8 Best Parks In San Diego To Hike And Sunbathe In 2023

Looking for the best parks in San Diego?

San Diego is home to more than 340 parks and no two parks are the same, with vast mountain parks, picturesque coastline parks, and cultural hub parks that showcase San Diego’s rich history.

The choice of which parks to visit can therefore seem a little daunting at first. So we’ve narrowed down a few of the best parks you could visit in San Diego and the reasons why you should visit them.

1.Balboa Park

Balboa Park is San Diego’s one-stop-shop for entertainment, architecture, sights, and culture. The 1,200 acres of land houses an astonishing 16 museums, multiple performing arts venues, trails, gardens, and much more.

Balboa Park is also home to the famous San Diego Zoo, the most visited zoo in the United States. Balboa Park is free to enter but most of the museums charge an admission fee.

However, there are some exceptions to this such as the Timken Museum of Art and the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society Museum.

If you do want to take advantage of all museums, the Balboa Park explorers pass will provide entry to all 16 museums at a reduced price.

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2.Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs is a national park located one and a half miles along the Point Loma peninsula’s western shoreline, at 68 acres long, the park offers breathtaking views of the pacific ocean and, as the name suggests, it’s a brilliant place to sit down and watch the sunset.

Sunsets aren’t the only namesake of this park, however, with its fascinating cliff formations leading to the crashing waves down below.

If you are a fan of fantastic views and amazing sunsets then I recommend you take yourself down Sunset Boulevard and enjoy Sunset Cliffs national park.

3.Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park

If you are a big fan of hiking, mountain biking, and spectacular views of the surrounding area, then this is the park for you.

The home to Cowles Mountain, the Mission Trails Regional Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. This park has over 8,000 acres of land and has around 65 miles of hiking trails.

Mission Trails Regional Park also has a visitor center where you can find information about the cultural and natural history of the surrounding areas.

This visitor center also offers guided hiking tours several times a week. Also, if you want more time in the Mission Trails Park, the Kumeyaay Lake Campground offers camping on weekends, but make sure to call ahead as camping is by reservation only.

4.Cabrillo National Monument

The Cabrillo National Monument is San Diego’s only national park and is full of historical, natural, and cultural history as well as astonishing panoramic views of the downtown San Diego area.

Topped by a large monument of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a 1542 Portuguese explorer who sailed into what is now the San Diego bay.

The visitors center and museum run by the National Park Service offers films and displays telling the story of Cabrillo and San Diego’s discovery.

If you would like to learn more about San Diego’s rich history, then the Cabrillo National Monument Park is a must-see.

5.Mission Bay

One of the largest aquatic parks in the United States, Mission Bay has over 4,230 acres of land and water with a whopping 27 miles of shoreline.

If you’re a fan of relaxing swims and sandy beaches, 19 of those miles are exactly that, beautiful sandy beaches with 8 locations dedicated to swimming along with them.

As well as beaches and waterways, Mission Bay has around 14 miles of bike path and brilliant coastal walks.

If you’d prefer the water to the land, then Mission Bay Park also offers sailboats and motorboats to rent and due to its geographical location, the water is usually calm and tranquil.

6.Ellen Browning Scrips Park

Ellen Browning Scripps Park is a popular spot for beach weddings and other events, and it’s no surprise.

Adorned with palm trees and sporting a beautiful view of the pacific ocean, it’s no wonder why Ellen Browning Scripps Park has been referred to as the most photographed spot in San Diego.

This sizable green space is a popular area for games and picnics and below this park, you can even spot La Jolla’s famous seals and sea lions hanging out on the coastline.

However, because of the popularity of the park, parking can be difficult, so make sure to plan ahead in your visit!

7.Kate O. Sessions Park

Kate O. Sessions Park

Kate O. Sessions Park houses one of the best views in San Diego, situated on top of a hill, you can see San Diego from a different perspective, with views of downtown and the coast.

Kate O. Sessions Park is a very popular space for picnics, walks, and meetups because of this.

If you’re lucky enough to be here in the summertime, the Pacific Beach Town Council has been known to often host concerts at the park here.

Kate O. Sessions Park is a fantastic atmosphere to watch live music with the perfect backdrop of San Diego’s downtown area.

8.Waterfront Park

Located in the bay harbour, the Waterfront Park is a central picturesque piece of green that is perfect for picnics and games.

The park has a huge splash fountain which is perfect for kids (and adults) to play in and cool off.

Because of its central location, it’s easy to pop into the city and grab a bite to eat back in the park so you don’t even have to bring your own picnic.

Little Italy is just moments away allowing a great selection of quality food. If you’re here in the summertime evenings you can lay down a blanket and watch some projected films too!

Waterfront Park is the perfect central park for taking breaks in between sightseeing in the beautiful harbour area of San Diego.

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