Six easy San Diego hikes

Start the new year off right with these family-friendly hikes around San Diego


Blessed with gorgeous views from canyons and lagoons to Pacific Ocean bluffs, San Diego offers a plethora of easy and enjoyable hikes.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

Hikers explore the trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve on the first day of fall.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Length: 0.75 to 1.5 miles each

For the easiest route, drive up to the midpoint, park and walk the flat Guy Fleming Trail, then progress to the top and explore the visitor center. Arguably the best hike is the Beach Trail, which starts with a steep paved and gravel incline. But if you make it up the hill (and people of all ages do daily), the rest is easy sailing as you cruise down the sandy, winding path with spectacular views.

Insider tip: For quieter times, go in the morning and during the week. But remember that on weekends you can talk with rangers and volunteers about the flora and fauna of Torrey Pines.

Where it is: 12600 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Length: Varies, about six to seven miles round trip (depending on direction)

Relatively flat, this hike is a favorite for families and casual hikers. Start from the Black Mountain entrance for the easiest path, and visit a ranch house and graveyard, take in views of the rolling canyon, and relax at a waterfall oasis for lunch. If you feel like upping the ante on difficulty, there are multiple paths to extend the distance of the hike.

Insider tips: During the day, it’s best to go at off times, like weekends and after work, when bikers and runners share the trail and the waterfall gets crowded from both directions.

Where it is: 12020 Black Mountain Road, Rancho Penasquitos

Batiquitos Lagoon

Batiquitos Lagoon
(John Gibbins)

Length: 3.25 miles

Just off the highway in Carlsbad, this hike is a favorite for bird watchers, dog walkers, families, and casual hikers. Notice where the cameras are pointed to spot owls, water fowl and other birds.

Insider tip: Check the website ( for events including the monthly bird walk and count.

Where it is: 7380 Gabbiano Lane, Carlsbad

Kumeyaay Lake at Mission Trails Regional Park

A view of Kummeyaay Lake at Mission Trails Regional Park on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.
(Sam Hodgson/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Length: 1.8 miles

Mission Trails Regional Park has hikes for all levels, including the strenuous 5 Peak Challenge. But beginners should start at the lake by the campground and walk down the road to the Old Mission Dam.

Insider tip: Watch out for poison oak. It’s everywhere in Mission Trails, so remember the motto, “leaves of three, let it be.” Also common in the park? Rattlesnakes.

Where it is: Old Mission Dam: 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, Mission Trails.

Lake Hodges (East or West)

Length: Varies, up to 9.6 miles

East: Some of these scenic trails and the impressive ribbon bridge can be spotted from I-15. While those trails can be a bit noisy, the path that wraps around the lake is quiet, peaceful and perfect for a relaxing nature-filled stroll.

West: This trail backtracks along the lake after a stunning drive along Del Dios Highway. Wind through undulating trails with beautiful water views, wildflowers and wildlife. The full hike to views of the dam is 7 miles round trip, but you can curate your own hike based on your skill level.

Insider tips: Like many trails throughout the county, keep your eyes peeled for mountain bikers, as they can race through at top speed. If you’re looking to add difficulty, take the trail to Bernardo Mountain from the parking lot on Lake Drive.

Where it is: East & Bridge parking is at 19140 W Bernardo Drive, Escondido. West trail is at Lake Drive, Escondido.

San Elijo Lagoon Preserve & Nature Center

Length: Up to seven miles of interconnected trails

An easy, but lovely stroll for any age, the trail attracts families and out-of-towners for its wetlands vibe and nature center featuring local wildlife like water fowl, reptiles and insects. It also has Junior Ranger trail activities for kids.

Insider tip: The parking lot is tiny so go early or during the week for easy access.

Where it is: 2710 Manchester Ave., Cardiff

For more hikes, visit