San Diego has some of the best day hikes in southern California. Whether you prefer coastal breezes, mountainous terrain, or the raw beauty of the desert, it’s easy to find a hike that fits your preferences and skill level.
Best Hiking San Diego
El Capitan Open Space: 14 miles roundtrip
This is a challenging hike with steep inclines and declines that lead you to beautiful panoramic views. The best time of the year for this hike is in the spring or late fall when temperatures are a bit cooler.
Torrey Pines State Reserve: 5.6 miles roundtrip
This is a moderate trail that leads to gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and is an amazing place to spot dolphins and whales. Any sunny day out of the year is great for this hike.
Cedar Creek Falls/The Devil’s Punchbowl: 5.2 miles roundtrip
Cedar Creek Falls is a challenging hike to a relaxing swimming hole. Bring lots of water, lunch, sunscreen, your swimsuit, and a $6 permit (good for up to 5 people) that you can buy online.
Lake Poway to Mt. Woodson: 8.6 miles roundtrip
This is a moderate hike that begins near the Poway dam and leads you up to the top of Mt. Woodson where you can see views spanning all of San Diego County from the famed Potato Chip rock. It’s best to go on cooler days or start early in the morning. You will also need to pay to park.
Sunset Cliffs: 3.7 miles roundtrip
Sunset Cliffs is an easy hike with breathtaking views and tons of wildlife. The best time to go is during the week because on the weekend it can get a little overcrowded.
Iron Mountain: 5.8 miles roundtrip
Iron Mountain is a moderate/challenging hike with beautiful scenery. This is another hike that is best done during the week to avoid crowds.
Cowles Mountain: 4.7 miles roundtrip
Cowles is a moderate, yet family and dog-friendly hike that leads to panoramic views from Tijuana to Camp Pendleton. This trail is very popular, but there are three different ways to approach the top to avoid the crowds.
North Lake Hodges: 14.8 miles roundtrip
This is an easy, but long trail that leads you to stunning views of the lake. This trail is horse and bike-friendly and can be enjoyed year-round!