5 Great Hikes Near San Diego

Photo courtesy of Cabrillo National Monument Facebook page

With the pandemic showing no signs of letting up, there seems to be quite a limited number of activities that service membersand their families can do these days. Fortunately, the outdoors has remained open for business and San Diego has no shortage of hikes!  There is a hike for every age and ability level, and with the cooler fall and winter temperatures now is an ample time to get outside.  Most of the hikes I have done are on the easier side, having two little kids in tow, but I will include some here that are on the bucket list too.

Here are five great hikes to consider near San Diego:

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Torrey Pines State Reserve sits perched between the beach and a golf course and has a variety of trail options.  You will get amazing views of cliffs and ocean, as well as an abundance of the nation’s rarest pine tree, the Torrey Pine. Your first decision point when hiking Torrey Pines is where to park.  You can park at the bottom of the hill near the beach for free, but you will have about a mile of steep hill walking up to the trail heads. There is also parking at the top near the nature center, but it sometimes gets full and prices can vary. Most of the trails here are relatively short and easy.  Some of the most popular are the Guy Fleming Trail, Razor Point Trail, and the Beach Trail.  The Beach Trail is a favorite of mine with kids, just ¾ of a mile takes you right down to the beach!

Potato Chip Rock

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tater chip

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This photo op site is located at the end of the 7.6 mile heavily trafficked out and back Mt. Woodson Trail. Bring a buddy to take photos of you sitting on the thin rock and expect possible long lines for those waiting to take photos.

Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument is located inside a national park. There is a $15 admission for parking, but ative duty military members can utilize their free annual park pass (“America The Beautiful” pass, more on that here).  For a short and easy hike, you can walk from the parking lot up to the lighthouse.  If you choose to take the bayside trail it will be about a two mile out and back with some steep hills. Currently the visitor center is closed due to COVID, but when they reopen there are lots of interesting exhibits! This trail is a favorite spot to watch submarines, other ships and aircraft go to and from port.

A short drive away and within the same park is the Point Loma Tide Pools. In the winter you can time park hours with low tide and see some interesting creatures down in the tidepools.  If you visit when the tide is high, just walk the other direction to the bluffs trail for a one mile out and back. There are a few steep parts, but spectacular views all around!

Three Sisters Falls Trail

Three Sisters is a more challenging trail than some of the others. The trail is about 4.1 miles long and includes some rocky terrain and waterfall views.

Sweetwater Summit Regional Park

This park has a splash pad, playground and camping, as well as many trail options in the vicinity. Walk the perimeter of the nearby Morrison Pond for a 0.8 mile easy hike, or walk to perimeter of the golf course. The trailis about five miles round-tripand completely flat. There are a few stables you walk past which are fun for kids, and there are only a few parts where you need to watch for golfers shouting “fore!”

If you are hiking with kids, I recommend joining Hike It Baby. This group is not just limited to San Diego – they have local chapters all around the country! They plan group hikes and have a lot of resources on trails in the area.

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