If you’re a lover of the outdoors, San Diego is by far one of the best cities to visit (or live!) in the country. With its favorable year-around climate and diverse array of landscape options, hiking in San Diego is a must. And as a bonus, after your hike, you can make like a local and treat yourself to the best beers and tacos around!
San Diego has a lot of different trails to choose from, but there is a trail for everyone so grab your water bottle and sunscreen and keep reading for 6 of the best hikes to try in San Diego.
Torrey Pines Razor Point Trail
Location: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Length: 1.3 miles
When you think of hiking in San Diego, Torrey Pines is the quintessential place to try in Southern California. The coastal trails just north of La Jolla boast amazing views overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There are six trails to choose from, but the Razor Point trail is a personal favorite as it offers dramatic, picturesque views of the Pacific, is an easy hike and is accessible to almost anyone. There is also access, via the beach trail to Torrey Pines State Beach, where you can stop for a dip in the ocean or a clothing-optional suntan.
Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock)
Location: 5 miles northeast of Poway
Length: 4 – 8 miles, depending on route
While Mount Woodson is all about getting that ideal Instagram photo, this hike isn’t exactly a walk in the park. The hike itself is strenuous and should be started early in the day. It begins around Lake Poway, and quickly steepens straight to the top with little relief. At the top there will typically be about a 15-minute wait to access the “potato chip rock” which is a sliver of granite which looks as if it is hovering over San Diego. There are two routes to get to Potato Chip: an 8-mile roundtrip walk along Mount Woodson Trail that starts at Lake Poway, and a paved, straight-up, straight-down 4-mile roundtrip hike from Highway 67. Both are sure to make you sweat. Ample water and snacks are recommended.
Three Sisters Falls
Location: 14 miles north of Descanso
Length: 4.1 miles
Difficulty: Very Hard
One of the most challenging but also one of the most unique hikes in San Diego is Three Sisters Falls. The hike is not for the faint of heart and involves steep inclines and rocky terrain. Ropes throughout the route are secured to help visitors climb up and down. With a waterslide-like rock feature that feeds off the main fall, there will be an opportunity to get into the water to cool yourself down after the hike.
Iron Mountain Trail
Location: 5 miles east of Poway
Length: 5.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Iron Mountain is a boulder-lined trail and is manageable for most hiking levels, making it popular and a little crowded on weekends. The hike starts out flat, and the climb creeps into the eastern mountains and rewards hikers with panoramic views of the surrounding hills and San Vicente Reservoir. To increase difficulty, additional trails are optional throughout the way to other peaks. There isn’t a lot of shade offered on this hike so don’t forget your sunscreen.
Volcan Mountain Trail
Location: 2.5 miles north of downtown Julian
Length: 5 miles
Volcan Mountain trail differs from a lot of San Diego incline hikes by offering a gradual, sustained climb. The trail is located near the old mining town of Julian and features views of beautiful wildflowers in the spring and rolling green hills.
Cowles Mountain Trail
Location: La Mesa
Length: 3 miles
At 1,592 feet, Cowles Mountain (pronounced “coals”) is the highest peak in San Diego. The elevation gain of almost 950 feet makes the hike quite a workout. The scenic pathway up Cowles Mountain is one of the most popular trails in San Diego County. The trailhead starts in the San Carlos neighborhood on the corner of Golfcrest Drive and Navajo Road and summits the highest point in the City of San Diego. Hikers will enjoy great views during the entire ascent and the summit offers 360-degree panoramic views of downtown San Diego, Mexico, North County San Diego and even Orange County on a clear day.