Adventures, Backcountry, San Diego, Summer, Traveling

Best Hiking Near San Diego

San Diego has so much to offer from beach cliffs to scenic canyons, all within a short distance of downtown. Hiking the trails around San Diego is a great way to explore the natural wonders that the terrain has to offer. Below are our picks for the best hiking near San Diego. 


Mission Trails Regional Park 

This park, located a mere 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S. Within its staggering 8,000 acres of protected land, there are over 60 miles of hiking trails to explore. For the more ambitious hiker, the park is offering a Five Peak Challenge. Those who summit Cowles Mountain, Pyles Peak, Kwaay Paay, South Fortuna, and North Fortuna with photographic proof, will receive a special edition pin. 


Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve

Around 20 minutes North of Downtown in the city of Del Mar, this natural preserve provides beautiful views of the ocean along with fairly steep trails through the coastal vegetation. The preserve has something for everyone, whether you want an easy stroll, scenic overlook, or some serious exercise. Make sure to check out their website before heading out to make sure you follow the important rules of recreating in a protected area.


San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and Nature Center 

This reserve is a perfect destination for kids and families. It is located in Cardiff-by-the-Sea (30 minutes from downtown San Diego), the reserve is mostly a shallow estuary. There are 7 miles of hiking and running trails within San Elijo which are fairly moderate. A popular hike within the reserve is Annie’s Canyon. This extremely scenic trail is only ¼ of a mile but fairly strenuous. It gets fairly tight within the canyon so claustrophobics beware! 


Hellhole Canyon Preserve 

Located an hour from San Diego, this reserve covers around 1,907 acres of beautiful chaparral. The 13.5 miles of trails are moderate to difficult and mainly run along Hell Creek. The preserve can get pretty hot in the summer months. It can get so hot that it is closed in August due to extreme temperatures. Thankfully, the trails along the creek offer shade provided by sycamore and oak trees. There is potable water available at the preserve but we highly recommend bringing lots of your own along with plenty of sunscreen!

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 

This park perfectly encompasses the terrain of the Californian desert. The park covers over 200,000 acres of unforgiving wilderness. There are plenty of more extreme features to explore for the more experienced hiker as well as many small discovery loops for children and families. Located around two hours from San Diego, this park is well worth the drive!


Whether you are looking for a quick stroll near downtown or a more secluded adventure, San Diego has a multitude of great hiking destinations for all preferences. We hope this list helps you get out and explore what this city has to offer!

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