San Diego Hiking Trails

When I was living in San Diego one of my favorite things to do (minus the beach) was go hiking. There are a lot of amazing views and trails to explore. I have outlined some that I really enjoyed, and have broken them up based on their difficulty. You can find anything from a hike that is more of a nature walk to a hike that will challenge you completely.

Easy Hikes / Moderate Hikes / Difficult Hikes

Easy Hikes

Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail (Easy)

Los Penasquitos Canyon trails is a very peaceful walk through nature. Depending on which trail you take, you go part way through the trees, and part way through some grassy areas. Both main trails converge at a waterfall. When I walked this trail I saw a lot of wildlife and a family of deer!

Length: 4.7 miles (multiple trail options)
Getting there: Exit the 15 Freeway on Mira Mesa Blvd. Go west and take a right on Black Mountain Rd. Follow Black Mountain Rd. north and take a left on Canyonside Rd. Parking is available here.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve (Easy)

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve boasts a lot of trails to choose from. All of which have amazing views of the ocean. Great way to start your day with this leisurely coastal walk.


Length: multiple trails options
Address: 12600 North Torrey Pines Road (


Moderate Hikes

Cowles Mountain (Moderate)

Probably one of the most visited hikes in San Diego. If you are looking for a workout, that takes minimal time, this would be the hike for you. Once at the top, you have 360 degree views of San Diego. Almost anyone can get through this hike, don’t be discouraged by the steepness!

Length: 3 miles
Getting there: Take Interstate 8 and exit College Avenue. Go north on College Avenue to Navajo Road. Turn right on Navajo Road and follow to Golfcrest Drive. Turn left on Golfcrest Drive to enter parking lot.

Iron Mountain (Moderate)

The Iron Mountain hike is ideal for the hiking beginner. Maybe slightly less challenging for an avid hiker. Like a few of the other hikes on this list, there is very little shade (I mean it is San Diego), so I would recommend starting early in the morning to beat the heat. The hike starts as a long gradual incline, and once you get to the top you have a pretty fantastic view of San Diego.

Length: 5.3 miles
Address: Hwy 67 & Poway Rd, Poway, CA 92074

Double Peak Trail (Moderate)

Located in San Marcos, this hike has some steep inclines but rest areas after each hill climb. The higher you go up the hike, the better the view! Dogs are welcome on this hike, and I would also recommend packing extra water and a hat. Parts of this trail have been affected by wildfires, so there is not much shade.

Length: 5 miles
Getting there: Start at Lakeview Park off Foxhall in Discovery Hills. Cross the bridge and the Discovery Lake Dam, and head up the paved road that winds up the hill.

Cuyamaca Peak Loop Trail (Moderate-Difficult)

There are many routes to choose from. Most are moderately difficult trails. This hike is located near Julian in the mountains. Great views along the way to the top of Cuyamaca Peak.

Length: 6.7 miles
Getting there: From I-805S, take I-8W and exit CA-79N/ Japatul Valley Rd toward Julian. Continue on CA-79N and park at the Paso Picacho Campground ($8 per day for parking).

Difficult Hikes

Mount Woodson (Difficult)

Ahh the Potato Chip Rock and the photo opp (hahah I rhymed). I recommend starting this hike as early as possible. The trail gets hot! And the hike itself is strenuous and popular. The majority of this climb is straight up, with an amazing reward at the end: the awe inspiring, death defying potato chip rock. Your friends will think you are so brave!

Length: 6.4 miles
Getting there: From Espola Road, go to the Lake Poway entrance. Parking is $5 for the day.

Cedar Creek falls to Devil’s Punchbowl (Difficult)

Located in Ramona, if you are looking for a swimming hole, do this hike! Please be warned though: there are times of the year the the swimming hole water is not deep enough for cliff jumpers. You can swim, just not jump during these times. One of the prettiest destinations in my opinion, it is a little slice of heaven away from the bustle of the city.

Note: you will need to purchase a pass before your visit ($6.00)

Length: 4.2 miles
Getting there: 15531 Thornbush Road, Ramona. Once you get to the end of Thornbush Road, the trail head will be on your left.

Three Sisters Falls Trails (Difficult)

By far one of the most challenging hikes in San Diego County. There are ropes to assist hikers and you will need to have strength enough to climb rocks, boulders and steep inclines. Despite the difficulty the end reward is amazing! The waterfall is beautiful! pack lots of water and get hiking!


Length: 4 miles
Getting there: The trailhead is located on Boulder Creek Road where Cedar Creek road intersects. You can park at this intersection, and follow the trail west along a ridge until you see another trail intersect to the south to take.

Easy Hikes / Moderate Hikes / Difficult Hikes