With cooler fall weather on the way, now is the perfect time to try out a new hiking spot in San Diego! We have so many great trails to choose from, but these five include some of my personal favorites that I’ve done with my family and friends:
Torrey Pines State Reserve
Does it get more San Diego than hiking by the beach? But unlike other beach “hikes”, the trails at Torrey Pines are actually challenging and you will definitely work up a sweat. While spending time in the reserve, you’ll be treated to views of the ocean, maritime chaparral, and the rare Torrey Pine.
The most popular trail in the reserve is the Beach Trail, which offers beach access via a flight of stairs. Once on the sand, you can climb in and around the rocks to explore tide pools filled with living sea creatures.
For an easier hike, the Guy Fleming Trail and Razor Point Trail meander through the coastal vegetation near the top of the cliffs and offer great scenic views.
Mt. Woodson is more commonly known as Potato Chip Rock – named for the peculiar rock formation that sits at the top of the mountain.
Most people access the trail from the Lake Poway side. If you go on a weekend or holiday and you are not a resident of Poway, you will need to pay to park in the lot. The trail itself is an out and back trail that is 6.9 miles round trip. It is long, strenuous, and rugged so make sure you are dressed appropriately and bring plenty of water!
There’s usually a line at the top to take pictures on Potato Chip Rock so go early or be prepared to wait. Getting on and off the rock can also be a bit difficult and is not recommended if you are afraid of heights.
For a shorter hike to Potato Chip Rock, you can also access Mt Woodson from Highway 67 going toward Ramona.
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve
Blue Sky Ecological Reserve is also located in Poway. Situated north of Lake Poway, it offers access to the Mt Woodson trail and also to Lake Ramona.
This is another out and back trail that only has one access point from Espola Road. You will start on the Green Valley Truck Trail, which takes you all the way out to a sign for the Ramona Dam. If you turn left at the sign for the dam and go up the hill towards Lake Ramona, the entire route will be 4.8 miles round trip.
Along the Green Valley Truck Trail you will also have the option to turnoff for the Mt Woodson trail. Going this way adds about another mile onto the Mt Woodson hike.
Finally, there is a third small trail called the Creekside Trail that branches off near the trailhead and parallels the Green Valley Truck Trail. If you take this route, know that it is off-limits to dogs and horses.
Mission Trails Regional Park
Mission Trails Regional Park offers visitors more than sixty miles of trails to explore. They also the host the 5-Peak Challenge which encourages hikers to climb to the summits of Cowles Mountain, Pyles Peak, Kwaay Paay, South Fortuna, and North Fortuna.
The most famous of all the trails in the Mission Trails system is Cowles Mountain, which offers stunning 360-degree views of the city, mountains, Lake Murray, and the ocean from the peak. This trail is normally very busy so come early to find parking. Or for a fun change of pace, bring a flashlight and hike to the peak under a full moon!
If you live further north, Double Peak in San Marcos offers a nice challenging hike with breathtaking views from the park at the summit! Round trip, you will cover more than 4.5 miles from the parking at Discovery Lake.
This is more of a residential hike as it brings you along the back of some of the neighborhoods in San Marcos, but it is still a real trail that offers a great workout and it’s not that crowded. There’s no shade on this hike though, so start early and bring plenty of water!
Which hike in San Diego County is your favorite? Leave me a comment below!