Top Central San Diego Hikes

Walk 'til You Drop with These Top Hikes



Los Penasquitos Canyon

Photo by Erika Thorpe

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San Diego has it all. From pristine beaches to bustling nightlife, there is always something to do. And, with picture-perfect weather, outdoor activities are even more perfect. That being said, one of the lesser-known gems of San Diego might surprise you. It’s hiking! Whether you’re an avid outdoorsman or just looking to break away from your typical gym routine, each San Diego hiking trail presents a different level of difficulty, allowing for everyone to enjoy. Each trail is ideal for running, biking, or just a leisurely stroll in the sun.

A variety of trails are offered throughout the county: relaxing streams encompassed by trees, cliffside views of the Pacific, or beautiful, rolling hills. With so many options, it can be hard to pick the best hike. To make your decision a little easier, here is a compilation of San Diego’s best hikes. So grab your friends and sunscreen, and enjoy the fresh air!

Los Penasquitos Canyon

Located near Carmel Valley and Mira Mesa, the Los Penasquitos Canyon trail sits in a central part of San Diego, being accessible to all residents. The trail is open year-round, rain or shine. Plan accordingly, as the whole hike lasts about three hours on average, but you don’t have to commit to the entire trail.

The 6.2 mile hike is mostly flat with lots of shade—nothing too challenging. A hiker of any skill level could do it, even children. Along the trail, there are mossy marshes and most notably, a waterfall. It takes almost four miles to get to the waterfall, where people spend most of their time. This trail boasts various types of plant life, holding 500 plant species, giving the journey a woodsy feel. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll appreciate this: Los Penasquitos Canyon is dog friendly! If you take your pooch, make sure he’s on a leash; if you don’t have a pooch, maybe you’ll meet a furry friend along the way. Over one hundred types of birds inhabit the area along with deer, freshwater bass, and several other types of wildlife. If you’re looking to escape to a grassy countryside, this is the perfect hike.

La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores

Arguably one of the most popular beaches in La Jolla, the Shores holds a coastal trail leading to the La Jolla Cove. Change up your regular beach-day routine with this leisurely walk along the coast. From concrete sidewalks to grassy patches, the path varies throughout the hike. It’s perfect for all skill levels, as the trail lacks an incline and isn’t overwhelmingly long. You’ll always have a breathtaking view of the ocean, often strolling alongside cliffs and passing different beaches along the way.

Benches are spread throughout the trail, so the La Jolla Shores are great for packing lunch or taking frequent breaks. Be sure to bring the kids along, as you’re bound to pass the popular Kellogg Park and the Children’s Pool, a swimming outlet originally designed for children. The best part of the trail? The sea lions! This hike overlooks the sandy beach that almost 300 sea lions call home, letting you get up close to watch them sunbathe.

Soledad Mountain

Soledad Mountain

Located in the heart of La Jolla, this trail winds up Mt. Soledad—standing at nearly 900 feet. With steep inclines, it’s a moderately difficult trail, so be ready for a challenge! It’ll be worth it, considering the top of the hike features views of the beautiful beaches and town of La Jolla. When it’s clear out, you’re likely to see hints of Mexico and several parts of San Diego county. The 360 degree views are unbeatable; every part of this six mile hike is sure to impress.

This trail isn’t only known for its views. At the top of Mt. Soledad, there is a memorial for those who have bravely served our country. Praised by many hikers, the memorial shows the names and a brief biography of countless vets which surrounds a towering cross. At night, the cross is illuminated and seen by onlookers throughout La Jolla. This trail encompasses the beauty of San Diego, while proudly honoring those who fought for our protection.