5 Best Hiking Trails Near San Diego

Post by Kristen Metcalf

 

Often referred to as “America’s Finest City,” San Diego is known for its miles of white-sand beaches that you can experience comfortably year-round. With average temperatures measuring above 70 degrees—even in the wintertime—it’s no wonder this place is home to attractions like SeaWorld, LEGOLAND California, the San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park.

But, it isn’t just man-made attractions that make this city worth visiting. San Diego is home to many historical and natural wonders, which is why we’ve brought you the five best hiking trails that will help you see this city in another spectacular way.

1. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park

5 Best Hiking Trails Near San Diego

[Image: Virginia Hill/Flickr]

For the beginning hiker looking to do a short, scenic hike or do a series of shorter hikes, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park has it all.

Within the park, you’ll find the Guy Fleming, Parry Grove, High Point, Razor Point and Beach trails all ranging from just 100 yards to three-fourths of a mile to the top. And depending on which trail or trails you choose, you’ll see wildflowers, ferns, cacti and other native plants, including the yucca flower and the park’s namesake, the Torrey Pines. Views at the top include a panoramic view of the Reserve, lagoon and inland, as well as the beach as you descend down on the backside during the Beach Trail hike.

Although these are shorter hikes, it’s still wise to wear footwear appropriate for the terrain, bring water and wear sunscreen.

2. Maple Canyon

5 Best Hiking Trails Near San Diego

[Image: Osbornb/Flickr]

If you wish to keep your hiking experience short and free from steep hill climbs, walking across 100-year old bridges might be more your style.

The Maple Canyon trailhead is located in the center of San Diego in the Bankers Hill residential community. Even so, you’ll feel like you’re far from the city as you make your way on the carefully carved out and maintained trail and over two historic bridges. The Quince Street Trestle (built in 1905) and the First Avenue Bridge (built in 1931) are among the few remaining wooden trestle pedestrian bridges in San Diego.

However, the main attraction of the hike is the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge. Local kids often refer to the more than 100-year-old bridge as the “wiggly” bridge, which is what makes crossing it quite the adventure.

3. Three Sisters Falls

5 Best Hiking Trails Near San Diego

[Image: Three Sisters Falls — SoCal/Facebook]

What makes a hike in the sun rewarding and refreshing? A waterfall of course! And what’s better than one waterfall? How about three waterfalls?

The Three Sisters Falls hike is about an hour inland from San Diego, and offers four miles of technical trail, a rock scramble and takes you past several patches of poison oak (don’t touch!) before arriving at three remarkable waterfalls you can soak your sweat, dirt and hiking woes away in.

But don’t just pack your swimsuit. To get to the falls, you need to be fully dressed with sturdy shoes that can withstand miles of rough terrain.

4. Double Peak Trail

5 Best Hiking Trails Near San Diego

[Image: alltrails.com]

To get away from the city but still experience city views, check out Double Peak Trail.

This five-mile hike begins at Discovery Lake Park in San Marcos and brings both moderate steepness and restful views. The beginning of the hike is paved for about a mile, until you reach the 1,644-foot summit. Once there, you can sit atop the summit and take in an amazing 360-degree view of the North County area.

Due to recent wildfires, however, many of the trees that lined the area were destroyed, limiting the shade. So if you want to experience this hike to the fullest without the piercing sun on you the whole time, it’s best to hike it in the morning or early evening.

5. Pacific Crest Trail

[Image: San Diego Hikers]

You may have heard of the Pacific Crest Trail, especially if you enjoy American history. The PCT was established in 1969 and protected under the National Trails System Act along with the Appalachian Trail. The PCT covers 2,659 miles through California, Oregon and Washington until reaching the Canadian border.

And just in case you’re wondering why such a long hike would be on this list, we aren’t asking or even suggesting that you attempt to traverse the entire length of the trail, but an 5.5-mile section starting near Canada Verde Creek.

To begin the hike, start on the fire station side of 79 to avoid crossing barbed wire and going under the bridge. Throughout the 5.5 mile out-and-back, you’ll walk slightly uphill along the creek until the trail opens up to a wide, rolling plain, providing a beautiful view of Lake Henshaw. Once you make it to Eagle Rock, this is your turnaround point.

As always, especially with this being a longer hike, make sure to dress appropriately and bring enough water, and maybe an protein bar, to ensure a safe return back.

After a fun, fatiguing day of hiking San Diego, Holiday Inn has what you need to rest your feet and get refreshed for another day spent in the great outdoors.

 

 

Kirsten Metcalf: Kirsten is a print journalism graduate of Brigham Young University, where she was also a sports reporter and then the sports editor for BYU’s newspaper. Although she’s from Missouri, she’s a die-hard Kansas basketball fan. When she’s not writing or watching KU play, she’s most likely watching Netflix or dreaming about future travels whilst drinking a Pepsi.

3 Comments

  1. Your photo of the Pacific Crest Trail was taken near South Lake Tahoe at a place called Lower Echo Lake. Technically you could hike there from San Diego, so your post is not inaccurate, although the title of “Best hiking trails near San Diego” is a bit misleading. I doubt that someone will be in the San Diego area looking for hiking trails and suddenly decide to take a couple months off and hike to Lake Tahoe, but I guess you never know. In related news, I would actually like to see some photos of what the PCT looks like near San Diego, so I can decide if I would like to do a shorter one or two day hike.

  2. Suzie Que

    I agree with Ty. Lead photo is misleading, and so is the same photo used for the PCT. If you’re selling it as a San Diego-area hike, you should probably include just pictures from the section you’re talking about. Anyone who knows San Diego knows that scene isn’t in any way San Diegan, and you mislead travelers into believing they can see a scene like that here.

  3. Leslie A

    Not only is the leading picture misleading, as the other commenters noted, but there are several other errors in this article. There is no “Maple Mountain” in the Bankers Hill area – there is, however, a Maple Canyon. The #5 hike that heads to Eagle Rock along the PCT meanders along the Canada Verde Creek (there is no “Ysidro Creek” – no idea where that came from), and it’s a 5.5 mile hike out-and-back, which means 5.5 miles TOTAL, not 11 miles. Believe me, there’s no way my kids would have stood for an 11-mile hike! The 5.5 miles was totally doable and is gorgeous this time of year, though.

    It would be more responsible to do some fact-checking before posting articles that are going to send people out in the wilderness.

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