Our Top 9 San Diego Hikes
The most common image of San Diego is the generous splash of sunlight and the majestic Californian landscape, a mix of deserts, a vibrant city center, mountains, creeks and the expansive Pacific ocean. Hidden in these landforms are thrilling hiking trails, some cutting through the desert and others leading into parks and green environs.
San Diego hikes vary with difficulty and terrain and there is always a trail that will suit everyone’s needs, whether hiking as an individual or as part of a group. Some San Diego hikes are suited for those more experienced and wanting a challenge and others as easy going yet equally as exciting. The hiking trails are spread out across San Diego, some are close to the city and others are situated in a rural setting.
Here are some of the top hikes in San Diego to consider:
#9: Iron Mountain
Iron Mountain is a great San Diego hike, the trail is welcoming and it is situated in the city of Poway. The Iron Mountain is a 6-mile total trek and takes roughly 4 to 5 hours to complete.
This gentle trail is well maintained and marked and it is a good option for a family seeking an exciting adventure away from the city. The only challenge is the lack of shade from the sun.
#8: Mount Woodson
Mount Woodson is another famous hiking trail in San Diego, also located in Poway. It is one of the most difficult trails in the list and the path is treacherous due to sharp turns and bends.
The 6.5 mile trek starts as a smooth sailing affair with a flat path but the remainder of the trail is steep. At the top of the high peak, there are rewarding views of fabulous mountainous rock formations and spectacular views of Palomar Mountain. Lake Poway can also be seen as well as the Pacific Ocean and as far as Mexico in the distance.
This Mount Woodson hike takes around 5 hours to complete.
#7: Palomar Mountain
The Palomar Mountain is a great hike for those seeking a serious challenge. It lies in Palomar-Julian and the trail has a peak which is one of the highest in the area at around at 6,140 feet. The journey to the top and back down again covers around 13 miles and takes roughly half a day for experienced hikers.
For a medium challenge, opt for the Palomar Observatory Trail which is well maintained and has stunning scenic views. Be sure to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and mountain lions on this hike.
This particular trail also leads to a giant telescope that provides a great place for stargazing. Entry to the observatory is open all year round apart from Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
#6: Cowles Mountain
Cowles Mountain is a highly recommended hiking location for those who want to stay close to the city. Cowles Mountain offers a relatively medium trail in terms of difficulty and it covers a total of a 3 mile round trip.
The course is well maintained and the location makes this one of the most popular hiking trails in San Diego. The summit offers a great view of the whole city from all directions. There is also a spectacular view of the ocean and a glimpse of Mexico on a clear day. The Cowles Mountain hike is usually busy with other hikers and dog walkers.
#5: Balboa Park Trails
Balboa Park offers the ideal adventure for those who are not into extremely rugged adventures.
The park covers 1,200 acres and provides numerous hiking trails. Balboa Park offers an urban atmosphere within a unique lush green and wilderness setting. The different hiking trails cater for all difficulty levels and stretch from 1.5 miles to over 6 miles.
Hikers are taken through scenic sites and beautiful botanical gardens. There are various activities to enjoy within the park including museums and art exhibitions.
#4: The El Cajon Mountain
Another great option for hikers seeking a challenging trail is the El Cajon Mountain. The mountain has the honor of being used for training in extreme sports and with good reason. The El Cajon Mountain trail involves trekking all the way along a mining route to reach a spectacular height of 3,675 foot above sea level.
If the 11-mile trail is not enough, be prepared for steep ascends and descends during this journey. Although this is a demanding hike, it is worth the reward of a breathtaking surrounding view.
#3: The Goat Canyon Railroad Trestle
The Goat Canyon Railroad Trestle is a hiking trail that deserves more appreciation among the other San Diego hikes. This is also a challenging hike within the area.
The hiking trail is located in the Anza-Borrego State Park which is hidden in the desert. The trek involves walking through the desert to get to the biggest railroad trestle made of wood in the whole world.
It is is likely to be most appreciated by the experienced hiker. The trail is hardly marked or maintained so experienced navigation skills and equipment are required.
The adventure to The Goat Canyon Railroad Trestle will take a full day and once completed, hikers are guaranteed a sense of satisfaction due to the physical demands that are part of the experience.
#2: Borrego Palm Canyon
Situated in the area of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Borrego Palm Canyon is an ideal hike for those seeking an experience within the desert.
It offers a 3.2 mile hike and leads through the massive canyon which has underwater springs that provide water to the majestic palms, cactus and other desert vegetation that sprawls the canyon.
The Borrego Palm Canyon leads to an oasis which is the third largest of its kind in California. This medium-difficult trail is a popular hike, particularly with geologists and botany enthusiasts.
If you are lucky enough, you may bump into the big horn sheep that roam this area.
#1: Torrey Pines State Reserve
The Torrey Pines State Reserve is a great hiking trail located in one of the best parts in San Diego. It is situated in La Jolla and has several hiking trails that add up to about 8 miles in total. The two most popular hiking trails are the Razor Point Trail (1.3 miles) and Yucca Point Trail (1.25 miles).
The beach can be accessed by the Yucca Point Trail or another beach trail in the area that stretches a total of 1.7 miles. The beach in this area offers spectacular views of the ocean and sea cliffs alongside rare pine tree species and native flower blooms.
The Torrey Pines State Reserve hikes are relatively easy and great for beginners as the average elevation changes are roughly 200 feet. This is our top San Diego hike because it is a great choice for families as it has convenient paved walkways.
The ‘9 Top San Diego Hikes’ were provided by Harry – A hiking enthusiast. He enjoys leaving the hustle of the city behind to experience a journey of majestic beauty within nature. He writes frequently for Hiking Wonder.
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