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Best Place to Watch the Sunrise in San Diego

Want to know best place to watch the sunrise in San Diego?

Generally, I’m not the type of person to wake up before sunrise unless I am absolutely forced to.

But, if you tell me you want to go on an early morning hike or get some high-quality action shots of the sun rising over San Diego, then I may be easier to convince!

If you’re planning to come to San Diego for ethereal beach sunsets, then I’d like to formally welcome you to this article. But what you may not know is there are also some great places dotted around the city to watch the sunrise.

You may already be aware that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.

This is especially great news if you want to catch early morning rays in San Diego from a higher vantage point as the sun will rise inland, towards the mountains.

In fact, most sunrises are best seen when you head towards inland San Diego. 

This article will discuss several of my top picks for sunrise-watching locations in San Diego. So what are you waiting for?

Best Place to Watch the Sunrise in San Diego

1.Cowles Mountain

Why not watch the stunning sunrise from San Diego’s highest point? Cowles Mountain stands an impressive 1,592 feet high above the bustling streets of San Diego.

It’s approximately an hour’s hike up a 3-mile long trail to get to the peak – but the panoramic views of the city and the horizon in the distance are more than worth it.

Plus, it’s completely pet-friendly so you can bring your pal along for the journey! In terms of practicality,

Cowles Mountain is great. With free parking and restrooms situated at the bottom of the trail, you can enjoy the sunrise without worrying about your car.  

Top Tip: It’s advisable not to remain on the top of the mountain between the hours of 11 am and 3 pm as this is when temperatures tend to soar.

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2.Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial 


Situated atop the 822 ft hill stands a one-of-a-kind memorial that honors the service of veterans both living and dead.

In addition to its rich links to the past, the memorial offers otherworldly 360-degree views of the sun rising over the Californian horizon, with the bay, oceans, and mountains residing in the distance.

It’s a spot shrouded in history, so any emotions you may feel while visiting the memorial to watch the sunrise may not easily be replicated anywhere else.

I’d highly recommend visiting this spot if you can!

Top Tip: The memorial is only open from 7 am to 10 pm daily, so you’ll have to squeeze in your hike up to the memorial during these hours.

3.Cabrillo National Monument

Situated on a high hilltop on the west side of the San Diego Bay, Cabrillo National Monument is popular for offering breathtaking city views, being steeped in rich military history, providing opportunities for hiking, and its many tide pools.

The Cabrillo National Monument is also one of the best places in San Diego to get an ethereal bird’s eye view of the entire city.

On clearer days, you’ll also see past San Diego harbor to the Pacific Ocean and Tijuana in the distance.

Overall, the Cabrillo National Monument is the perfect place to stand and watch the sunrise over the city as it begins to slowly wakes up. 

Top Tip: I’d recommend visiting the monument in Wintertime to get the best (and clearest) view of the sunrise!

4.Sunset Cliffs Natural Park


For a coastal sunrise experience, you should pay a visit to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park which extends just over a mile along the western shoreline of the Point Loma peninsula.

This national park stretches across 68 acres and offers incredible natural views of the Pacific Ocean and the horizon in the distance.

Aside from offering a rugged coastline and panoramic views all day long, Sunset Cliffs is also a popular spot for surfers and ocean enthusiasts.

Why not take a casual drive along Sunset Cliffs Boulevard? You’ll catch some of the most breathtaking views of the city as the sun rises or sets. 

Top Tip: Be cautious when walking near the cliffs as they are known to be crumbly.

5.Sunrise Highway

This is not as well known as other places on this list but you shouldn’t rule it out! Sunrise Highway is a road that runs from the Laguna Mountains, east of San Diego from I-8 at Laguna summit to State 79 near Cuyamaca Lake.

As the name suggests, this road provides you with phenomenal scenic views of the entire city. Most iconic viewpoints face east when driving on the highway, making them perfect to watch the sunrise.

Generally, it’s a beautiful drive that is popular with motorists and cyclists alike. Because there are no time limitations on when you can use the road, you can enjoy stunning views of sunrises and even sunsets whenever you want. 

Top Tip: Try out one of the many hiking trails located in Cleveland National Forrest to get the perfect sunrise views!

6.Balboa Park


Located at the heart of San Diego, Balboa Park offers surreal views at any time of the day. But if you want to watch the sunrise with minimal people around, I’d recommend stopping by as early as you possibly can.

This will also help you to find the best view of the sunrise in the park! It may be difficult waking up so early but the views from anywhere in the park are more than worth it.

One of my top picks for spots to watch the sunrise is right next to the Bea Evenson Fountain.

But if you want an ethereal view of the sunrise while in Balboa Park, head on over to the Plaza de Panama and watch the sun rays light up the decadent clock tower.

These locations make for some beautiful golden hour pictures!

Top Tip: I’d advise taking as many photographs of the sunrise as you can. You will want to remember the incredible experience. 

7.Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines State Reserve is one of San Diego’s prime jewels.

The reserve spans an impressive 1,750 acres and is entirely dedicated to preserving the Torrey Pine trees and other indigenous wildlife living on the reserve.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the reserve also provides you with some of the most stunning and eye-catching views of the sunrise that you may not get anywhere else in San Diego.

The Torrey Pines Reserve offers a great hiking experience for both beginners and experts with many trails available including The Guy Fleming Trail. 

Top Tip: If you want to familiarize yourself with the area after the sunrise hour, I’d recommend participating in a guided tour of the area! You don’t want to miss out.

Other Information

Considering the majority of these places offer impeccable views of the whole of San Diego, it may come as no surprise that there’s a lot of uphill walking required to get there.

And while you may enjoy walking in nature as part of your sunrise experience, it’s worth checking that everything is in order so your walk is as stress-free as possible.

  1. Check the weather before embarking upon your hike
  2. Bring an extra pair of socks and pack a First Aid kit
  3. Wear sunscreen
  4. Carry adequate food and water
  5. Carry a spare portable charging bank for your electronics
  6. Keep family and friends aware of your location at all times
  7. Wear the correct equipment especially if you are going on a hike

Final Thoughts

Regardless of where you choose to watch the sunrise, you will fall in love with the effortless beauty that belongs to San Diego.

With picturesque scenery and high vantage viewpoints all over the city, it truly is something that will take your breath away. 

Well, there you have it, a guide on the best place to watch the sunrise in San Diego. Hopefully that helped, but if you want more info, we found you a video below.

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