7 Best San Diego Hikes You Must Explore!

Oct 13, 2021

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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.

 

Gear I Used on This Hike

Nalgene Tritan BPA-Free Wide-Mouth Water Bottle

I prefer this 48 oz (1.4 liter) water bottle over a hydration bladder for several reasons: it leaves more room inside my backpack, it’s way easier to clean, and no leaky messes.

VIEW HERE

Merrel Moab 2 Vent Mid HIking Boots

These are the BEST hiking boots I’ve ever owned. They’re super light, highly ventilated for CA’s hot weather, and provide tons of traction.

outdoors men click HERE outdoors women click HERE

The products shown above are products I actually use. If you happen to purchase those products after clicking my link, we receive a small Amazon commission, which in turn helps us provide better and more fun content for you guys. 🙂

Top 7 San Diego Hikes

 

1. Annie’s Canyon Trail

 

Miles: 1.4

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: 100 Ft

Estimated Time: 1 Hr

Best Time to Visit: All Year

Address: Solana Hills Trail, Solana Beach, CA 92075

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

 

Miles: 3.1+ 

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: 338 Ft.

Estimated Time: 2 Hrs

Best Time to Visit: All Year

Address: 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037

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

 

Miles: 4.1

Difficulty: Moderate – Hard

Elevation Gain: 980 Ft.

Estimated Time: 3.5 Hrs

Best Time to Visit: Late March – Early June

Address: 14859 Boulder Creek Rd, Julian, CA 92036

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 here!

4. Kitchen Creek Falls

 

Miles: 4.8 

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Elevation Gain: 813 Ft

Estimated Time: 2.5 Hrs

Best Time to Visit: April-June

Address: Pine Valley, CA 91962

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 here!

5. Stonewall Peak

 

Miles: 3.9

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: 830 Ft.

Estimated Time: 2 Hrs

Best Time to Visit: All Year

Address: Stonewall Peak Trail, Julian, CA 92036

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 this article!

 

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

Address: Ramona, CA 92065

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

Address: 14847-14909 CA-67, Poway, CA 92064

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 MountainTrail or any of the other fun San Diego hikes on this list, be sure to tag us on Instagram @cahikingadventures!

 

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We’re Monica and Phillip. Just like you, we share a passion for the outdoors and our beautiful state of California. After many years of exploring amazing and hidden places, we thought we’d share them with you! We hope this blog shows you tons of new CA adventures!

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