San Diego – Sorrento Valley, CA (SRB)
The station is located east of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, the University of California - San Diego and the Scripps Research Institute.
11170 Sorrento Valley Road
San Diego, CA 92121
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 20,720
- Facility Ownership: North County Transit District (NCTD)
- Parking Lot Ownership: North County Transit District (NCTD)
- Platform Ownership: North County Transit District (NCTD)
- Track Ownership: North County Transit District (NCTD)
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Amtrak began service to the Sorrento Valley COASTER station on October 7, 2013. The six daily stops by Pacific Surfliner trains are made possible under an agreement between Amtrak, Caltrans and the North County Transit District (NCTD), which runs the COASTER commuter rail service.
Post-World War II, California experienced a population boom, and the resulting automobile congestion prompted communities statewide to actively explore alternative transportation options. It’s against this backdrop that COASTER commuter rail service was inaugurated in 1995, linking San Diego and Oceanside with another passenger rail option in addition to Amtrak. Today, the tracks between San Diego and Oceanside are owned by the NCTD, having been purchased from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) in 1994; in addition to COASTER trains, the line also carries intercity and freight trains.
The Sorrento Valley station is located north of downtown San Diego in a neighborhood of the same name where Interstates 5 and 805 merge. To the west of the station are Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve and the University of California, San Diego, while to the east lie residential communities stretched along Los Peñasquitos Canyon. The station consists of concrete platforms lined with small shelters to protect passengers from inclement weather. Sorrento Valley station is especially popular with commuters and visitors to the university and the area’s more than 300 biotechnology institutions.
San Diego was the earliest Spanish settlement in what is now the state of California. The coast was first explored by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who worked for the Kingdom of Castile. In 1542 he claimed San Diego Bay for Spain, but no permanent settlements were planned until the late 18th century when the Russian Empire began to take an interest in the area.
To secure the coast, King Carlos III authorized the creation of a chain of forts and missions to protect strategic sites that could be of future use to the Spanish Empire in North America. In 1769, the fort or “presidio” at San Diego was founded on the hills to the northeast of the harbor mouth; soon thereafter the Mission of San Diego de Alcalá was established by Franciscan friars to work toward the conversion of the American Indians to Christianity, a stated goal of Spanish colonization.
The Kumeyaay people had long inhabited the coastal border region between Mexico and California, and many of the tribes migrated between summer and winter villages. Early Spanish accounts recall that the Kumeyaay survived by harvesting local plants such as a type of grain and acorns which were ground into a meal. Returning to the coast, the tribes took advantage of the sea life; beautiful shells were used to barter with inland desert peoples. The goal of the missionaries at San Diego was to gather the Kumeyaay around the mission complex and its agricultural lands where they would work at trades and farm under the guidance of the priests while also receiving religious instruction.
Lands closest to the mission were reserved for its use, thus military families and townspeople had to look further afield for grazing and agricultural areas. For grain production, they eventually settled on land a dozen miles north of San Diego in a valley named Soledad, which in Spanish means “solitary.” Soledad Valley stretched from the current Los Peñasquitos lagoon south past Los Peñasquitos Canyon—the area that today includes the Sorrento Valley COASTER stop, highways and university campus.
After Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, California fell under the Mexican flag; subsequently, many of the mission lands throughout California, including the Soledad Valley, were distributed to Mexican elites as rewards for service to the state. In 1838, Soledad was give to Francisco Maria Alvarado, who also possessed Los Peñasquitos Canyon; together, the tracts were used for cattle grazing.
Following the Mexican-American War and the signing of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, California and much of the Southwest came under American control. American law recognized Mexican land grants such as Soledad, which remained under Alvarado’s ownership until 1853. The land would change hands numerous times by the end of the century, when an owner by the name of Baker planted the pepper trees that are still visible near the merging of the two interstates.
By the 1870s Los Angeles and San Francisco dominated Californian shipping and railroading. The foremost railroad in the state was the Southern Pacific (SP), which overlooked San Diego’s request for a rail line until the rival ATSF started to make inroads into California. Meanwhile, San Diego civic boosters led by newspaper publisher Frank Kimball made a deal with the ATSF to bring service to the city. To access San Diego, the ATSF started building a line under the subsidiary California Southern Railroad (CS) that was intended to reach Barstow, California to link with the SP line that ran to the Arizona border.
From 1880-1882, the CS line drove northward through coastal swamps and bogs and inland gullies and canyons, requiring numerous trestles and other infrastructure built by Chinese laborers. After years of building and lawsuits with the SP, the line reached Barstow in 1885. That same year, the first transcontinental train reached San Diego. The original route of the CS proved treacherous, as the inland portion through Temecula Canyon washed out in 1882 within a year of its opening. Although rebuilt, the line was soon replaced by the ATSF’s “Surf Line” which was laid through Orange County to meet the CS at Oceanside in 1888. It allowed a safer coastal link between San Diego and Los Angeles that avoided Temecula Canyon which washed out again in 1891 and was abandoned.
In the early 20th century, Soledad Valley, by then known as Sorrento Valley, was owned by the Diffendorf family, which grew lima beans and also grazed dairy cattle. One of the Diffendorf children wrote an account of life in the area in which she described fishing by nets in Los Peñasquitos Lagoon and picnicking among the famous Torrey pines now protected as part of a state reserve. By mid-century, land bordering Sorrento Valley was being subdivided for residential development.
One of the region’s most famous landmarks is a collection of Torrey pine trees. For early 16th century Spanish explorers, trees were a rare sight on the dry coast; thus they named the unique pine-dotted bluffs “Punta de los Arboles,” or “Point of Trees.” It was not until the mid-19th century that scientists identified the trees as a unique species found nowhere else but on the coast between Del Mar and La Jolla and on Santa Rosa Island 175 miles to the northwest. They were named in honor of Dr. John Torrey, a prominent botanist, by his colleague Dr. Charles Christopher Parry, a U.S.-Mexico Boundary Survey botanist working in the area after the Mexican-American War.
The Torrey Pine’s scarcity makes it the rarest pine in the United States and one of the rarest in the world. Recognizing that these trees were at risk of destruction and extinction by coastal development, Dr. Parry advocated for protection as early as the 1880s. Due to the long-term efforts of philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps and the city of San Diego, much of the pinelands was set aside as parkland. In 1956, the city gave the park to the state so the land would be subject to stricter protections meant to preserve the trees. The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve now encompasses approximately 2000 acres of canyons, mesas and beaches. Los Peñasquitos Lagoon is also within the park borders, where it serves as a vital rest point during the annual spring and fall bird migrations. From the bluffs, visitors may also observe the yearly Gray Whale migration.
South of Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve is the University of California, San Diego, often considered one of the top 10 public universities in the United States. Modeled after the “small college” concept of Cambridge and Oxford, the school is internationally known for its engineering and science programs, bolstered by the work of numerous research institutions. The university is home to “Gordon,” one of the fastest supercomputers in the world, and a full-scale outdoor shake table, which allows for the advancement of seismology. Presiding over campus is the striking Geisel Library, which contains more than 8,000 original drawings, sketches, books and other memorabilia donated by Theodor Geisel—better known as Dr. Seuss.
At the nearby Scripps Research Institute, ground-breaking research is undertaken in fields such as neurosciences, cardiovascular diseases and virology. The Salk Institute, founded in the 1960s by Dr. Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine, is a leading center for the study of molecular biology and genetics, neurosciences and plant biology, with the ultimate purpose of developing new therapies and treatments for a range of diseases. The campus, designed by architect Louis Kahn, is considered a modern masterpiece incorporating rough concrete, teak and large glass panels.
The university is also home to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, founded in 1903 to promote investigation of the oceans. An expanded scope of study today includes climate change, geology, geophysics, marine genomics and marine chemistry. In addition to a significant marine science library and labs with high-precision instruments such as electron microscopes, the institution has one of the largest academic fleets in the country.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station. ThePacific Surfliner service is primarily financed through funds made available by the State of California, Department of Transportation, and is managed by the LOSSAN Joint Powers Authority.
Image courtesy of NCTD
- Accessible Platform
- Dedicated Parking