San Diego, CA is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas in the continental United States. From the beautiful, sprawling beaches and Pacific Ocean to the west to the rolling hills to the east there is always something gorgeous to see.
When most people plan a trip to San Diego, they plan on going to the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Wild Animal Park or Sea World. They plan on spending lazy days on the beach or a day of fabulous food and shopping in the historic Gaslamp Quarter. I doubt anyone plans on taking a hike, though, and that would be a shame. San Diego has some amazing hiking trails! Here are 5 of those trails:
1. Sunset Cliffs Beach Walk
I’m starting with this one because it’s one of my favorite hikes anywhere! This easy 3.7 mile hike offers some of the most beautiful vistas of the Pacific Ocean you can find anywhere! It’s aptly named for the gorgeous sunsets that can be seen anywhere along the hike.
For this reason, the best time to hike is in the late afternoon or early evening. The natural area along this hike has been very well-preserved, so take your camera for some great wildlife photos. This is a very popular hike, so go during the week if you can if you want to avoid crowds. Dogs are allowed on this trail and there are stairs along the way that lead down to the beach, so bring your swimsuit!
2. Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
This 6.4 mile moderate hike takes you through one of the most historic areas around San Diego. Ancient Native American ruins that date back over 7000 years can be found along the hike. This area was also part of the Mexican Land Grant.
Wildlife is abundant in the area and there is a very good chance of seeing more than 175 different bird species, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, mule deer, amphibians and reptiles. Many of the species found here are endangered, but protected within the confines of this nature preserve. The scenery here is fantastic! There is even a waterfall!
3. Torrey Pines State Reserve: The Beach Trail and Razor Point Trail
There are several trails to choose from at this nature preserve, but the views from any of them are nothing short of spectacular! If you love to hike and love the beach, Torrey Pines is the place for you! With a good chance of seeing bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, harbor seals, orcas and grey whales (during migration) this is also a wildlife photographer lover’s dream come true!
The park is named for the Torrey Pine Tree that grows there, which happens to be one of the most rare native North American trees! There is a $10.00 parking fee per vehicle and, while dogs are not allowed, fishing is! So, bring those fishing poles! Some of the trails are closed from time to time to help prevent soil erosion. Check this website for trail closures and information.
4. Iron Mountain Trail
The Iron Mountain trail is an almost 6 mile moderate hike that features incredible views of the entire city of San Diego, including Coronado Island. Be sure to bring sunscreen, a hat and lots of water as there is a minimal amount of shade along the trail.
Once you reach the summit you can enjoy the view while eating at one of the picnic benches there, so be sure to pack a lunch. There are also telescopes available at the summit. Dogs are allowed, but parking is limited, so be sure to get an early start at this popular trail.
5. Woodson Mountain Trail
This 8.7 mile trail starts easy, but gets much more difficult as you ascend Woodson Mountain. The hike begins at a public park in Poway and is a very well-kept trail. This hike’s most famous spot is Potato Chip Rock, an incredibly thin outcropping of rock. It’s a favorite spot for a photo op and the line to climb it for said photo op can get long on weekends.
There are several spots along the way that offer amazing views of the San Diego area, but, if you can manage to hike the difficult, steep part of the trail to it, the most incredible views are from the summit. From there you can see the entire city clear to the Pacific Ocean.
There is virtually no shade on this hike, so be prepared and wear sun protection and bring lots of water. The hike passes by Lake Poway where you can fish and rent a boat if you’ve a mind to! Once you reach the summit, be sure to remember which way you came up. If you go the wrong way, you may wind up in Ramona! Between the months of March through Mid-November there is a $5.00 fee to park for non-residents of Poway.