the Visitor Center at Torrey Pines State Reserve’s old Lodge. The historic road, closed to vehicle traffic, is how hikers access Broken Hill Trail, which winds through a rugged landscape down to the beach.

In my photos you’ll see native coastal sage scrub and chaparral plants, rare Torrey pine trees, the Pacific Ocean in the distance to the west and sandstone cliffs overlooking North Torrey Pines Road to the east. Signs along the way speak of the history of this place.

Come along as I walk down old Torrey Pines Park Road on a sunny November day!

Other walkers and bicyclists were also enjoying a fun adventure.

To the east beyond an information sign and historical marker one can see North Torrey Pines Road, Carmel Valley and Interstate 5.


The Torrey Pines Park Road was once part of the main highway between Los Angeles and San Diego. A dirt road built in 1910 and paved in 1915 with the concrete surface you see here, its steep grade posed a special challenge to the cars of the era. Because Model Ts used gravity to deliver gasoline to the engine in front of the car, motorists had to climb up the hill in reverse.

As the number of cars and their speed increased, the hairpin curve near the Guy Fleming Trail became the scene of many accidents. Local officials sought a new roadway, proposing to cut into the seaside cliffs across the front of the Reserve. A compromise resulted in the current North Torrey Pines Road, completed in 1933. When the City of San Diego transferred the title of the park to the state in 1959, this end of the road was closed to cars.

The steep hill and its hairpin curves mentioned in the sign are north of the Lodge, beyond this particular walk. Cars entering the park still use it.

If you’d like to see past photos of the Guy Fleming Trail which is also referenced in the sign, click here!




22 OCTOBER 1998

Hikers explore nature’s beauty.
The North Fork Trailhead leads west to the Broken Hill Trail.
Picturesque sandstone cliffs overlook North Torrey Pines Road (not visible) to the east.
A sign details the history of Camp Callan, which was located here from 1941 to 1945.


In 1940 the U.S. Army leased 710 acres on Torrey Pines Mesa from the City of San Diego to build a training camp for long range artillery to defend the west coast against a Japanese attack during World War II. Most of the camp was on areas now occupied by UCSD, the Gliderport, and the Golf Course, but it also extended into the area of Broken Hill. Later, Penasquitos Marsh was annexed into the Camp. A variety of firing ranges allowed training with everything from hand guns to large artillery. In 1942, the Camp’s focus shifted from coast defense to anti-aircraft.


The Army took care to keep the 15,000 residents of this instant city busy. In addition to this grand outdoor stage, there were two indoor theaters, sports teams, social clubs, three chapels, a weekly newspaper, a band and a drama club.

The 300-bed hospital was staffed by 30 nurses who practiced evacuating from a sinking ship by leaping off the Del Mar Pier. The original caption on the 1943 photograph reads, “Smiling and realizing that they had again accomplished what the male soldier is required to do, the three nurse lieutenants Mae Despain, Myra Adams, and Johynee Parmley step gaily from the surf after the jump and long swim ashore.”

Camp Callan’s final mission was to train soldiers for massive overseas amphibious assaults. In November 1945, the Camp was declared surplus. The buildings were dismantled and sold to a local utility, and the kitchen appliances sold to a hospital. This end of the mesa returned to nature, with little trace of the once bustling training camp.

A postcard. Greetings from CAMP CALLAN CALIFORNIA.
Torrey pine trees in the distance.
More eroded sandstone to the east.
Approaching a small parking lot at the Beach Trailhead near The Lodge.

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

7 thoughts on “Beauty and history on Torrey Pines Park Road.”

  1. It’s amazing, and a tribute to the city’s leaders, how a piece of prime real estate of this size and wild beauty remains untouched in the midst of southern California urban sprawl. Here’s a piece of history you left out, whether by design or not:

    In 1991, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia on Buffy the Vampire Slayer was accosted at gunpoint in this area (possibly on the beach below) by a serial rapist who she fought off, relieving him of a key piece evidence in the process. Two male friends who were with her were shot during the scuffle, as was the rapist, none fatally. The evidence, a police-issue flashlight, was instrumental in obtaining a conviction and a 56-year sentence for the rapist.

    She was 21, and this was six years before Buffy. Sara Michelle may have landed the role, but Charisma was the real slayer.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not surprising. She wasn’t a star in ’91, just another pretty girl in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it may not have even made the news here. The story became news later, and is in her Wikipedia entry. If I wasn’t a Buffy fanboy, I might not have ever heard it even now.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up in the area and those trails were how we used to get around before over taken by the population. Torrey pines state park all the way to tower 7 was our stomping grounds. Learned how to ride a dirt bike there, walked through the northern preserve to get to baseball practice and games followed by my faithful spaniel spanky. Del mar terrace was the best place to grow up back in the late 60s early 70s. We had no clue how made we had it. Eventually ended up working w companies up on the hill near the gold course, jaycor titan systems all locally grown high tech / defense corps. Very few of my chums still around there most priced out via taxes. Still love that section from 101 to black mountain rd. Boy u should have seen the parties and bonfires . 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Bill. Ocean Beach in the late ’50s – early ’60s was my stomping ground, and I knew every dog hole and rabbit run in every back alley, and which way the traffic signals were pointed at any given moment. It doesn’t matter which one of these little SoCal beach towns you grew up in, you were blessed in every sense of the word. That time was magic, and it seemed like tomorrow would never come. If only I’d held it closer…

      Liked by 1 person

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