The Coast News Group
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, one of San Diego County’s plentiful ecological treasures, spans 2,000 acres of rugged coastal hills. Photo by Sergei Gussev

Hit the Trails: Local hikes to keep you moving

REGION — Residents of San Diego County are fortunate to have beautiful weather and a variety of terrain right at their fingertips. And the milder temperatures of winter and spring make for ideal hiking weather.

Hiking offers a number of health benefits — for both the body and the mind. Studies have shown that hiking outdoors may help battle depression, anxiety and stress.

But this mood-boost isn’t the only benefit.

Hiking is great for cardiovascular health, and it helps improve respiratory function and weight control, as well as lowers the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more.

Take advantage of the nice weather and great health benefits — check out these popular trails and find some inspiration for a healthier and more adventurous year.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

A wild stretch of land along the California coast, featuring ragged sea cliffs, distinctive geological formations, a variety of plants and animals and numerous trail options, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a haven for those looking to experience the unique beauty of Southern California.

Popular trails in the reserve include the Razor Point, Guy Fleming and Beach trails. The reserve also offers free guided nature hikes on weekends from its visitor center. For more information, visit The 1,500-acre reserve is located at 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd. Please note that dogs are not allowed in the reserve. Hikers are sure to enjoy the dramatic views from many of the trails, bringing them a little closer to nature. 

San Dieguito Lagoon

Novice-level hikers and those looking for a less strenuous adventure will enjoy the beautiful trails of the San Dieguito Lagoon. Trekking amidst the intertidal marshes, visitors will have a chance to view one of the most threatened habitats in California. A number of birds call the area home, as well as a variety of other animals.

The staging area can be found at 2801 Via de la Valle, on the east side of San Andres Drive in Del Mar. The trail is about 2.5 miles in length and considered “easy” in terms of difficulty. A portion of the Coast to Crest Trail, this segment is a great way to exercise while experiencing nature in a convenient location. 

Cowles Mountain

Looking to hike to the highest point in the city of San Diego?

Look no further than Cowles Mountain, which reaches 1,595 feet at its summit. The staging area and trailhead are located off Cowles Mountain Boulevard near Navajo Road. Though the hike is only 3 miles roundtrip, the elevation gain in the ascent makes for a more challenging hike and may be considered “moderate” in terms of difficulty.

But it is certainly worth the effort, as hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of the city.

Del Dios Gorge

A beautiful trail filled with a rich history, the Del Dios Gorge trail snakes its way through the foothills just downstream of Lake Hodges. Beginning at the Santa Fe Valley

The Del Dios Gorge section of the Coast to Crest Trail runs between the San Dieguito River and the scenic Del Dios Highway just below Lake Hodges (pictured). Photo by R. Moreira

staging area off Del Dios Highway, hikers will find a sign offering multiple destination points. One of the more popular spots ends at Rattlesnake Viewpoint, which is 1.92 miles from the trailhead.

The undulating trail features informational plaques which teach visitors more about the area, such as about the historic Hodges Flume, which can be seen from the trail. The terrain changes from rocky foothills to a lower, marshy area before rising up to reach the viewpoint. Though not an easy hike, the trail would still be appropriate for newer hikers looking for a bit of a challenge.

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

Nature lovers will enjoy the hike at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park along the Point Loma peninsula. A beautiful walk near the shore, this trail offers amazing views of unique cliff formations and arches, while allowing visitors to check out the tide pools and possibly see marine wildlife such as dolphins and sea lions.

The meandering 3-mile hike is family- and pet-friendly, and is great for all skill levels.

As with any hike, it is important to be prepared. Pack enough food and water for the entire hiking party, along with sunscreen and a first aid kit. Hikers should also wear appropriate attire and sturdy footwear. Please bring out anything that you bring in, and have fun on your next hiking adventure!