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The 10 best hiking paths in San Diego

By The Health News Team | May 31, 2023
Iron Mountain hiking sign with path and mountain in background

One of the best parts about living in San Diego is the ability to exercise outdoors year-round. Our temperate climate makes hiking a popular pastime, as locals flock paths of various endurance levels, from the South Bay to North County.

We've put together a top 10 list (in alphabetical order) of our favorite hiking paths. Grab a water bottle, pick a trail and take a hike!

Our top 10 trails:

  1. Batiquitos Lagoon Trail - Walk along a moderate 3.1-mile trail and take in the coastal wetlands of Carlsbad.

  2. Cowles Mountain - The highest point within the city of San Diego, Cowles Mountain is a part of Mission Trails Regional Park. Trek up the mountain for a great hike.

  3. El Capitan Open Space Preserve - This challenging hike in Lakeside will take up most of your day, but offers glorious panoramic views of the San Diego River and El Capitan Reservoir.

  4. Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve - Enjoy 11 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails through this beautiful natural reserve.

  5. Iron Mountain - Trek the nearly 5.2 miles up Iron Mountain in Poway on this trail made easy with several switchbacks, and enjoy the breathtaking views at the top.

  6. Lake Miramar Reservoir - Nearly 5 miles of paved road surround Lake Miramar, which is a popular spot for cyclists, joggers and walkers.

  7. Lake Poway - Poway Park is home to several trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Take in beautiful views of Lake Poway, Mount Woodson and the surrounding inland areas.

  8. Mission Bay Park - Admire the beautiful views of the more than 12 miles of walking, cycling and roller-blading paths that Mission Bay has to offer.

  9. Mission Trails Regional Park - This park is located 8 miles northeast of downtown San Diego and boasts more than 65 miles of trails near Kumeyaay Lake and Lake Murray.

  10. Torrey Pines State Reserve - Enjoy several beautiful hiking trails and get inspired by the breathtaking ocean views.

Once you've made your trail choice, don't forget to pack ample water and food, and wear appropriate clothing and footwear, sunglasses and a hat.

Depending on the location, distance and difficulty of the trail, you might also consider carrying a flashlight, map, first-aid kit, multipurpose tool or knife, and an emergency whistle. Charge your cell phone before you go and tell someone where you are heading and when they should expect you back.

Along with all these tips, it's important to know your limitations – make sure your hiking abilities match the trail you've chosen.

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