For the hiker searching for a rewarding view with various options, this one’s for you. There’s an array of routes to choose from to get to the top of Cuyamaca Peak, including the Azalea Glen Loop, Conejos Trail, West Side Trail and the Azalea Springs Fire Road. Located near Julian, you’ll come across everything from fallen forest trees to granite rocks and expansive views of the mountains and valleys below.
Length: 6.7 miles // Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
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).
( / Tom Deiters)
It’s all about the photo opp here. Okay, not totally, but the death-defying “Potato Chip Rock” can be held responsible for bringing hordes of hikers to Mount Woodson just to snap a pic on the sliver of granite rock hovering over San Diego. The hike itself is strenuous and should be started early in the day. It begins around Lake Poway, and quickly steepens straight to the top with little relief. Ample water and snacks are recommended.
Length: 6.4 miles // Difficulty: Hard
Getting there: From Espola Road, go to the Lake Poway entrance. Parking is $5 for the day.
With one of the most spectacular destination points, the Cedar Creek Falls Trail also comes with a precautionary warning. Devil’s Punchbowl – the swimming hole at the end of the trail – has witnessed multiple deaths over the years from cliff jumpers. A massive waterfall pours into the natural pool, surrounded by 75-foot cliffs. On this trail, the way down is easy, but it’s the way back that’s uphill. Note: Guests need to purchase a $6 pass prior to visiting.
Length: 4.2 miles // Difficulty: Hard
Getting there: 15531 Thornbush Road, Ramona. Once you get to the end of Thornbush Road, the trail head will be on your left.
Options are endless at this urban national park, with more than 40 miles of trails near Kumeyaay Lake and Lake Murray. One of the most popular, Oak Canyon Trail, offers a sycamore and oak-lined ravine winding north from the Old Mission Dam. A babbling stream accompanies hikers and the route drops deep into the canyon.
Length: 3 miles // Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Getting there: The trail head is accessible from the Old Mission Dam parking lot. Walk down the pathway to the San Diego River, cross the bridge and begin.
Starting at Discovery Lake Park in San Marcos, this loop trail combines moderate steepness with restful views. At the top of the 1,644-foot summit, hikers are treated to a spectacular 360-degree view of the North County area. A majority of the trail was effected by the fires, so don’t expect much shade. The first mile is paved and then turns into a rougher single track. Dogs are welcome!
Length: 5 miles // Difficulty: Moderate
Getting there: Start at Lakeview Park off Foxhall in Discovery Hills. Cross the spillway bridge and the Discovery Lake Dam, and head up the paved road that winds up the hill.
Constantly named one of the most challenging hikes in the San Diego area, Three Sisters Falls follows steep inclines and rocky terrain. Ropes throughout the route are secured to help visitors climb up and down. This is not for the faint of heart; rock and boulder climbing is a required skill to make it to the Three Sisters Falls. Bring ample water.
Length: 4 miles // Difficulty: Extremely hard
Getting there: The trailhead in 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.
Ever since the best-selling book and movie “Wild” came out, hordes of hikers have been flocking to the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs in its entirety from Mexico to Canada. While the 2,650 miles may be a bit ambitious, there’s a short San Diego stretch to try in the fall months from Penny Pines Trailhead to Garnet Peak.
Length: 2.3 miles // Difficulty: Moderate
Getting there: Take I-8 E and exit at Sunrise Highway. Start at the Penny Pines Trailhead about 27 miles up Sunrise Highway. Follow the Pacific Crest Trail to Garnet Peak through Laguna Recreation Area.