Scripps Coastal Reserve


Scripps Coastal Reserve occupies nearly one thousand acres in La Jolla, California ranging across a complex landscape including mesa top, coastal canyon and bluff, sandy beach, rocky intertidal, submerged coastal plain and deep submarine canyon. —Visit us on Facebook

  • Administering Campus: University of California, San Diego
  • Established: 1965
  • Location: San Diego County; upland portion is approximately 0.5 km (0.3 mi) west of main campus and 1 km (0.6 mi) north of Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO); marine portion is adjacent to SIO.
  • Size: 342 ha (844 acres)
  • Elevation Range: Below mean sea level: 227 m (750 ft); Above mean sea level: 113 m ( 370 ft)
  • Latitude: 32° 52' 30" N
  • Longitude: 117° 15' 15" W
  • USGS Maps: La Jolla 15' Del Mar 7.5'; La Jolla 7.5'
  • Average Precipitation: 22 cm (9 in) per year
  • Average Air Temperatures: September maximum: 25°C (78°F); January minimum: 8°C (47°F)
  • Average Water Temperatures: August maximum: 21°C (69°F); February minimum: 14°C (57°F)
  • Facilities: SIO and the San Diego campus provide laboratory and library support, diving facilities, aquaria, and pier.
  • Databases: Collections of marine invertebrates housed in the SIO collection; sand samples from 1995-2005 housed in the SIO geological collection; vascular plant herbarium; marine and terrestrial vascular plant list; vertebrate species lists; biological, archaeological, geological reports; site-related research bibliography , including reserve-based publications since 1995; hydrographic/meteorological records available through SIO.
  • Personnel: Academic coordinator on campus. Roving reserve steward. No personnel on site.
  • NRS Publications: Reserve brochure published 1991.
Map & Directions

View Scripps Coastal Reserve -- Areas and Directions in a larger map with more details
To the Knoll:
  1. From Interstate-5, exit at La Jolla Village Dr. and turn west; continue on the thoroughfare as it turns north and becomes North Torrey Pines Roadt
  2. Turn left at the light at La Jolla Shores Road/li>
  3. Take the first right onto La Jolla Farms Drive
  4. The reserve entrance is 0.1 mi. down the road on the left; vehicle entrance is limited to pre-arranged permission. Two hour parking is available along La Jolla Farms Road
To the Beach:
  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 for the Knoll, above, then continue down La Jolla Shores Drive
  2. Turn right at the first stoplight at the bottom, El Paseo Grande (at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) sign)
  3. Park on this residential street, or on La Jolla Shores Drive, unless you have a parking permit (during the week). Meters are usually available in the south parking lot off El Paseo Grande on the weekend, although special events may occupy the entire area.
  4. School buses will need to park in the Kellogg Park parking lot 0.3 miles south after dropping off students; researchers may obtain a campus parking permit from the main campus parking kiosk on Gilman Drive.
  5. If parked or dropped off on El Paseo Grande, access the beach via the stairs at the south end of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus. If parked on La Jolla Shores Drive, walk through the SIO campus to the pier, and down the ramp on the right. Walk 0.2 miles north of the pier to reach the rocky intertidal.

Overlooking the Knoll

The Knoll


The upland portion of Scripps Coastal Reserve, known as "the Knoll", is the mesa overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Knoll features a half-mile, mostly flat, trail with interpretive signs that meanders through largely native habitats and wildlife. The westernmost point offers a beautiful view of the ocean, the famous Black’s beach and surf break, and downtown La Jolla. On a clear day, visibility reaches 30 miles or more, and the Los Coronados islands may be visible in Mexico to the south. The area has been heavily used for over 8,000 years, most recently for farming, grazing, and military training, prior to the gradual recovery of natural habitat, the site’s acquisition by the University of California, and the establishment of the upland area as part of the reserve in 1980.


Peregrine Falcon Chicks

The Bluffs

The bluffs below and north of the Knoll are a vital habitat for nesting Peregrine Falcons that returned to the site in 2005, occupying an eyrie above Blacks Beach following an absence of 50 years.


Snowy egret

The Shore

The sandy beach, tidepools, and coastal ocean provide foraging and resting habitat for many other kinds of birds. Check the Species List for birds that call Scripps Coastal Reserve their home.


Families explore the Dike Rock intertidal

The Tide Pools

The tidepools contained by the unusual rocky substrate of the ancient volcanic formation known as “Dike Rock” lie a few hundred meters north of Scripps Pier. They are used intensively by classes from kindergarten to college. Birch Aquarium offers classes for grades K-12, as well as separate outings for any age to learn about life in the tidepools. There is free public access to swim, surf, walk, birdwatch and tidepool. With the implementation of the new San Diego-Scripps Marine Conservation Area on January 1, 2012, the only take of fish now allowed is that of coastal pelagic (bait) fish by hook and line -- intended for kayak fishermen. See this map of the new reserves adjacent to Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, and link to a list and information about the South Coast Marine Protected Areas provided by the California Department of Fish and Game. Scientific collecting permits are required for research and teaching collecting.