15 Minutes – Mission Trails
If I only have a few hours, I will often stick close to home so that I can spend as much of my time outside as possible. Luckily, in San Diego, we have a 7,000-acre park right in our back yard. Mission Trails Regional Park is a collection of rugged hills, exposed desert, and five challenging peaks to climb. The park is accessible from multiple sides, making it convenient no matter which part of town you are traveling from. (1)
30 Minutes – Torrey Pines State Reserve
If you have a long morning or afternoon free, spending it at Torrey Pines is an excellent choice. About 30 minutes north of downtown, Torrey Pines is a 2000 acre coastal park with incredible views and a variety of walking paths and trails to explore. My favorite way to enjoy the beauty of Torrey Pines is to arrive in the late afternoon, taking my time to meander down to the beach just as the sun is setting. You can walk the beach about a mile back to the parking lot, plenty of time to enjoy the stunning cliff lines and other coastal scenery. (2)
1 Hour – Mount Laguna
If you are looking for a more challenging hike and have the day to slow down and enjoy yourself, do yourself a favor and take the one hour trip up to Mount Laguna. The freeway quickly turns to a two-lane highway, which follows switchbacks up to the small mountain town of Mount Laguna. Boasting little more than a general store, a single restaurant, and a fire station, Mount Laguna is nestled on the top of San Diego County’s highest mountain range. Follow the Pacific Crest Trail north and experience stunning mountainscapes as cliffs plummet thousands of feet to the desert floor below. You can see for miles, and at night the stars are amazing. (3)
Hiking in San Diego showcases the best of Southern California desert scenery. From coastal clifflines to the towering mountain ranges inland, the scenery you can find only a short drive from the city is sure to leave you wanting more. The options you have are all equally worth checking out and special; the only question now is how much time do you have to explore?