28 Best Trails to Hike, Bike, Run & Stroll in San Diego
A guide to San Diego's best places to hike, run, and get outside
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HIT THE TRAILS
These dirt trails provide a run that’s challenging, but not quite as butt-busting as a trail up a mountain.
Photography by Richard Benton
22. Balboa Park trail #5
6.6 miles ✹ DIFFICULT
Start at Sixth Avenue and Upas Street and follow the red diamond #5 trail markers.
About half the trail is dirt—some of it with steep climbs—so don’t expect pristine white running kicks to stay that way. The route takes you past the park’s museums and fountains, so on a weekend you can watch the wedding, engagement, and quinceañera photo shoots. It will also carry you to places in the park you may not know about, like the winding dirt trails through Florida Canyon.
23. Los Peñasquitos waterfall trail
10 miles ✹ DIFFICULT
Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
Deer have been known to crash through the brush along this trail, quickly jolting a runner out of “the zone.” The mostly flat path is shaded by trees and circles around a small creek, making the East County heat (slightly) more bearable. A waterfall trickles about three miles in, which is the perfect turnaround point if you only want to do a 6-mile loop (there are actually five places to cross the creek and cut your route short). Just watch out for rattlesnakes. And deer!
24. Rose Canyon bike path
2 miles ✹ EASY
Between Genesee Avenue and Gilman Drive in University City.
This dirt trail rolls along a canyon, with a backdrop of cliffs and trees. Running this trail can make you feel like you’re traveling through backcountry wilderness, not on a path a few minutes from business parks and shopping centers. If you want a longer run, continue along the paved bike path south of Gilman Drive, or follow Gilman north up the hill to the UC San Diego campus.
BRING THE KIDS & STROLLERS
These paths are paved, flat, and loaded with fun things for kids to look at.
25. Balboa Park trail #4
4.1 miles ✹ EASY
Start at Sixth Avenue and Upas Street and follow the orange square #2 trail markers.
This flat and paved path heads away from traffic and will take you and your tots over the Cabrillo Bridge and past museums, the fountain, and up to the edge of the zoo. The paths can be crowded, especially on weekends, so if you’re looking to cruise, try walking at off hours.
26. Around Coronado Island
6 miles ✹ EASY
Start from Tidelands Park and trace the path that borders the island, passing under the Coronado Bridge as you make your way back.
Who knew you could run around the entire perimeter of Coronado (at least the part that’s not occupied by the Navy base) in just six miles? This route passes iconic SD sights along the way, including the Hotel Del Coronado, the ferry landing, and the path under the Coronado Bridge. It follows alternating paved paths away from traffic and slow streets with wide sidewalks.
27. Liberty Station to Harbor Island
7.7 miles ✹ EASY
Beginning on the esplanade behind Corvette Diner in Liberty Station, run south and cross the pedestrian bridge over the boat channel, along Harbor Drive and onto Harbor Island.
This run only crosses one intersection and follows wide sidewalks and paths. The flat and paved terrain makes it easy for stroller pushing, and the lack of traffic keeps it safe. The harbor and the bridge over the boat channel will entertain your kids, too. Rachel Laing, Mayor Jerry Sanders’ deputy press secretary, counts this run as one of her favorites.
28. Inside track around Mission Bay
11.3 miles ✹ EASY
Start anywhere along the path that traces Mission Bay—the Santa Clara Recreation Center has parking lots—and run in either direction as far as you’d like.
This scenic run follows a wide path away from traffic, with views of Mission Bay’s boaters, stand-up paddleboarders, and beachgoers. While the boardwalk on the ocean side of the bay is usually crowded with people, the inner track is mostly clear and open.