5 Great Hiking Spots in San Diego

What better way to spend a weekend in San Diego than out and about on beautiful hiking trails? San Diego County offers a ton of hiking options, from waterfalls to panoramic city views – and we’ve made a list of our top five favorites. Check out these hiking spots in San Diego and get outdoors this season!

1. South Clevenger Canyon Hike

Clevenger Canyon is known for its peaks and steeply sloped canyons, and Clevenger Canyon South offers impressive views not only of the canyon and the San Pasqual Agricultural Preserve but also of the ocean to the west and mountains to the east, especially on clear winter days. The trail is located directly off the 78 Highway; it takes 3-4 hours and is about 4.5 miles in length, so be prepared to spend at least half a day on this.

Fun fact: Someone put two chairs up on a boulder with a fantastic view and anchored them to a cement base. There’s even a small staircase leading up to them for easier access – it’s a great photo op and a great way to relax after a long hike. To get there, take Interstate 15 to Via Rancho Parkway and travel east. Turn right on San Pasqual Valley Road and follow signs to the Wild Animal Park. The southern trail head is located 5.3 miles from the Wild Animal Park and the northern tail head is 5.8 miles ahead.

SEE ALSO: A Guide to the Trails at Torrey Pines

2. Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Trail

hiking spots in san diego

Los Penasquitos Canyon is about 6.1 miles roundtrip from the staging area to the waterfall and is located near Carmel Valley/Rancho Penasquitos and Mira Mesa. The trail is great for hiking, mountain biking, and horse back riding, and can take 2-4 hours. It’s a flat hike, but its length makes it a bit more strenuous than normal. The trails are well maintained and marked, and the route winds through groves of trees, small streams, open meadows, and eventually a large collection of rocks hiding a small waterfall and pools of water that makes for a picturesque lunch spot. Take a lot of water and prepare for a half day or all day hike – and a beautiful one!

Parking is either in the designated lot at the junction of Mercy and Black Mountain Rd ($3) or in the back of the Canyonside Community Park (free). The designated lot is located at 12115 Black Mountain Rd, 92129.

3. Daley Ranch

hiking spots in san diego
Daley Ranch is a 3,058-acre conservation area acquired in 1996 by the City of Escondido and is managed largely for the protection of its wildlife. The Daley Ranch House, a redwood barn, and a few other cool old buildings are located about 1.5 miles from the La Honda entrance and are definitely worth exploring after your hike. The Ranch offers over 20 miles of multipurpose trails for hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian use. Six distinct trails cover most of the property. Most popular are the Boulder Loop Trail (2.4 miles) which offers outstanding views of Escondido, and the Ranch House Loop (2.5 miles), which passes two small ponds and the site of Daley’s original log cabin. The main entrance is at the southernmost part of the property, just north of Dixon Lake at the top of La Honda Drive. Parking is available at the La Honda Drive entrance – 3024 La Honda Drive, Escondido 92027

4. Sunset Cliffs Beach Walk

Sunset Cliffs in OB is well known for its beauty and a beloved spot with the locals. The beach walk is an easy and scenic route along the cliffs starting at the south end of Ocean Beach. The rugged coastline and crashing waves are breathtaking, especially during winter. Pathways along the walk provide beach access at low tide for those feeling a little daring. It’s a great place for the whole family, and there are a few tide pools at the bottom of the cliffs that the kids will love. The cliffs are located at 1253 Sunset Cliffs Blvd. and the trail can be accessed from any point near the road.

5. Cowles Mountain

hiking spots in san diego

Cowles Mountain is a prominent mountain within Mission Trails Regional Park. Its 1,593-foot summit is the highest point in the city of San Diego and boasts a stunning 360-degree panorama of the entirety of San Diego County. The round-trip hike is roughly 3 miles long and hikers will experience an elevation change of about 950 feet. It’s accessible year round and dogs are allowed as long as they’re kept on a leash. It’s a great way to spend a couple hours – the hike provides a nice (and not overly strenuous) workout, lots of plant life, and amazing vistas of San Diego.

A few tips to keep in mind: parking can be difficult, especially on weekends, so be sure and get there early. There is also very little shade along the actual trail, so take plenty of water and sunscreen. The main trailhead is located at 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego 92119.

[Images courtesy of 100peaks.com, californiatourisminfo.blogspot.com, utsandiego.com, jauntblog.com, ihikesandiego.com]

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