The Best Hiking Trails in San Diego
Hiking has soared in popularity in recent years, and it’s not tough to understand why. A nice hike isn‘t just a lovely day in the great outdoors, it can also be a great way to stay in shape. “America’s Finest City” has a large number of hiking opportunities in and around the area that are perfect for trail-trekkers of all levels. And given our mild year-round weather, there’s never a bad time to experience them for yourself. So if you’re interested in a little exploration, check out our picks for the best hiking trails in San Diego.
Torrey Pines State Reserve (12 miles from the hotel)
For a truly unique San Diego hiking experience you simply can’t get anywhere else, head to Torrey Pines State Beach. The preserve offers a multitude of trails, all of which feature gorgeous scenery. Expect gentle rises, spectacular views of the Pacific, and an abundance of local vegetation — including the extremely rare tree from which the park draws its name. A mild caveat if you plan to visit, however: Torrey Pines is protected land, so follow the maxim of “Leave no trace.” Even removing a souvenir rock is not permitted.
12600 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla CA
Mission Trails Regional Park (17 miles away)
Mission Trails is one of San Diego’s loveliest hidden gems. The park itself includes many paths, including the popular Kumeyaay Lake trail — a brisk 1.8-mile stroll past some lovely bodies of water and lush greenery. Starting near the lake adjacent to the campground and winding your way down to the Old Mission Dam isn’t just an enjoyable walk, it’s an undeniably picturesque one. Bird-watchers will also find much to love here.
1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119
Photo credit: @missiontrails_regionalpark
Cowles Mountain (17.6 miles away)
The Cowles Mountain Hiking Trail is a great spot to take in a gentle hike. A quick and breezy three-mile trail winds through nearby La Mesa, past beautiful wildflowers and other native vegetation. The terrain is even and gradual enough for hiking, running, or mountain biking, and is also dog-friendly — as long as your four-legged companion is kept leashed. The best part? The unbeatable city views you’ll take in along the way.
7001 Golfcrest Dr, San Diego, CA
Photo credit: @_.the.adventurist._
San Elijo Ecological Reserve (18.6 miles)
San Elijo’s seven-plus miles of winding, interconnected trails make their way through some of San Diego County’s most beautiful landscapes. Wetlands, canyons, and gently sloping pathways offer delightful natural surprises around every bend. The reserve campus also includes a nature center with exhibits, activities, and even a special area for kids. The wildlife-spotting is particularly good at San Elijo, so be sure to bring your camera.
2710 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007
Photo credit: @abbeylaine122
Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve (20.4 miles away)
Los Peñasquitos (“little cliffs”) is a great trail for those who want to enjoy mountain-feel views without having to hire an expedition crew. There are two approaches (east and west), and the trailheads offer 6.5-mile and 5.5-mile trails. The terrain is gradual and level, but the trails are surrounded by the striking rocky terrain that gave the area its name.
12020 Black Mountain Road, Rancho Penasquitos, CA
Photo credit: @pqgoats
Batiquitos Lagoon (26.1 miles away)
Hikers at Batiquitos can look forward to a low-elevation wetland walk on a 3.25-mile trail that winds through a park-like environment. If you go, you’ll encounter lots of families, dog walkers, and more than a few bird-watchers. Owls, ducks, swans, and other water-loving birds make Batiquitos their home in large numbers. The Batiquitos Lagoon Foundation also sponsors several yearly events ideal for spotting our feathered friends.
Batiquitos Dr. at Pelican St. Carlsbad, CA
Photo credit: @sdcoastalwetlands
Hit the Trails
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