The hike starts with a smooth ascent along a paved road but will soon transition into some switchbacks. If you do choose to hike in the sun, wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a wide brimmed hat. The unique scenery here definitely puts it on the radar as one of the top hikes in San Diego – it’s a pocket of paradise in the otherwise parched terrain of the Palm Springs desert. At other points in the trail you can walk through Californian desert or snow-covered mountains – there is really something here for everyone. Because each of these hikes are so different, it is impossible to compare them – so don’t worry about the order in which they appear. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve It’s no secret that Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the best places to hike in San Diego County. The trail is one of the most challenging on this list, but the destination is legendary for any San Diego local. Here are the best hikes you’ll find in North County San Diego! The trail begins as a straight descent, therefore leaving you to struggle your way back up. The trail is very well marked, making it difficult to get lost. Location: Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve. Sunset Cliffs Park Trail is perfect for the whole family including dogs on leashes. Attempt this trail in the cooler months. Head to the San Diego Parks website to get the latest information. Another one of the best San Diego hikes is on top of the bluffs of Point Loma over at the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park Linear Trail.. There are many amazing hiking trails at Lake Calavera! The trail itself is a fairly moderate 4.2-mile round trip excursion that passes through exposed, dry, and sunny stretches of land and eventually leads to … In addition to the historical significance of this area, there are also several trails, such as the Bayside trail, through the sage scrub, chaparral and past tidal pools teaming with coastal wildlife. Type above and press Enter to search. The population is around 1,423,851 based on the survey in July 2019. We’re a community of outdoor-loving city dwellers who can’t wait to get outdoors! The coastal scenery provides an idyllic backdrop to motivate you to go on a casual afternoon stroll for as long or as short as you please. Local hikers love the Palm Canyon Loop trail because it’s short, easy, and has lots of vibrant and picturesque scenery along the way. The fairly strenuous 3-mile trail winds through the chaparral hills of eastern San Diego County. Best Coastal Hike: Ho Chi Minh Trail This short but steep hike in La Jolla leads into Black’s Beach, a prime surfing spot in San Diego. Skiing vs Snowboarding: Which One Should You Choose? Be prepared to get wet if you’re hiking the Cedar Creek Falls trail! Contact Us. Most of the trail is relatively easy, but there are a few tough uphill sections that may limit the beginner hiker. While there are many things I miss, the sun-drenched trails are near the top of the list. Located in the middle of the Los Coyotes Indian reservation, the trail to the top of Hot Springs Mountain was previously closed to visitors. Your email address will not be published. Top San Diego Hiking Trails: See reviews and photos of hiking trails in San Diego, California on Tripadvisor. For families and avid nature lovers, there’s an adjacent Nature Center with tons of information on the different species you can find in the lagoon. Kay Rodriguez is the founder of Urban Outdoors. Razor Point boasts strange rock formations and panoramic vistas of the coastline and ocean beyond. The hiking trails in San Diego are among the most beautiful in the entire state, offering views of the city’s gorgeous beaches, undulating mountains, and deep canyons. Note that this trail is quite exposed, so hiking in mid-afternoon direct sunlight is not recommended. The Pacific Crest Trail runs from the Mexican border all the way up to the Canadian border, with every kind of scenery and challenge in between. If you do decide to take on this epic trek, pack more water than you think is necessary and check the weather forecast to avoid hiking on hot days. The bluffs of Sunset Cliffs is by far my number one pick for one of the best San Diego hiking trails that are relatively short and easy with some of the most breath-taking views in the city. 20 Absolutely Spectacular Hikes in San Diego for All Levels Easy Hikes in San Diego. (Let us know if we missed your favorite!). Breathtakingly desolate in the best ways, the trail delivers desert charm through ripe cactus gardens, wildflowers, and bighorn sheep ( borregos ). The trail passes a series of three cascading waterfalls which feed refreshing pools of fresh water, perfect for an afternoon swim. As such, the hike is particularly interesting for aspiring botanists. If it’s a more forested hiking trail you’re seeking, the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve is one of the shadier hikes in San Diego that’s perfect for hikers of all levels. Note that this hike can get extremely hot in midday, summertime, so avoid walking at this time. For a longer hike, you can tackle the Oak Canyon to Grasslands trail, which spans 3.7 miles and tracks through even more wildflower-laden meadows! This 68-acre park is a postcard-come-to-life, with its expansive ocean views, namesake cliffs, and... Anza-Borrego Desert State Park As with many of the San Diego hikes, the weather can get dangerously hot so ensure that you plan your excursion on a cool afternoon and pack plenty of water – more than you think you’ll need. The Top Hiking Trails In San Diego She's also the writer and photographer behind Jetfarer. Three Sisters Falls hike is known as one of the hardest hikes in San Diego County. Cowles Mountain features the best views of the city, while sunrises and sunsets from the top are hard to beat. This trail begins on a downhill into the canyon where the waterfalls are located, then an uphill on the return trip. Located in nearby Poway, this hike features a challenging ascent leading up to a panoramic viewpoint of the surrounding mountaintops and valleys. Nearby is the Old Point Loma lighthouse, which was used during World War II to store artillery and other military equipment, on the picturesque shoreline. However, this hike is so popular for a reason: it is short, steep, easily accessible and, although you shouldn’t expect to be walking through spectacular vegetation, it does provide gorgeous views as far as Mexico. With its beautiful, old trees, sweeping valley views, and gentle incline, this is one of the most accessible and worthwhile hikes in San Diego for all levels. The Double Peak Trail is an accessible, stimulating climb rewarded by enjoyable views and a pleasant park at the summit. If you’re in the mood for an adventure, there are less crowded routes that can be taken to its summit to avoid the worst of the crowds. Many locals can even play “spot my house” using the viewfinder. Even so, this hike is not one for beginners, and should not be undertaken without a fair amount of preparation. Not to be confused with the other Split Mountain in California, Southern California’s Split Mountain offers stunning and secluded views of the desert plains. Visitors love that this trail is longer with easy terrain, perfect for a longer day of hiking and enjoying the scenery. Best Hikes Near San Diego Batiquitos Lagoon Trail. Towering, old oak trees provide a cool canopy over the trail, which boasts a view of Lake Ramona if you hike all the way in. Cedar Creek Falls is an amazing seasonal waterfall and a great hike in the San Diego area. © 2018 ThemeSphere. It’s one of the most challenging and beautiful ocean bluff hikes. Blue Sky Ecological Reserve offers hikers a unique destination just outside of … The trick to San Diego is to do like the locals and skip the traffic and theme parks. Wondering what exactly you should pack for your next hike? 3,734 reviews. The Mission Trails are an expansive weave of over 60 km of pathway over this urban national park. With a relatively tranquil route, the Los Penasquitos Canyon hike is great for all... 3 - Cowles Mountain. According to locals, the Iron Mountain trail ranks among the top mountain hikes in San Diego for its views alone. The Best Hikes in San Diego Have Stunning Coastal Cliffs, Waterfalls, and Even Views of Mexico this link is to an external site that may or may not meet accessibility guidelines. 17 Essential Snowboarding Tips for Beginners to Get You Going ASAP, Best Women’s Snowboarding Pants & Bibs for Every Budget (2020), Best Women’s Ski Pants & Bibs for Every Budget (2020), 30 Totally Genius Gifts for Skiers & Snowboarders (2020 Edition), Best Ski & Snowboard Helmets for Safety and Comfort (2020), 35 Clever Gifts for Hikers That They’ll Actually Use (2020 Edition), Where to Go Canoeing & Kayaking in San Diego, 12 Epic Places to Go Skiing near Southern California, 35 Genius Gifts for Hikers that They’ll Actually Use, 55 Hiking Quotes to Inspire You to Get Outside, 12 Scenic Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in San Antonio, 12 Stunning Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in the Tampa Bay Area, Trailhead Location: End of Lake Poway Road in Lake Poway Park, Trailhead Location: Cleveland National Forest, Trailhead Location: El Capitan County Preserve, Trailhead Location: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. One of San Diego’s more challenging hikes, El Cajon Mountain will taunt you with several false peaks and uphill sections both up the mountain and back down. We’d recommend hiking at Torrey Pines in the evening to enjoy the sunset over the coast, but mornings can be nice with fewer crowds. The trail is wide and you’ll often see Jeeps and other sport utility vehicles tackle the terrain alongside hikers. Byron Hetrick Roughly an hour northwest of San Diego is one of the best waterfall hikes in the region. For wildlife lovers, there are few better places for hiking near San Diego than the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail. One of the most popular destinations for hiking is in San Diego, California. Elevations are given when the hike is predominantly uphill, such as for summiting a mountain. Your request cannot be processed. NOTE: Some of these trails may be closed currently due to safety concerns regarding the current global pandemic. If the day is particularly clear, you will be able to spot local landmarks, which will familiarise you with the area as well as any bus tour. These trails are famous for being some of the easiest but most rewarding hiking experiences in the region. Maybe it’s because it’s tucked into an unassuming location, but I rarely ever hear people talking about this hike. A picturesque and uniquely shaped rock sits at the end of this trail, offering a nice reward for those brave enough to tackle this challenging uphill hike. The views at the top are absolutely fantastic. Cowles Mountain is the highest point in San Diego, and as such is also one of its most popular hikes. Location: Torrey Pines State Park, La Jolla, Distance: 3.2 km (other options available). This trail is a serious challenge and a must for anyone looking for challenging hikes near San Diego. Hiking San Diego. Hiking San Diego County write-up. Privacy Policy From coastal hikes, to moonscape deserts, to big mountains, there’s tremendous variety. Known for its beaches and laid-back vibes, San Diego is a heavenly city for outdoor lovers. The Cabrillo Monument was erected in 1913 in honour of the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in San Diego Bay in 1542, the first European voyage to land the west coast of the USA. Tucked into the rugged hills and valleys just northeast of downtown San Diego, Mission Trails Regional Park is one of the city’s most easily accessible recreation areas. For multiple waterfalls on one single trail, the Three Sisters Falls trail is a fantastic, moderate hike with a lot of picturesque cascades. The name probably doesn’t sell you on the hike, but trust us, this is one worth doing! Though a difficult nine-mile hike round-trip, the views from the top more than compensate—at an elevation of 6,535 feet it’s the highest peak in San Diego. El Cajon Mountain is one of the most strenuous, least-used hikes in San Diego County. Designed by ThemeSphere. Photo by Elise Heimowitz. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife! Known for being one of the more popular hikes in San Diego, Cowles Mountain is located within Mission Trails Regional Park, just 13 miles northeast of San Diego. It’s also flat the whole way, so it’s great for beginners as well as more experienced hikers. You might even forget you’re in Southern California! Stunning views begin about halfway up. Note that this is one of the most popular trails in San Diego, and it gets extremely crowded on weekends. It is also a particularly dog-friendly hike, which may or may not be a bonus for you. After completing the challenge, not only will you have seen San Diego from different perspectives, but you may also adopt a new favorite hiking trail along the way. The Iron Mountain Trail is the perfect half-day excursion if you’re in North County. Its popularity is also only second to that of Cowles Mountain, so don’t expect peace and quiet along the way. Arrow. San Diego is located about 190 km from the South of Los Angeles. Heads up - it’s also known to be a nude beach for the locals. While there are many San Diego hikes worth mentioning, here are a few of our top picks. You can also decide how long you want to hike for, with the option of extended multi-day hikes or a simple afternoon excursion. Cowles Mountain is the highest peak in San Diego County, and the trail here takes you all the way up to the top. The other granite boulders piled along the way are an interesting geological oddity. The Razor Point Trail is one of several options offered by the Torrey Pines State Park, which is open from sunrise to sunset. If you want to hike to the summit of the mountain, realise that it is a difficult climb and come prepared with plenty of water and a savvy companion. Hike the higher altitudes of San Diego's Peninsular Ranges that wind through the county to wander amongst the reliable, and often spectacular, fall color shows. The Oak Canyon Trail is another trail in Mission Trails Regional Park that’s suitable for all levels. Here, you’ll find rock canyon areas, small ponds, and wide meadows, a wonderful balance of terrain for beginners to advanced hikers. Crowds of youngsters swarm to pose for a picture on the bizarrely thin sliver of granite that protrudes over a glorious view of San Diego – but there are other reasons to take this hike. On clear days, you can see the Pacific ocean in the distance. Your email address will not be published. This 7,220-acre preserve offers many hiking trails for a quick nature fix from the urban hustle, and its 65-mile trail system makes it a popular destination for hikes in San Diego and mountain bikers of all levels. Beware: navigating apps have been known to take you to the wrong trailhead. We recommend going in the Winter and early Spring due to the heat. After you’ve summited the peak, we recommend that you include a walk along the tranquil shores of Lake Poway. Ho Chi Minh Trail. by Carissa Stanz. The trail boasts some serious alpine vibes, even in the winter when there’s snow on the ground. This short trail is rated as moderate and is one of the best hikes in San Diego for all levels, giving hikers the chance to experience some of the best views in the city without having to scramble. AllTrails has 128 great hiking trails, trail running trails, mountain biking trails and more, with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers, and nature lovers like you. No hiking guide for San Diego would be complete without mention of Anza-Borrego, and Borrego Palm Canyon is the state park’s quintessential adventure. Moreover, although the route is immediately steep and challenging, it offers stunning views of the surrounding city all along the way. Here, you’ll find beautiful seaside bluffs towering over the crashing waves of the Pacific on a flat, easy trail that’s perfect for hikers of all levels, including children! For a short hike with a gentle incline and views for miles, the Stonewall Peak trail is a fun challenge for hikers of all levels. Looking for the perfect gift for your favorite hiker? Keep your eyes peeled and you might get lucky and spot one of the resident deer population. The Three Sisters Falls is a remote destination, which in recent years has gained popular attention. The hidden slot canyons and abandoned mines of Anza-Borrego Desert State … Be sure to turn onto the first dirt road off of S2 after Scissors Crossing, and not the second road. Located in a wide canyon, the Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail is one of the absolute best places for hiking in San Diego. Press Esc to cancel. Hikin’ Sandi: 12 Best Hikes Near San Diego, California. As always, we only link to products that we recommend, and that we have tried and tested ourselves. The reserve also offers a variety of programming for visitors, like guided docent tours and frequent nature education events. Stroll, hike, trail run, bike, or horseback ride on thousands of miles of hiking trails in and around San Diego. We will do some casual local hikes around San Diego, sometimes joining with other hiking group members. The trail will take you initially through a desert climate and will gradually transition into an alpine climate as you make your way up the mountain. The Mount Woodson hike is famous for the incredibly photographic Potato Chip Rock. However, if you opt to hike just a section of the trail, you can tailor your experience to your requirements. The five-mile Torrey Pines State Park loop is one of the best hikes in San Diego County. The Laguna Mountains, for example, offers the alpine lakes, forests and meadows of wildflowers to rival any North American classic. On the trail, there’s very little shade, so we’d recommend bringing a hat and sunscreen if you choose to go then. Given the lack of good peak-bagging options south of Interstate 8 and west of the mountains, you would think that a mountain with views this good would attract more notice. It may also be a good idea to bring along hiking poles to stabilise you on the more precarious sections of the trail. We will get back to you soon. You’ll find unique-looking waterfalls that flow through the surrounding rocks, and you can also take a dip in the pools as a reward for hiking. Located just across the highway from the Cuyamaca Peak trail head, the Stonewall Peak trail offers stunning views of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Arrow. 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