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5 Amazing Hikes in San Diego, CA

Updated: Apr 27

San Diego is known for its beautiful beaches and perfect weather, but did you know it’s also home to miles of hiking trails? With a diverse range of ecosystems, from coastal cliffs to desert canyons, San Diego offers beautiful hiking trails for your next outdoor adventure. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there's a trail for you. In this blog post, we'll explore some of my favorite hiking trails in San Diego, and what makes them worth the trek.


sitting at the top of iron mountain
Iron Mountain

1. Torrey Pines State Reserve: Located along the coastline, this reserve offers several trails, including the Guy Fleming Trail, which has beautiful views of the ocean, and the Flat Rock Beach trail that guides you from the cliffs directly to the beach.


Start at Torrey Pines Beach Parking and follow Torrey Pines Park Rd up the hill. As you walk up the hill, you will see signs for different trails. Feel free to explore all the trails that Torrey Pines has to offer. There is little to no shade on this trail, so be sure to wear a hat, carry water with you, and wear sunscreen.

Location: La Jolla (25 min from downtown San Diego)

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate, good trail for first-time hikers

Distance: Varies (multiple trails)

Elevation: 439 ft

Why I like this trail: This is my favorite beach trail in the city. It has the best ocean views and beautiful seaside cliffs.

birds flying over the ocean at Torrey Pines State Preserve
Torrey Pines State Preserve

2. Cowles Mountain: The highest point in San Diego, Cowles Mountain offers a challenging but rewarding hike. The summit provides panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas.


There is a parking lot near the trailhead, but most of the time the lot is full. There is ample street parking available. This trail is very rocky, so I recommend wearing good shoes or hiking boots and being watchful of where you step. This is a challenging hike, with a steady climb and switchbacks. There is no shade on this trail, so be sure to wear a hat, carry water with you, and wear sunscreen.

Location: La Mesa (22 min from downtown San Diego)

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Distance: 3 miles out-and-back

Elevation: 912 ft

Why I like this trail: This is a popular trail located in Mission Trails Regional Parks, one of the largest urban parks in the United States. This trail is the highest point in San Diego. On a clear day, you can view downtown and even the Mexican islands

sitting at the top of Cowles Mountain
Cowles Mountain

3. Iron Mountain: This popular hike takes you to the summit of Iron Mountain. It is a challenging hike, but the mountain views at the end are worth it.


There is a parking lot right near the trailhead, but most of the time the lot is full. There is ample street parking available. This is a challenging hike, with a steady climb. There is no shade on this trail, so be sure to wear a hat, carry water with you, and wear sunscreen. If you decide to hike this trail in the Summer, I recommend starting early as North County is usually a few degrees warmer than other parts of the city.

Location: Poway (30 min from downtown San Diego)

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Distance: 5.9 miles out-and-back

Elevation: 1,125 ft


Why I like this trail: This trail provides some of the best mountain views in the city.

Iron Mountain
Iron Mountain

4. Mother Miguel: located in the city of Chula Vista, this trail is great if you want to hike but also avoid the crowds of the other trails.


There is no parking lot near the trailhead, but there is ample street parking available. This is a challenging hike, with a steady climb. There is no shade on this trail, so be sure to wear a hat, carry water with you, and wear sunscreen. Parts of this trail are rocky, so I recommend wearing good shoes or hiking boots.

Location: Chula Vista (20 min from downtown San Diego)

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult

Distance: 4.5 miles out-and-back

Elevation: 1,040 ft


Why I like this trail: This trail is close to downtown, making it an easy trek for visitors who want to get out of the city but also don’t want to drive too far and there are nice views at the top. This is also one of the less crowded trails and is popular with locals in the area.


Mother Miguel Mountain

5. The 7 Bridges Trail: This urban hike takes you through charming neighborhoods and across 7 historical bridges in San Diego.


This trail can be a little tricky because if you are not paying attention you can easily miss your turn. If you do miss your turn, it’s easy to get back on track. You will start in Balboa Park so I recommend parking near the San Diego Natural History Museum. After parking, you will walk over to the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden which is near the first bridge Park Boulevard Bridge. Visit SanDiego.org for continued details on this trail.

Location: San Diego ( 10 min from downtown San Diego)

Difficulty: Easy (great for beginners)

Distance: 5.5 miles loop

Elevation: 334 ft

Why I like this trail: This is a unique trail in San Diego that gives you a different view of the city as you stroll through hip neighborhoods, walk by coffee shops, and restaurants, and across iconic bridges in San Diego. You will walk across the Quince Street Bridge, built in 1905 and the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge built in 1912 that crosses Kate Sessions Canyon.





Spruce Street Suspension Bridge

Quince Street Bridge


I hope you find this post helpful and that it inspires you to explore the beautiful hikes we have here in San Diego. If you don’t live in San Diego, I hope this post inspires you to explore hiking or walking trails in your city.




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