San Diego County Hikes

Posted by Adventure 16 | 02.22.2015

From breezy beach hikes to panoramic mountain tops, here are just a few of our favorite spots for enjoying the beautiful nature and weather of San Diego.


Beautiful view of Broken Hill Trail at Torrey Pines State Reserve

 Broken Hill Trail at Torrey Pines State Reserve



Features: Ocean breezes and trails leading down to the beach.

There are many trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve, (combine several to make a longer hike), including:

--Guy Fleming Trail -2/3 mile loop. Easiest, relatively level, diverse scenery, ocean vistas, sandstone formations, spring wildflowers, drinking water, parking.

--Parry Grove Trail - 1/2 mile loop. Secluded. Steep entry/exit (100 steps). Native plant garden at trailhead.

--Razor Point Trail - 2/3 mile to point. Dramatic views of gorge, badlands, spring wildflowers, fewer but more picturesque trees. Two hundred yards below trailhead, take right fork. There are several overlooks into Canyon of the Swifts and a fine viewpoint at the tip of Razor Point.

-- Beach Trail- 3/4 mile to Flat Rock and beach. Popular beach access, least scenic trail, few trees, steep. Final beach entry very narrow with steps. Trailhead at restroom. If you plan to hike down and then walk back to the lower parking lot along the beach, remember to check the tide charts

--Broken Hill Trail - Access to beach via north fork 1.2 miles; via south fork 1.3 miles. Longest trail, chaparral, few trees, scenic overlook of the "broken" hill. Broken Hill to Flat Rock Loop: Combine the Broken Hill Trail with the Razor Point and Beach Trails for a 3.3-mile loop. 

Driving Directions: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is located between La Jolla and Del Mar, California, north of San Diego.
Take Hwy 5 to Carmel Valley Road, go West to Camino Del Mar (coast hwy). Go South (left) about a mile to the reserve entrance (right) at the foot of the hill.

Operating Hours & Fees:
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is open daily from 7:15 AM until sunset. Click here for parking fees. 

View of the ocean along the La Jolla Shores to Torrey Pines hike


Features: Breezy, beautiful, easy walk admist native vegetation and dramatic coastal cliffs 

This easy 10-mile hike takes you along the beautiful coast from La Jolla Shores Beach to Torrey Pines State Beach—and back. Shoes are optional but may be needed to negotiate rocky areas. Be sure to check the tide charts before attempting this hike as the tide must be lower than 4 feet or some sections won’t be passable.

Directions to Trailhead: I-5 North, take exit 26A for W La Jolla Pkwy, turn right onto La Jolla Shores Dr, turn left onto Calle Frescota to the La Jolla Shores parking lot.

Fresh water along the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve trails


Features: A waterfall and year-round stream (the drought has reduced both to a trickle); giant California live oaks, groves of majestic sycamore trees, guided night hikes (see full moon hikes, below).

There are several convenient entrances to the Preserve: 
--The East entrance or staging area (6.1 miles round trip), is located at the intersection of Black Mountain and Mercy Roads. 

--The western staging area (5.5 miles round trip) is on the south side of Sorrento Valley Boulevard, approximately 1 mile east of Vista Sorrento Parkway.

--The northern entrance (4.5 miles round trip) is near Peñasquitos Creek Park at the intersection of Park Village Road and Camino Del Sur in Rancho Peñasquitos.

 --A staging area for Lopez Canyon (3.5 miles round trip) is located at the intersection of Pacific Mesa and Pacific Center Boulevards in Mira Mesa.

Click here for a map.

Ocean view from the Bluffs Beach Trail at San Onofre State Beach

BLUFFS BEACH TRAIL--San Onofre State Beach (North San Diego County)

Features: Ocean breezes with a backdrop of Bryce Canyon-like, 100-foot high bluffs 

Six signed Beach Trails descend from the bluffs to the beach. Strung together, the trails are 5.6 miles round trip from Beach Trail 1 to Beach Trail 6. Check the tide table before attempting this hike as some sections are impassable at high tide.

Driving Directions: From I-5, exit on Basilone Road. Head west, then south, following the signs to San Onofre State Beach. Park in day-use area near the signed trailhead for Beach Trail 1.



Spacious view from the Cabrillo National Monument hike


Features: Ocean breezes, views of the San Diego Harbor

The Bayside Trail is a breezy, 2-mile out and back trail that begins at the Old Point Loma Lighthouse (built in 1854) and winds past panoramic views of San Diego Harbor, through one of the last remaining remnants of coastal sage scrub habitat in the world. Look for the WWII-era artillery bunkers* hidden in the bluffs along the trail. The Bayside Trail is open daily 9:00am - 4:00pm. Park fees apply. Bicyclists and pets are not allowed.

*Every 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month: WWII re-enactors bring the coastal defenses of Point Loma to life. These are your only chances to tour the bunkers on Point Loma. Driving Directions: From I-5, exit on Rosecrans Street (Highway 209 south) and follow the signs to Cabrillo National Monument. Click here for the calendar.

Views from hiking the high Cuyamaca Peak


Features: Cooler temps at high altitude, 360° views from the second highest peak (6,512 feet) in San Diego County 

--Cuyamaca Peak Loop Trail: 6.7 miles (4 hours). This challenging hike features 1,700 ' of elevation gain and can be done using acombination of many different routes to the summit, including, the Conejos Trail, Azalea Glen Loop Trail, Azalea Springs Trail, West Side Trail and the Azalea Springs Fire Road. At the summit, you will enjoy cool temperatures and 360° views of the surrounding Cleveland National Forest and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. 


Most hikers begin the on the Azalea Glen Trail, (which hiked by itself, is a beautiful 3-mile loop through dense forest, lovely meadows and trickling brooks).  Go west to get to Azalea Glen Road and then to the Azalea Spring Fire Road. Follow the gravel fire road to the Conejos Trail, which eventually merges with the paved Lookout Fire Trail. Return by following the paved road to the West Side trail, then to the Azalea Springs Trail.

Driving Directions: I-8 east for 38 miles to CA 79. Go left (north) for 9 miles to Paso Picacho Campground (on the left). There's a fee for day-use parking. No dogs are allowed on the trails.

To find the trailhead: From the day-use parking lot, walk about 100 yards southwest toward the campground and look for the trail signs.
You can purchase trail maps of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park at the Cuyamaca Visitor Center, the Green Valley and Paso Picacho campground Entrance Kiosks, any camp host and at the Park Headquarters.

Pond and forests along the shady hike through Palomar State Park


Features: Shady & forested with a little bit of everything 

--Thunder Spring/Chimney Flats Loop from Doane Pond--4 miles roundtrip (2 hours), 700 ft elevation gain/loss.

This shady, forested trail, which begins begins at Thunder Springs Trail on the far side of Doane Pond, has a little bit of everything: a trout-filled pond, a stream at the edge of a meadow, a steep climb through a canopy of western azaleas, a stroll through a 100-year-old apple orchard, a grave of an early pioneer, and ruins of Scott's Cabin--not to mention the best views in the entire park!

Driving Directions Take I-15 north and State Highway 76 east. Go about 20 miles, and turn north onto South Grade Road (County Highway S6). At the top of the mountain, turn left and then left again onto County Highway S7, which leads directly to Palomar Mountain State Park.  Follow the signs to Doane Pond, and park in the day use parking lot near the pond. State Park fees apply.
Coordinates: N 33 20.49 W 116 54.08 

Full moon to light a night hike


The beautiful mild weather of San Diego allows night hiking to be enjoyed year round, as a wonderful way to take advantage of the early evening moonrises of autumn and winter, or to cool off after hotter days. Experience the nature of San Diego at night and remember to bring water, bug repellent and a flashlight.

Here are a few organized night hikes in San Diego:

--Los Penasquitos Guided Night Hikes: The following hikes at Los Penaquitos Preserve are free to attend, click this link for more information on these Night Hikes, or call Call 858-484-3219. 


  • New Moon Night Walk with Will Bowen
    "We start at dusk and walk out into the canyon as night falls, hoping to encounter deer, owls, bats; sometimes snakes, scorpions, and various beetles. We look for fragrant night-blooming plants; we listen to the quiet of the nature. There are spider webs to admire; and above, the stars, planets, and the constellations invite contemplation. The canyon is a mysterious and wonderful place at night. Please bring a flashlight, water, and insect repellant. Meet at 4206 Sorrento Valley Blvd."

  • Owl Walk
    "Hoo goes there? Join naturalist Brian Swanson for a relaxing evening exploring the preserve after dark. We will be searching for western screech owls, but along the way are likely to encounter other denizens of the dark. Bats, toads, spiders, snakes or even a skunk might be encountered. Bring a flashlight and insect repellent. Suitable for all ages, but no pets please. Meet at the kiosk near the west end of Canyonside Park Way (corner of ball fields)."

  • Wildlife Night Hike with naturalist Mike Kelly
    "A moderately paced walk on flat ground. Do bring insect repellant and a flashlight. Enjoy the Preserve at night, meet Mule Deer (usually), bats, tarantulas, owls, and more. Meet at kiosk on the corner of Park Village Road and Camino del Sur Rd. in Rancho Peñasquitos, 92129."



--San Diego Sierra Club offers several moonlight and night hikes. Click here for schedule and info.




(Do not attempt during the day in hot months!)
If you’re in for an adventure: dark skies, constellations, lunar landscapes, and the chance to escape the crowds, try the desert at night. Hundreds of miles of trails exist in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the surrounding regions. Below are just a few:
Google map & Directions
Park Map 1

--Hellhole Canyon / Maidenhair Falls Trail: 6 miles round trip. The trail begins at Hellhole Canyon parking area. Mostly difficult hike up into a canyon oasis. Some rock scrambling required.



--Calcite Mine: 4.0 miles round trip Park on Hwy. S-22 at mile 38.0 (turnout). 
Walk east to the jeep road and follow it up to the old mine area. This is a steep, moderately difficult hike. 

--Mud Hills Wash to Elephant Knees: Moderate, 4 miles (2 hours) round trip from trailhead. This hike will take you through the mud hills on the edge of the Fish Creek badlands and up to the top of the Elephant Knees mesa. 

--Bow Willow Campground to Southwest Grove Loop Hike:
 Easy to moderate, 3 miles (3 hours) round trip from trailhead. Start this hike at the western edge of Bow Willow Campground located 1.5 miles west of Highway S-2. Limited parking is available at the trailhead with additional parking for up to 20 vehicles in an area 75 yards east of the campground entrance.
--Oriflamme Canyon:
2.6 miles with 4wd access or 8.6 miles round trip.  Turn off Hwy. S-2 one mile south of Box Canyon onto Oriflamme Canyon Road. With 4wd travel, 3 miles. Take the left fork at 2 miles, and turn left onto rough road at 2.8 miles. This is a more difficult hike. Follow an old, overgrown cattle trail upstream. After 1.3 miles, you will pass a major tributary coming in from the west. Continue 0.1 miles to discover a hidden 15-foot waterfall. Somewhat rough trail, some poison oak.

Hiking and other wilderness activities are potentially dangerous and unpredictable. Adventure 16 assumes no liability for injuries associated with the use of information provided on this site. The trails, activities and areas described on this site are to be used for informational purposes only and should not be your sole source of guidance. Always thoroughly research any outdoor area you plan to visit using various resources--including contacting local ranger stations--to obtain the most up to date information for your destination.  Contact your physician if you are unsure about your health or physical abilities.

Please contact us at info@adventure16.com if you discover any of the information above to be inaccurate, so that we may correct the problem.  THANK YOU!