Welcome to our guide on the top 10 hikes in San Diego County! If you are looking for a great outdoor adventure, you have come to the right place. San Diego County is home to some of the best hiking trails in California, and we are excited to share our top picks with you.
Annie’s Canyon Trail
Annie’s Canyon Trail is located in Solana Beach and offers a mile and a half hike through Santalijo Lagoon. The trail is a winding twisting slot canyon hidden in the hillside where the only way to look is up, and the only way out is a short ladder climb back up to civilization. This little spur loop is a perfect combination of an easy hike with a thrilling experience. It’s an easy hike, but the slot canyon itself is narrow, steep, and claustrophobic. If you are not comfortable in that environment, then you may want to stick around for our next hike.
Batiquitos Lagoon Trail
Batiquitos Lagoon Trail is located in Carlsbad and is a flat, super easy three and a half-mile trail that winds around this world-class estuary. This hike is ideal for almost anyone, and the wildlife is more active in the evenings. You should be able to see the mullet jumping out in the lagoon and the raptors hunting.
Cowles Mountain Trail
Cowles Mountain Trail is located in the Mission Trails Regional Park and has a couple of entrances to get there. We recommend the most popular and direct route on the corner of Golf Crest and Navajo Road. This is a steep and rocky trail with no shade, and in warmer months, it should be tackled early morning or early evening. It’s a challenging hike, but the payoffs are spectacular, dazzling views of downtown, Mission Bay, Lake Murray, and all the way south to Mexico.
Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail
One of the most popular destination hikes in San Diego County is the Falls at Los Penasquitos Canyon. Situated within easy striking distance of anywhere in the San Diego area, several trails will lead you here. The eastern trailhead is located on Black Mountain Road, and from the west, you can access it from Sorrento Valley Boulevard. This hike is spectacular, and when we were here in late July, the creek was still flowing nicely, and if you visit wet months, it positively rips.
Sunset Cliffs Trail
Sunset Cliffs Trail is a two and a half-mile out and back hike that meanders along these cliffs and gives you some of the most rocking ocean views in all the city. It’s a great urban hike, good to go at any time of the day.
Del Mar Dog Beach
Del Mar Dog Beach is one of the coolest beaches in Southern California to hang out at with your furry friends. There are a few rules, but it’s pretty much party time all day long, so bring your ball and throw it.
Santa Margarita River Trail Preserve
Just outside of Fallbrook in Northern San Diego County is the Santa Margarita River Trail Preserve. This hike is great, no matter what your hiking level is. About five miles out and back, there’s a lot of shade on this one, so it’s good to go at any time of the day.
Torrey Pines is essentially a five-mile out and back beach walk south from Torrey Pines Beach to Black’s Beach. This hike is a perfect hike to take that occasional refreshing ocean dip.
Potato Chip Rock Trail
Potato Chip Rock Trail is slightly on the more challenging side of moderate and has a couple of ways to get here. This is the very definition of a destination hike, and there’s no more iconic photo than striking a pose on top of Potato Chip Rock for the cameras and, of course, for your adoring public. This trail is slightly on the more challenging side of moderate, and there are a couple of ways to get here. You can either take the eastern trail from Highway 67 near Ramona, which is about four and a half miles, or via Lake Poway, which is about a seven-mile out and back hike.
Iron Mountain Trail
Iron Mountain Trail is located in Poway and is a moderate to difficult trail, with an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet. The trail is about six and a half miles out and back and offers panoramic views of the surrounding areas. It’s a great workout, and the scenery is breathtaking.
In conclusion, San Diego County offers some of the best hiking trails in California. From easy walks to challenging hikes, there is something for everyone. We hope our guide has inspired you to explore the outdoors and take advantage of all that San Diego has to offer. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and your sense of adventure. Happy hiking!