Where to Hit the Trails in San Diego

These Hiking Trails in San Diego are Perfect for This Weekend!

Southern California offers endless adventure for the outdoor enthusiast in all of us. We love our physical activity, and travelers and backpackers take full advantage of our top spots when they pay us a visit. Hiking trails are always a favorite whether they’re winding, steep, lush or tranquil. The diverse trails hiking trails in San Diego span the spectrum of difficulty and make SD the (absolute) best SoCal city for hikes. Here’s where we’re heading out on our next hike in SD.

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Iron Mountain

Length: 5.8 miles
Estimated Duration: 4.5 hours
Level Of Difficulty: Medium

Iron Mountain is located in Poway and is a good, solid hike that is pretty lengthy for the average person. It’s almost 6 miles long, which isn’t too crazy, but will definitely give you a workout for the day. The nice thing is that the hike eases you in, starting out a little straight before beginning to get a little more uphill and then eventually curve up and onward.


Cowles Mountain

Length: 2 hours
Estimated Duration: 2 hours
Level Of Difficulty: Medium

Cowles Mountain is a great hike to kick off your morning with or challenge yourself with a job. It’s the perfect combination of difficult and doable. This is not only one of our favorite hikes, but one of the most popular in San Diego so expect some company. Weekends here can get crazy because the trail is not that wide so we suggest getting there for an early morning workout and visit during weekends if you can. There’s also a few different options of hikes to do at this spot and a spectacular view once you make it to the top.

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Length: 5.6 miles
Estimated Duration: 4.5 hours
Level Of Difficulty: Easy

Torrey Pines is what you’d call a glorified brisk, walk rather than a hike compared to the other trails that are listed. However, it’s beauty is definitely a must see and do. It starts out up a hill if you park down below and then there are a few different trails that you can take once you’re up there. The trails are along the coast and eventually lead you down to the beach and then you can venture further down the sand if you’d like. Try and check out this hike right before the sunset for an amazing view!

Mount Woodson

Length: 6.4 mies
Estimated Duration: 4.5 hours
Level Of Difficulty: Hard

This is the hardest hike in San Diego and not for anyone looking for a leisurely stroll. It’s over 6 miles long and for the most part it’s very steep with very few breaks. You need to bring plenty of water if you set out to accomplish this hike, but once you do finish you won’t be disappointed. The infamous potato chip rock sits on top of Mount Woodson, and it’s the cliff where you’ve seen photos of people hanging off and looking crazy. It’s not too difficult to get to the top, but you’ll definitely want to snap a shot to show off your hard work.


Los Penasquitos Canyon

Length: 4.7 miles
Estimated Duration: 4 hours
Level Of Difficulty: Easy

Los Penasquitos Canyon is a great hike to do with a bunch of people, family, dogs and anyone wanting to get away for a day. Its trail is easy and flat and leads through a large “park” with waterfalls, rivers and beautiful scenery. It’s lengthy, but a trail that anyone can handle, so it makes for a nice day out in the sunshine.


Cuyamaca Peak Loop

Distance: 6 miles
Duration: 3 hours
Parking: $8

The Cuyamaca Peak trail is one of 30 total trails available at the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. Cuyamaca Peak Loop is a forest-y hike with miles of pines and oak trees. It’s has a steady incline that offers several routes to the top. For those looking for a “steep walk” challenge, the Azalea Trail demands the most effort effort. Taking the Fire Road, which is paved, is a shorter route for those seeking the immediate reward. And dogs are encouraged to come along too!

Lake Poway

Distance: Scenic trails total 55 miles
Duration: About 4 hours
Parking: $5

Lake Poway Park offers various hiking trails and outdoor recreational activities like archery, perfect for families and fit groups. Guests can partake in boating and fishing, even picnicking, while enjoying the beautiful view of the lake flanked by the surrounding hills of Poway. Although the park has several gorgeous trails ranging in difficulty, the most popular is the trail that leads to Potato Chip Rock, which is about 7 miles long with incline.


Cedar Creek Falls

Distance: 6 miles
Duration: 3 hours
Permit required: $6 for a group of 5 people (must purchase online in advance)

Cedar Creek Falls, also known as The Devil’s Punchbowl, is a secluded waterfall trail. Visitors often spot fish in the creek that weaves around the trail. With El Niño coming, the waterfall should be running at normal levels. It is recommended to bring plenty of water, as there is not much shade for relief. Taking the Ramona access road leads you to the main trail; taking the secondary Poway entrance leads to the longer trail.


Mission Trails

Distance: 60 miles of trails
Duration: 3+ hours
Parking: Street/Lot

Mission Trails is a spacious park great for not just hiking but also running and biking—they even have a rock climbing area. With interconnected trails and campgrounds, this family-friendly destination provides plenty of options for fun outdoors. For easier hikes, try the Father Junipero Trail (3.6 miles); for walking trails, try the Visitors Center Loop (3.1 miles); and for a more challenging hike, try Fortuna Mountain (6.5 miles). Bring your camera because this spot is your next Instagram post.


Three Sisters Falls Trail


Distance: 4.5 miles
Duration: 3 hours
Parking: Street/Lot

Three Sisters Falls Trail is a challenging but rewarding one-way hike with steep declines on the way in and sharp inclines on the way back. Note: This hike includes some bear crawls. But the intense physical efforts are worth it as the trail leads to a beautiful waterfall. Due to the recent summer drought, there currently is not much water running but the scenery is still stunning. Come prepared with plenty of water, proper hiking shoes, ankle supports and gloves. And beware of poison oak in the area; it’s recommended to keep skin covered. This is a great destination for experienced hikers, rock climbers and Cross Fit groups.


Double Peak Trail

Distance: 5 miles
Duration: 2 hours
Parking: Street/Lot

Double Peak Trail is a moderate hike that everyone can finish with leisure, even the kids and the family dog. The trail contains minor steepness and plenty of restful flat surfaces as it leads up to the peak with beautiful 360-degree views of San Marcos County. The first few miles are paved and the rest becomes a dirt pathway.

Waterfall Warning! These San Diego Trails are Next on Our Hiking List.

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Nicole is a New Jersey native who studied English and Journalism at Monmouth University, Long Branch. She moved to sunny San Diego to enjoy all that it has to offer, including the beach, the music scene and the opportunity to share her love of Journalism with others. She hopes to continue writing by making a career of her first true love: words.

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Danielle is a New Jersey native with a Bachelors degree in Critical Media & Cultural Studies from Rollins College, FL. Upon college graduation, she moved to Malibu to pursue a Masters degree in Media Production at Pepperdine University. Danielle currently is completing her thesis on fashion and film, while running her handbag business, GRIP Handbags. (www.griphandbags.com)

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