Stay Fit During Your San Diego Staycation

5 tips to get you going, 5 popular San Diego hiking trails

Family Hiking

5 tips to get you going, 5 popular San Diego hiking trails

If you’re planning to stay in San Diego during your next vacation or even long holiday weekend, consider hiking as one sure way to have fun and stay fit.


San Diego boasts a diverse array of hiking trails that you can easily explore and enjoy with your family, friends or significant other while reaping the health benefits of exercising outdoors.


“In addition to the fresh air, the gorgeous views and the meditative experience of being in nature, hiking is a great exercise and a great way to stay fit,” says David Hawkins, DO, a family medicine physician at Scripps Clinic Santee.


“It can strengthen your body, boost your mood, help control your weight, and even improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels,” Dr. Hawkins adds.


If you’re new to hiking, start off with easy trails that are flat and well-maintained. As you increase your strength and endurance, try more advanced hiking trails that will challenge you more.


Stay fit during your next staycation in San Diego. And consider these tips for a safe and healthy hike:

1. Get a hiking partner

Since it is not safe or recommended to hike alone, find a hiking partner you enjoy spending time with and who is in similar shape to you to help determine trail level and pace.

2. Preview the hiking trail

Choose San Diego hiking trails that appeal to you to keep it interesting, but also consider accessibility and difficulty. The San Diego County Parks and Recreation website offers a place to start.

3. Hydrate

Before you start your hike, be sure to drink plenty of water. Also, bring water for your hike to prevent dehydration. To keep your energy flowing, it’s also a good idea to pack snacks like trail mix and granola bars.

4. Do not overexert yourself

To avoid overuse injuries, increase your distance no more than 10 percent a week. If you are giving trail running a try, break up runs by walking every few minutes.

5. Be prepared

Wear or bring light layers in case the weather changes. Be sure to pack a first aid kit and a flashlight. Also, bring your smartphone, which is a great resource for hiking apps that track your mileage and elevation.

5 popular San Diego hiking trails

If you’re planning a San Diego staycation or just want to stay active during the weekend, try one of these well-known San Diego hiking trails:

1. Balboa Park - easy to hard

Explore a landmark where culture and nature meet and stay fit by doing a little hiking. You have a trail of options too.


On the southside of the park, on Park Boulevard, near President’s way, is a gateway into four south trails in Balboa Park, ranging from 1.2 to 6 miles.The easiest trail is a 3-mile hike that explores the historic 1915 Panama California Exposition section of the park. The route takes you along the park’s best known places.


On the northwest side of the park, at Sixth and Upas, is a gateway into five north trails in Balboa Park. The 4.1-trail is the best way to see the world renowned museums and gardens.

2. Lake Poway Park - moderate to hard

Lake Poway Park trails are popular, including one of the most sought places for photo ops and scenic views: Potato Chip Rock via Mt. Woodson Trail. The 7.6-mile trail features a lake and is rated as hard.


The Mount Woodson Trail starts at the end of Lake Poway Road and offers hikers a challenging trail up to the famous potato chip boulder and Mount Woodson Summit. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen as this is a very exposed trail.


Lake Poway Park offers other trails that are easier to hike, including the 2.5-mile Loop Trail, which is rated as moderate.


Parking is free during the week, but there is a $10 entry fee for all non-Poway residents on weekends and holidays.

3. Cabrillo National Monument - easy

Although admission to this National Park isn’t free, it is well worth it to spend the day hiking and exploring with kids. The Visitor Center will help you get oriented to the park.


There are many short trails with spectacular views, including the 2-mile Bayside Trail that begins near the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. The trail offers scenic views of San Diego Bay and beyond.


Look for the Bayside Trail sign before you reach the lighthouse and take advantage of the benches and stopping points to take it all in. The natural environment along the trail is much the same as when the explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo came ashore here in 1542.

4. Mission Trails Regional Park - easy to hard

With its rugged hills, valleys and open areas, Mission Trails Regional Park has been called the third jewell in the city of San Diego along with Balboa Park and Mission Bay Park.


Mission Trails offers nearly 65 miles of hiking trails for all fitness levels and is home to plenty of wildlife.


For beginners, try the Father Junipero Serra Trail — a 4.5-mile path along the San Diego River.


The Cowles Mountain Trail is a popular 3-mile back trail that is rated moderate. Enjoy the 360 degree panoramic views of this scenic trail, which begins on the corner of Golfcrest Drive and Navajo Road.

5. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve - easy to moderate

For breathtaking coastal views, check out several popular Torrey Pines hiking trails that start at the top of a seaside cliff and meander down to the ocean and back up again. You’ll marvel at the scenery and the aromatic scent of the Torrey pines.


The Guy Fleming Trail is an easy 2/3-mile loop that offers scenic, panoramic views as well as a close up look at Torrey pine trees. The Beach Trail is a 3/4-mile trail that leads to Flat Rock and descends about 300 feet to the beach. The Broken Hill Trail is the longest trail at a little more than one mile and also includes access to the beach.