Couple enjoying the views from the Julian Mountains

Things to do in San Diego: 6 Great Hikes in San Diego

Are you looking for something exciting to do after a day at the beach or famous San Diego Zoo? Our article, ‘Things to do in San Diego: 6 Great Hikes in San Diego’ provides you with information on some of the best hikes in San Diego County.

Written by
Maria Mancuso

After you’ve visited the Zoo, SeaWorld and the best beaches in the world, maybe you are in the mood to get in touch with nature with an easy, or not so easy hike either along the Pacific Coast or in the Mountains of Julian. If you are looking for a beautiful waterfall or a giant ‘Potato Chip’ – these hikes have you covered.

The following San Diego Visitors Blog article, ‘Things to do in San Diego: 6 Great Hikes in San Diego,’ features tips and information on some easy to difficult hikes you can enjoy during your next visit to San Diego!

1. Cowles Mountain
Distance from The Keating: 15 Miles
Length of Hike:  3 Miles
Estimated Duration: 2 hours
Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Easily one of the most popular hikes on the list and in San Diego.  This trail offers a number of switchbacks and a view from the highest point in San Diego for amazing views.  From the peak you can expect views of Lake Murray downtown San Diego, the Pacific Ocean and Mexico. Located just west of El Cajon the trail is easy enough for the beginner hiker to enjoy the day. 

Man posing on Potato Chip Rock in Mount Woodson
Mount Woodson: Be sure to bring plenty of water and some Protein Bars, oh yeah and be sure your phone is charged to take photos of ‘Potato Chip Rock.’                                                                                                                                         

2. Mount Woodson
Distance from The Keating: 27 Miles
Length of Hike: 6.4 miles
Estimated Duration: 4.5 hours
Level of Difficulty: Hard

This hike has an Instagram-worthy photo opp of ‘Potato Chip Rock’ payoff at the peak…almost every hiker in San Diego has a photo of themselves posing atop this uniquely shaped rock formation.  The trail starts at Lake Poway and after a slight incline at the beginning the trail steepens and remains such until the finish about 6.4 miles later.  The views from the top of the trail include Lake Poway, Pacific Ocean even Mexico. It is best to start this hike earlier in the day to avoid hiking in the heat of the day.  Be sure to bring plenty of water and some Protein Bars, oh yeah and be sure your phone is charged to take photos of ‘Potato Chip Rock.’

3. Torrey Pines State Reserve
Distance from The Keating: 15 Miles
Length of Hike:  5.5 Miles
Estimated Duration: 4.5 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

This beautiful coastal hike provides great views of the Pacific Ocean among rustic bushes along the trails and the famous Torrey Pine trees.  This hike begins at the north end of Torrey Pines State Park and brings hikers through an easy trail among the hills and overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the West.  On Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the Park Rangers give free tours along the trail.

Beautiful Torrey Pine Trees in California
This beautiful coastal hike provides great views of the Pacific Ocean among rustic bushes along the trails and the famous Torrey Pine trees.

4. Torrey Pines State Reserve – Razor Point Trail and Yucca Point Trail
Distance from The Keating: 16 Miles
Length of Hike:  Yucca Point - 1.25 Miles - Razor Point - 1.3 Miles
Estimated Duration: 1 hour each trail
Level of Difficulty: Easy

This is another coastal hike with rewarding Pacific Ocean views just north of the beach community of La Jolla.  Both the Yucca Point Trail and  Razor Point Trail are easy hikes and not long at all. Both hiking trails share the same trailhead.  There is also a Beach Trail that is an easy, but steeper 1.7-mile trail that takes hikers down to the beach which is a great treat after a bit of hiking.

5. Cuyamaca Peak Loop Trail
Distance from The Keating: 50 Miles
Length of Hike:  6.6 Miles
Estimated Duration: 4 hours
Level of Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

This hike is more inland from the Coastal Trails but also offers beautiful views and scenery of tall trees, greenery and large granite rocks.  Hikers can choose from several trails to arrive at the top of Cuyamaca Peak.   Trail options include West Side Trail, Azalea Springs, Conejos Trail and Azalea Glen Loop.  At the top, you will be on the second highest peak in San Diego County, (6,512 feet) and you’ll enjoy views of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and Cleveland National Forest below.

This hike is near the quint village of Julian, which itself is a great destination to enjoy after your hike. Local restaurants, great people and of course AMAZING Julian Apple Pie!

Located near Julian, you’ll come across everything from fallen forest trees to granite rocks and expansive views of the mountains and valleys below.

6. Iron Mountain Trail
Distance from The Keating: 30 Miles
Length of Hike:  5.7 Miles
Estimated Duration: 4.5 hours
Level of Difficulty: Moderate

This is another great hiking trail located in Poway located near another popular hiking trail, Mount Woodson. The Iron Mountain Trail begins easy with a slight uphill trail that curves upward and continues  for 5.7 miles to the top. There is very little shade or trees to speak of so be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks.  

Hikers looking for a bit more of a workout can opt for also hitting up another trail in the area, like Mount Woodson and get that pic of ‘Potato Chip Rock.’  

So, after a day at the beach and a night partying in the Gaslamp  Quarter, throw on your hiking boots, grab some water and snacks and let’s hike San Diego!

Any one, or two, of these trails will fulfill your need to connect with nature after a good hike.

We hope our San Diego Visitors Blog article, ‘Things to do in San Diego: 6 Great Hikes in San Diego,’ has provided you with enough information to choose the hike that is just right for you!

Should you have any questions about any of these great San Diego Hikes, transportation or any other San Diego activity, please just ask our Concierge and they will be happy to help you.

Check back to visit our San Diego Visitors Blog and San Diego Visitors Guide for more inspiration on all there is to do, see and experience on your next visit to San Diego!

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