7 Best San Diego Hikes: Slot Canyons, Beaches, & Views

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San Diego is one of the most beautiful counties in SoCal. Not only does it have amazing coastal beaches, but there are tons of amazing hikes both by the ocean and in the mountains of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. You can wait to experience the snow in the winter months (yes, you read that right) or waterfalls in the spring!

Here are my 7 personal favorite hikes to explore in San Diego, which are in no particular order.

1. Annie’s Canyon Trail

Annie's Canyon Trail

  • Miles: 1.4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 100 Ft
  • Estimated Time: 1 Hr
  • Best Time to Visit: All Year
  • Hours of Operation: 24/7

Annie’s Canyon Trail is a favorite, family-friendly hike in San Diego. Not to mention, this one is super close to the beach!

This trail features walking through a narrow slot canyon, climbing up fun metal ladders, and views of the beach and San Elijo Lagoon at the top.

I recommend coming on a weekday to avoid crowds. Afterward, you can head to Tide Beach Park for a refreshing dip!

Here are more fun pictures of Annie’s Canyon

2. Torrey Pines Beach Trail

Torrey Pines Beach Trail

  • Miles: 3.1+ 
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 338 Ft.
  • Estimated Time: 2 Hrs
  • Best Time to Visit: All Year
  • Hours of Operation: 7 AM – 7 PM Daily

My oh my did I love the views here. This beach hike screams Southern California!

Torrey Pines Beach Trail is an amazing hike that takes you through the beach and up along the cliffs. It offers tons of small trails throughout the loop with stunning views of the ocean. It’s a gorgeous beach and trail with many different viewpoints.

If you’re looking to escape the heat or just want to experience a true beach hike, be sure to explore this one. Trust me, you will love it!

Here’s a more in-depth guide to Torrey Pines Beach Loop Trail

3. Three Sisters Falls

Three Sisters Falls

  • Miles: 4.1
  • Difficulty: Moderate – Hard
  • Elevation Gain: 980 Ft.
  • Estimated Time: 3.5 Hrs
  • Best Time to Visit: Late March – Early June
  • Hours of Operation: 24/7

One of the best waterfalls in SoCal is here in San Diego! Three Sisters Falls is a 3-tier waterfall that’ll take your breath away!

Each waterfall tier has its own pool that’s oh-so refreshing in the warmer months. After a wet and snowy season, this waterfall is roaring with water. It’s so big you can see it from a distance as you get closer along the trail.

Be aware that there is little to no shade and gets extremely hot in the late spring and summer months. Come prepared with plenty of water and a sun hat. I don’t recommend bringing your pets on any of the hot days.

Want to see the other waterfall tiers? Click the link Three Sisters Falls

4. Kitchen Creek Falls

Kitchen Creek Falls

  • Miles: 4.8 
  • Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 813 Ft
  • Estimated Time: 2.5 Hrs
  • Best Time to Visit: April-June
  • Hours of Operation: 24/7

This one is lesser-known but is quickly becoming popular and for obvious reasons.

Kitchen Creek Falls is one of the most amazing hikes to do in San Diego. Personally, this one is definitely a favorite.

It has multiple swimming holes and a great waterfall at the end. I took a dip in one of the pools and had a great time exploring the area! There’s a lot to see here.

It gets extremely hot and dry in the late spring and summer months. I recommend coming here in the mornings or evenings if you venture during the warmer seasons. The heat feels very dry and uncomfortable if you’re not prepared.

Want to see more of this amazing place and the waterfall? Click the following link Kitchen Creek Falls

5. Stonewall Peak

Stonewall Peak

  • Miles: 3.9
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation Gain: 830 Ft.
  • Estimated Time: 2 Hrs
  • Best Time to Visit: All Year
  • Hours of Operation: 9 AM – 8 PM Daily

Snow in San Diego? Yup! The small town of Julian gets plenty of snow in the winter.

Stonewall Peak looks amazing after snowfall! The trail is super fun to hike in the snow. Once you reach the top, you get views of Lake Cuyamaca and the surrounding area.

You don’t need to reserve this hike for snowy winter months. You can experience it all year round. I recommend coming for sunsets or sunrises for the best views.

There is a rich history of the place and even has Stonewall Mine nearby. You definitely won’t feel as though you’re in San Diego.

For history, details, and tips, check out the article I wrote titled Stonewall Peak

6. Potato Chip Rock

  • Miles: 7.3 Miles
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 2,119 Ft
  • Estimated Time: 3-4 Hrs
  • Best Time to Visit: Fall – Spring
  • Hours of Operation: 24/7

Everyone knows about Potato Chip Rock! It’s the most popular hike on the list. Not surprisingly, it gets its name from the potato chip-like rock that protrudes from the mountain.

It is also the longest hike on this list, but is definitely doable. The views are very nice and the destination is worth visiting because it’s so unique! I don’t think you’ll ever come across a thin potato chip-looking rock like this one.

This hike does get brutally hot in the summer, so come prepared! Expect high traffic on the trail most days of the week.

7. Iron Mountain Trail

  • Miles: 5.2 
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 1,102 Ft
  • Estimated Time: 2.5 Hrs
  • Best Time to Visit: Fall – Spring
  • Hours of Operation: 24/7

Last on the list, but certainly not least, is Iron Mountain Trail in Poway.

This very popular hike offers amazing views all around. The entrance itself is very breathtaking, to say the least.

It can be a bit challenging for the non-avid hiker because of some rocky and slightly steep sections but isn’t so bad.

Once a the top, the views are so worth it! You’ll be able to spot San Vicente Reservoir and other landmarks. There are also picnic tables and a telescope to look through, in case you’re interested.

If you visit Iron Mountain Trail or any of the other fun San Diego hikes on this list, be sure to tag us on Instagram @cahikingadventures!

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Hello, There!

I’m Phillip, and just like you, I feel very passionate about California and the outdoors. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, I thought I’d share them with you. Life goes by fast so get out there and enjoy it.  

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