San Diego Beautiful Historic Parks

Secluded Walking Trails and Local Old Town Gems

Preserved house in Heritage Park

Photos courtesy of Phillip Vargo

San Diego is home to stunning seaside cliffs lining the Pacific, and golden mountains laid inland, so it’s no wonder the city is one of the most active in the nation. If you’re like me, and you’ve seen the crowds at Torrey Pines on a Saturday afternoon, you know the joy in finding remote, lesser known areas to exercise and sweat in private. This led me to look no further than California’s favorite historical neighborhood, Old Town.

Most Saturdays and Sundays, Old Town is crawling with trolleys and school buses, all looking to see the sights; however, these less-frequented trails are a delight for anyone who wishes to go out and explore in peace. On the Northern outskirts of Old Town, at the corner of Harney and Juan streets, sits Heritage Park, a beautifully restored housing development from the Victorian era. With six preserved houses lining the private drive, it is an architecture lover's dream. Each house displays an individual placard providing a history of these past San Diego residents. The McConaughy House, also known as Coral Tree Tea House, is the only house still open to visitors.


Perched at the end of the cul-de-sac, guests are allowed to reserve tea parties or simply tour the property. Ideal for a bridal shower or Mother’s Day, this perfectly preserved house invites guests to indulge in High Tea, complete with scones and tea sandwiches or simply a light lunch in the dining room. Next door to the charming Coral Tree Tea House sits the Bushyhead House, the largest in the development. If you travel to the right side, you will see an old wooden sign marked “Trail.” This trail is short, but it is sweet. The steep, seemingly unkempt stairs spiral up behind the Victorian development and high above Old Town, providing sweeping views of the historic neighborhood and out to the Pacific Ocean. Once back in Old Town’s town center, turn right onto Twiggs Street and walk until you reach the putting grounds on the edge of town. Just past this, you will find an unobtrusive set of stairs leading into a wooded area. This is when you have reached Presidio Park. This charming and secluded park is naturally hidden from the crowds of Old Town by towering California birches and local flora.

Follow the dirt trail as it winds around the hillside with the view becoming more stunning the higher you climb. Once at the top, lush grass unfolds into a rolling meadow, shaded by overlapping trees. An ideal spot for picnics, you will find several people lounging on blankets or indulging in a good book, while similar trailheads veer off of the sprawling lawn back into the wooded area from which you came. From atop Presidio Park, the Pacific Ocean can be seen sparkling from the distance and, on a clear day, the view of the Coronado Islands is vivid and unobstructed. When you’re ready to join the crowds below and if you’ve worked up an appetite exploring the banks of Old Town, stop into Barra Barra, an authentic Mexican restaurant which sits at the entrance to Fiesta de Reyes in the heart of the state park. With a flower-adorned veranda and arguably the best margarita in the city, it’s a great spot to unwind.


If you desire to take a break from the hustle and bustle of some of the more popular recreational areas in the city, exploring the outskirts of Old Town will not disappoint. The trails at Heritage Park and Presidio Park offer a charming, reclusive option to a day out in the sun! But shhh, this stays our little secret!