Why do you have to get up early to go hiking? You don’t, but the parking, the crowds and the heat might get to you if you sleep in.
I have developed quite a passion for hiking over the last year and lucky for me San Diego boasts many great trails that offer challenging climbs and rewarding views of the city, the ocean, Mexico and beyond.
This is without a doubt San Diego’s best and most grueling hike. It’s just past Julian in the mountain roads. The last few miles to get there is a dirt road so bring a truck, or you will have to drive slow like we did. This hike has STEEP inclines and downgrades, boulder climbing and repelling. It’s a 4 mile hike, so not long, but this will challenge your limits. Dogs are allowed. The trail is non-existent in some areas so keep an eye out for spray painted arrows. All the torture is worth it when you make it to the back to find three cascading waterfalls you can lie in and recuperate for the trek back out. I went in January and the water was flowing. I do not recommend this hike in warm months. People have died and I can understand why.
Potato Chip Rock
I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Once glance at #PotatoChipRock on Instagram will have you planning your weekend getaway to this Poway hike. This nearly 8 mile hike is difficult, but worth the beautiful view at the top. Dogs are allowed. Be sure to bring A LOT of water because there is no shade and it gets hot even in the cooler months.
Iron Mountain is also in Poway. At about 6.5 miles this hike is challenging enough to get a god workout, but not too tough. There’s nothing spectacular about this hike, but the view from the top is beautiful. Dogs are allowed. It took me about 3 hours with puppy rests and view/snack breaks.
Fortuna Saddle (South and North)
Start with the South Mountain so you can climb the stairway to heaven. Look back down the saddle and tortue yourself one more time going up the North Mountain. The trail isn’t marked the best, so follow the power lines to find your way out. The trail says its 6.5 miles, but when all was said and done my tracker read 9 miles. Dogs are allowed, but be careful of rattlesnakes. There is no shade on this hike so bring plenty of water. This hike is not very well known therefore there are few people on the trail. A refreshing change from the over-populated Cowles Mountain down the road (and below in #5)
A classic San Diego hike that everyone has to do. For that reason this 3 miles out-and-back hike is heavily populated with people and dogs. The view from the top is gorgeous, you can see the ocean, Mexico and beyond. Residential parking is nearby and plentiful making this hike easy to get to and with the steep inclines in some parts you can easily get a good workout in after work.
Balboa Park – 6th & Upas Trail #5
Balboa Park lists this as a “difficult” 6.6 mile hike. This is NOT difficult hike even though it is labeled as such. It’s a walk in the park, literally. The only difficult things about it’s long and can be hard to follow. I recommend having the PDF map ready on your phone as well as using your live GPS to follow along. The red diamond signs aren’t always visible. Why is this hike is worth doing? It’s easy to get to being in the middle of the city streets and more importantly it’s gorgeous! It trails you throughout all of Balboa Park’s beauty and although there are few inclines and declines it is long and I still burnt almost 700 calories. That’s a good workout to me! it would be an even better workout to jog all or part of the route.
Torrey Pines Nature Reserve
I almost didn’t include this because it’s on everyone’s top San Diego hikes list. But it is there for good reason. You cannot beat the views of the pacific ocean as you cascade through the various trails. This is an easy hike, but with the new stairway they put in you can get a bit more of a workout. Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed here, but the pristine beach waiting below makes up for that.
San Diego is a big city, but manages to embed nature's escapes into neighborhoods as much as possible. This hike is 5 minutes from my house with easy and free parkings. Bring your pooch and plent of whatever because this 5 miles out-and-back canyon hike will take you up and down 5 or 6 steep hills that seems to grow in size with each one.
Next hikes on my radar:
Devil’s Punchbowl – when I plan early enough to get the permit and the weather is cooler and wetter so there’s a better chance of seeing water in the punch bowl
Painted Canyons near Palm Springs. This will also include an overniht stay in Palm Springs as it would be a 4+ drive from San Diego.
Three Sisters (again) – Because it really is that awesome
What other hikes around San Diego should I put on my to-do list?