San Diego’s Best Hiking Trails

There are miles upon miles of San Diego hiking, biking, walking and equestrian trails in the county’s parks and open space preserves. Some trails offer simple strolls along placid streams; others take you over rugged mountains and isolated valleys. With one of the most diverse trail systems in the nation, find the hike that’s perfect for you. Here are a few of our favorites!

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Take an exciting hiking tour of Torrey Pines State Reserve, with two thousand acres of land untouched. With the chaparral plant community, the rare Torrey Pines trees, miles of unspoiled beaches, and a lagoon that is vital to migrating seabirds, this Reserve offers awe-inspiring views and over eight miles of trails. The reserve is bordered immediately on the south side by the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course, on the north by the city of Del Mar, on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and by the Pacific Coast Highway to the east.


Palomar Mountain Observatory Trail

A hike along Observatory Trail on Palomar Mountain is offers a great hike on one beautiful, coniferous, oak-lined trail, with magnificent scenery along mostly good trail, and access to the world-famous observatory. A spectacular view of Mendenhall Valley is offered from an observation platform within a half-mile of the start, and wildflowers are profuse during the months late in the spring. At trail’s end (after slightly more than 2 miles), one can continue up to the Palomar Observatory just to the right of the trail’s end and visit the 200-inch Hale Telescope or retreat back to the campground.

Sunset Cliffs Beach Walk

This beautiful trail is one of the most popular attractions in San Diego. The rugged coastline and steep cliffs offer breathtaking views, so make sure you bring a camera on this one. The area has been well preserved and retains it’s natural beauty.


Cowles Mountain

At 1,592 feet, Cowles Mountain is the highest point within the City of San Diego. Located in the San Carlos neighborhood of the city, its main hiking trail is one of the most popular in the area, with a 360 degree view from the summit. Although this isn’t the easiest hike, it is only 1.5 miles and is constantly filled with hikers of every level. Bring the kids along on this one, and enjoy some of the greatest views of San Diego.

Pacific Coast Trail

Zigzagging its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) boasts the greatest elevation changes of any of America’s National Scenic Trails, allowing it to pass through six out of seven of North America’s ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and alpine country. San Diegans are extremely fortunate to have the Southern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail slightly outside their backyard in Campo, California!

No matter where you choose to hike, San Diego is known for its beauty, and you will surely discover the truth in this with any trail! Just remember to be safe, bring water, be careful, and bring a camera!

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