In addition to ample sunshine, hiking San Diego offers hikes for everyone. From coastal hikes, to moonscape deserts, to big mountains, there’s tremendous variety. San Diego County’s 4,261 square miles are the most biologically diverse in California, with over 2,000 plant species, over 500 species of birds, and hundreds of species of reptiles and mammals.
San Diego is also close to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is incredible. It’s is the largest state park in California and, after New York’s Adirondack Park, the second largest in the contiguous United States. There’s a wide range of hikes and not so many crowds. Modern Hiker has some great Anza-Borrego hikes on his site.
Many of the hikes in San Diego are best done early or late, conditions can be harsh in the Southern California sun. Once you move away from the coast, the heat can be extreme. Again, leave early, bring way more water than you need, and wear a hat and light long sleeves. If you start to get a headache, nausea, cramps, and/or dizziness, these are the signs of heat stroke and you need to stop immediately.
No surprise here – Torrey Pines is the must-do San Diego hike. The hike takes you along the sandstone cliffs on the ocean, with a trip down to the beach. Come early to beat the crowds.
Hike to the highest point in the city of San Diego, Cowles Mountain. The hike is steep but doable for beginners, and you get great 360 views from Mexico to Orange County.
It’s not the toughest hike to a summit, but it might be the funnest one. Stonewall Peak in Cuyamaca State Park is doable for beginners and offers a stone perch on the summit, with 360 degree views.
|Torrey Pines Hike||3.3||540||Easy||No|
|Cowles Mountain Hike||4.3||1189||Moderate||Yes|
|Hiking Stonewall Peak Trail||5.4||1050||Easy-Moderate||No|
|Hike Cuyamaca Peak||6||1670||Moderate||Leashed|
This Torrey Pines hike takes you to the best of the park – rare Torrey Pines, ocean views, and unique geology. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of those once in a lifetime destinations, I highly recommend this hike!
The Cowles Mountain hike brings you to the highest point in San Diego, with views from Mexico to Orange County. It’s a tough little climb, and there are a few routes to the top. This hiking route is the most scenic, has the best parking situation, and the least crowds. It’s a great, safe beginners hike, and a must-do if you’re in San Diego.
Hiking the Stonewall Peak Trail to the summit is one of my favorite hikes. At the top you’ll find a stone lookout with 360 views of the surrounding peaks. It’s one of the more unique summits out there and worth a visit.
The hike to Cuyamaca Peak brings you to San Diego County’s second highest point at 6,512 feet. It’s only 20 feet lower than the highest peak, but much easier to hike. The views you get are incredible and make this hike worth your time.