5 Amazing Hiking Trails in San Diego

By: Hannah Johnston

 

A great way to see unique San Diego vistas is to plan a hike at one of these 5 amazing hiking trails in San Diego county. We’ve found options for whatever type of hiking experience you’d prefer, whether it’s a leisurely stroll so you can get a gorgeous California tan, or a mountain near the beach where you can burn off a few hundred calories.

TORREY PINES STATE NATURAL RESERVE

LOCATION:

12600 N Torrey Pines Rd

San Diego, CA 92037

(858) 755-2063

torreypine.org

 

PARKING: Around $10-$15, with a few different parking lots to choose from all the way up the mountain (Beach Trail access is on top). You can park on the Pacific Coast Hwy for free, but be aware that you will be making a very steep hike up the mountain just to get access to the trails.

CHILD FRIENDLY? Yes

DOGS ALLOWED? No

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Easy to Medium

 

Torrey Pines is not only our #1 favorite hiking spot, it is also one of the most beautiful places you can go to see some of San Diego’s coastline. The trails are easy to get to and they have something for everyone; there are breezy walks full of beautiful flora and fauna, or you can challenge yourself with a run along trails overlooking the ocean. We LOVE the Beach Trail, which leads you straight to the sand in less than a mile. There are eight hikes to choose from and plenty of photo opportunities.

 

Breathtaking!

COWLES MOUNTAIN

LOCATION:

Golfcrest Dr and Navajo Rd

San Diego, CA 92119

mtrp.org

 

PARKING: Free

CHILD FRIENDLY? You can bring the kids, but it’s not recommended due to large crowds, lack of shade, and slippery areas.

DOGS ALLOWED? Yes

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Medium

 

Cowles Mountain has an outstanding 360° view at 1,591 feet above sea level, and is one of the most popular (and populated) trails in San Diego County.  There is almost no shade during this three-mile hike, so be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, good shoes, and plenty of water. A word of caution – be careful about the hike down the mountain because it can be very slippery.

 

Iron Mountain
(image credit www.yelp.com)

IRON MOUNTAIN

LOCATION:

Highway 67 and Poway Rd

Poway, CA 92074

PARKING: Free

CHILD FRIENDLY? Yes

DOGS ALLOWED? Yes

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Medium

 

Iron Mountain is a great leisurely hike for the experienced hiker, yet manageable enough for a newbie. This hike is roughly six miles roundtrip, with scenic views and well maintained trails. The summit is nearly 2,700 feet above sea level and offers panoramic views of the ocean and mountains. It also has a series of switchbacks that have been known as the “outdoor stair-master” which are popular with hikers and trail runners. Shade is also limited.  If you’d prefer a less populated trail, we recommend taking the Ellie Lane Trail, a beautiful winding trail which will add approximately three miles to your hike.

 

MT. WOODSON AKA “POTATO-CHIP ROCK”

14644 Lake Poway Rd

Poway, CA 92074

PARKING: Free-$5

CHILD FRIENDLY? No

DOGS ALLOWED? Yes

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Hard

 

This challenging hike is famous for rewarding you with a unique photo-op on a rock that inspired its nickname. About a quarter mile from the summit, you’ll be able to pose atop what looks like a giant floating potato chip, giving you and your friends or family an awesome new profile picture. The hike itself lasts about 8.5 miles and has tons of cool looking boulders and beautiful vistas along the way, so be sure to bring your camera.

 

SAN ELIJO LAGOON ECOLOGICAL RESERVE

LOCATION:

There are a few ways to enter the lagoon, but we suggest this entrance:

I-5 to Lomas Santa Fe exit

West on Lomas Santa Fe

Right on N. Rios Ave

Drive to end of N. Rios Ave and park curbside

*Take trail on the right

PARKING: Free

CHILD FRIENDLY? Yes

DOGS ALLOWED? Yes

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Easy

 

This isn’t so much of a hike as it is a nice, beautiful walk around a lagoon which covers nearly 1,000 acres of land.  With seven miles of trails, guided nature walks during the weekends, and over seven-hundred animals and plants to look at, this is a great place for a relaxing leisurely stroll. You’ll find a few forks in the trail, so if you stick to the left (coming from the Rios entrance), you’ll enjoy views next to the water. If you choose to go right, you’ll be on a more secluded trail. This lagoon also has a nature center which serves as an informative display center, with access to several short trails which have beautiful views of the lagoon and wildlife. 

Regardless of which mountain you choose to hike, be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks. Many of these trails are warm in the spring and summer months with limited options of food or water nearby.  Otherwise, enjoy the warm breeze flow over you, the awesome views of the coastline and surrounding mountains, and the sun on your face!

 

*Elisa Borman and Krista Kosmicki contributed to this article.

 

 Edited by: Dawn-Renee Rice

 

 

 

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