With just about perfect weather year-round—not too hot, not too cold—San Diego County is a great place to hike. One option is always beach walking in the morning or in the evening to catch the sunset. Other places allow hikers to explore some of the interesting landscapes of the area. Hikers should always wear sun protection and bring plenty of water. Here are some nice places to explore.
Annie’s Canyon Trail
This relatively easy, 1.4 mile hike takes hikers into a slot canyon where narrow sandstone walls rise up and surround walkers. The hike also provides panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Parts of the hike are strenuous with both ladder-style stairs and wooden plank stairs and some scrambling is involved. Parking is available on the street. The hike is located at the Rios Avenue Trailhead.
This hiking area allows people to explore the Annie’s Canyon Trail a bit further and to reach other areas of the reserve. A three to four mile trail follows the edge of the salt lagoon, offering views of the water. The landscape varies from flat and desert-like to scrub forest and prairie. Parking is available at a number of locations and there is a visitor center with some facilities and interpretive exhibits.
The River Trail in Del Mar
The San Dieguito River Park is the location of a trail system that follows the San Dieguito River and offers access to marshlands and open prairie. The hike is a good place for birdwatching, as a number of species such as great blue herons can be seen along the waters of the river and of the lagoons. The trail distance is about 2.8 miles and leashed dogs are allowed, but bikes can only go as far as the boardwalk. There is no charge for the hike which has sections of boardwalk and gravel roads.
This is one of the best-known hiking areas in San Diego County. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve was first preserved in 1899 and has been expanded to provide hiking, recreation and protected habitat for plants and animals. The rare Torrey pine tree grows in this area. The primary purpose of the over 1500 acres of the reserve is to protect habitat for endangered species, so special rules apply, and the area is off-limits to dogs. Hikers are rewarded with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean, miles of beach and proximity to coastal lagoons favored by shorebirds.
Iron Mountain Trail
This area near Poway delivers 5.8 miles of moderate to difficult trail, making it a solid destination for those looking for a relatively long hike. It starts out fairly easy, with a level surface, but then begins to climb into the mountains, eventually providing panoramic views. The trail is exposed, without shade, and a small parking area is located along Highway 67 and Poway Road.
The Cedar Creek Falls Trail
This 4.2 mile trail leads to a spectacular and notorious swimming hole, known as the Devil’s Punchbowl. High cliffs surround the water hole, and a large waterfall flows off the cliffs into the pool below. Hikers should exercise caution, though, as over the years a number of deaths have occurred from people jumping off the cliffs into the Devil’s Punchbowl. Parts of the hike are strenuous, especially the climb back up from the water.