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10 Best Hikes In San Diego [Seaside + Adventure!]

Looking for the best hikes in San Diego? Here’s a list of the top 10 San Diego has to offer perfect for hiking enthusiasts and families too!

Known for its sunny beaches and as a surfing destination, San Diego is the ideal holiday for almost anyone.

Even if you are not a fan of the beach- yes, there are those kinds of people out there- the surrounding geography lends itself to all sorts of activities including hiking.

These hikes cater to all levels and the terrain ranges from rocky ocean cliffs to long pilgrimages up mountains into the beautiful forests.

You will be spoilt for choice!

10 Best Hikes In San Diego

1.Cowles Mountain Trail

The Cowles Mountain Trail is loved by locals and tourists alike- it is nearly always busy with students, families and dogs as it is conveniently located and offers 360 degree views of the city.

It tops our list of one of the best hikes in San Diego, because it has the highest peak in the city at 1,595 feet and is about 1.5 miles to the top and it is local tradition to run up the mountain.

It is also a great trail to do at night and see the city lights from its peak.

2.El Cajon Mountain Trail

Cowles Mountain Trail

El Cajon or “El Cap” as named by the locals, is an extremely strenuous hike and is recommended for only serious athletes (used frequently by IRONMAN triathletes for training) or hikers.

The 11.1 mile trail follows an old mining trail which takes you all the way up to its 3,675 foot peak. The high ups and low downs will leave you with a sore body but the views and the sense of achievement makes it all worth it.

It is accessible the whole year and is dog-friendly but be forewarned, it gets really hot up there!

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3.Big Laguna Trail

The Big Laguna Trail is great for a full day of easy hiking. It is low-incline and also has little foot traffic on the route and is surrounded by scenes of pine tree groves and tranquil lakes.

Be sure to check it out in the springtime as that is when the wildflowers blossom, bringing the trail to life in hues of bright and vibrant colors.

4.Cuyamaca Peak Loop

Home to the second highest peak in San Diego, several of its hiking trail routes offer some spectacular views and is quite long at 7 miles (out-and-back) and leads to the summit of the 6500 foot Cuyamaca peak where you can, on a clear day, see the ocean.

It is a more challenging hike but is a great day out and you will come across all different kinds of terrain on this trail which makes it really exciting.

5.Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

This wild preserve has hiking trails suited for hikers of all ages and skill levels and they deliver on the natural beauty of the surroundings- think waterfalls, streams, creeks and there is a plethora of flora and fauna that you will see on your hike- maybe even a deer or two.

The preserve is a piece of ancient land with historical ties to the Native American inhabitants dating back over 7000 years.

This is a hidden gem and is not overrun with tourists. The hike is about 4.7 miles long overall and is a breeze to do.

6.Balboa Park Trails

Home to 65 miles of hiking trails there is a hiking trail for just about anyone of any skill level!

They range between 1.4 and 6.6 mile trails that goes through and around the park which allows you to see landmarks such as the Cabrillo Bridge and Spreckles Organ Pavilion through the beautiful oak and pine covered hills.

7.Iron Mountain Trail

Iron Mountain Trail

If you are looking for a moderately difficult hike, this is the one for you. It is a pleasant combination of flats and climbs into the eastern, boulder-lined mountains which although slightly challenging, rewards you with stellar panoramic views.

It is about 5.8 miles in length and provides little shade so be sure to pack in sunscreen and lots of water if you are planning on going on a nice day.

It is also a big hit with horse riders so be sure to check that out if you are interested.

8.Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

A short drive from downtown San Diego takes you to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, a reserve dedicated to protecting the Torrey Pines and the local fauna. It is also packed with miles of hiking trails with breathtaking views.

Take the Razor Point Trail (1.3 miles) or the Guy Fleming Trail (0.7 miles), for example, has spectacular views of the beach front and in the winter months you may even see whales or bottlenose dolphins whilst you navigate your way over the jagged sea cliffs.

Because most of the hikes are easy and most of their lengths only go up to 1.3 miles, depending on the trail, it is no wonder people flock here.

9.Sunset Cliffs

Out of all the hikes on this list, Sunset Cliffs is probably the most rewarding hike for the least amount of effort. It showcases the beauty that is San Diego with 1.5 miles of sea cliffs, tide pools and the experience of the ocean and the endless horizon.

It is a great place for a romantic sunset-timed date and if you are lucky you may even catch a glimpse of resident seals and dolphins.

It is also great as it is relatively easy to get to as well- located at Ladera Street and Sunset Cliffs Boulevard in Ocean Beach.

10.Lake Poway To Mount Woodson

Probably one of the hardest treks on the list is also one of the most popular due to it being home to the death-defying “Potato Chip Rock” which brings tons of hikers to Mount Woodson.

The hike itself is very strenuous and is best started early on in the day. It is about 6.4 miles but because of the steepness of the trail, lots of water and snacks are recommended so that you do not tire yourself out too quickly and miss the spectacular view.

Although this list comprises of a mixture of easy and difficult hikes, there are a few more challenging hikes that deserve an honourable mention and if you are an experienced hiker, you should definitely check these ones out:

Happy hiking, adventurous spirits!

Well, there you have it, all the options for the best hikes in San Diego! Hopefully that helped, but if you want more info, we found you a video below.

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