San Diego Magazine has listed their Top 10 places to hike in San Diego! Get out and hit the trails this Spring!
1. Cabrillo National Monument Bayside Trail
Like your hikes with a side of history? Before getting to the start of this easy 2-mile path, there are museums, films, and ranger-guided programs about San Diego’s military culture and Juan Cabrillo’s journey up the California coast. Lovers of ye olden tymes will also dig the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, which has been preserved in its original 1880s style and reflects the life of lighthouse keepers at that time. Once you’ve learned a thing or two, hit the trail for one of the best views of San Diego Bay. nps.gov/cabr
Why We Love It: Between the museum, easy path, and gorgeous vistas, this is an ideal family option.
2. Elfin Forest
The 784-acre preserve is home to more than 11 miles of trails. There are a few go-to paths, including the Escondido Creek Trail, which runs alongside a babbling brook, and Botanical Trail, that takes you on an easy 1.5-mile loop across the creek. The main attraction is the aptly named Way Up Trail, a 1.4-mile ascent that leads to more exciting options. When you hit the Y at the end of the Way Up, turn right for the Equine Incline loop and hillside views or left for a shorter hike and the Elfin Forest Outlook, which overlooks the Pacific—and seemingly everywhere else. olivenhain.com
Why We Love It: A hiker-friendly system, the Preserve has plenty of picnic tables, toilet facilities, and rest stops.
3. Climbers Loop in Mission Trails Regional Park
Don’t let the 1.2-mile distance fool you; this trail climbs a steep 407 feet, with 17 switchbacks from the get-go. Besides a heart-pumping workout, the drastic elevation shift also means expansive viewpoints of the San Diego River Basin. Once you’ve caught your breath, rest assured: The way down is a more manageable nine switchbacks. mtrp.org
Why We Love It: The Loop provides access to the Kwaay Paay Mountain rock climbing area, ending at the Main Climbing Wall. Don’t forget your ropes!
4. Palomar Mountain Overview Loop
This 4-mile loop covers varied mountain terrain, features shady canopies, and, at one point, climbs mile-high where the air gets thinner, making for a surprisingly exerting stretch. Head out on Chimney Flats Trail before swinging left onto Thunder Springs. Take another left at Doane Pond onto Cedar Trail and continue onto Scott’s Cabin Trail before rounding back to the start. palomarsp.org
Why We Love It: Wildlife sights, like deer and frogs, are a near-guarantee.
5. Hiking Yoga
This hybrid workout combines a trek though rolling landscapes with yoga’s sun salutations and downward-facing dogs. The 90-minute excursions—roughly 60 for hiking and 30 for yoga, alternating between the two—take you on 3.5-mile routes through the museums and gardens in Balboa Park or along a creek in Mission Trails Regional Park. It may not be a traditional yoga class, but you can still get adjustments; instructors are certified yoga teachers. (Mats provided.) hikingyoga.com
Why We Love It: It combines two San Diego staples into one efficient workout.
6. Engelmann Oak Loop at Daley Ranch
This trail is nestled in a secluded section of Escondido’s Daley Ranch and offers an easy 3.5-mile loop. Bird sightings are aplenty and coyotes have been known to make an appearance. daleyranch.info
Why We Love It: Look out for “picnic rock” just beyond the water tower; it’s a prime spot for eating (and napping) on the sun-soaked rocks.
7. Broken Hill Trail in Torrey Pines
On largely unshaded paths, Broken Hill Trail, Torrey Pines’ longest, boasts unobstructed ocean views, chaparral, and a scenic overlook. It’s 1.2 miles to the shore via the North Fork Trail and 1.3 via the South. torreypine.org
Why We Love It: A leisurely pace, ocean views, and scenic overlook? That’s a recipe for romance—but be sure to leave by sunset, when the reserve closes.
8. Three Sisters Falls in Descanso
If you’re looking for a challenge, Three Sisters has repelling, boulder-hopping, and oppressive heat that can wear you down if you don’t start early enough. But once you’ve hiked the roughly 2 miles down and bypassed the near vertical drop at the end, you’ll be rewarded handsomely with a trio of waterfalls and a group of pools for the ultimate cool-down. This one’s not recommended for beginners, children, or dogs, and extra water is a must. trails.com
Why We Love It: It has all the glory of Yosemite-like waterfalls, just an hour’s drive away.
9. Pyles Peak/Cowles mountain/Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park
Everyone knows about Cowles Mountain, but few know to continue upward on this trail (3 miles out and back) for blooming vegetation, a refreshing breeze, and, sometimes, a cloud forest. Note that this trail isn’t as well-maintained as Cowles’, so wear proper footwear. mtrp.org
Why We Love It:It’s one of the few trails in San Diego that can still be called a “hidden gem.”’
10. Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch in Poway
This roughly 6-mile loop spans the 1,700-acre canyon and 325-acre Goodan Ranch. Start on Martha’s Grove Trail and after 1.5 miles, hang left to hit the Cardiac Hill path, a steep climb that will get your heart thumping. Once you reach the service road, turn right and continue onto the Ridge Trail and follow the West Trail back to Sycamore Canyon Road, where you’ll walk for about half a mile back to the start. sdcounty.ca.gov/parks/hikes.html
Why We Love It: It’s a shining example of how well nature can bounce back after a disaster like the 2003 wildfires.