A Guide To Hiking The Balboa Park Trails

A Guide To Hiking The Balboa Park Trails
Balboa Park is a beautiful city park located in the heart of San Diego. The area is rich in culture and history and is a great place for hikers to enjoy urban hiking. The park is one of the largest in the country and it’s trails are some of the most popular hikes in San Diego. The trails are also friendly for dogs and bikes. 

A Guide To Hiking The Balboa Park Trails

Who said all trails need to be done in nature? Balboa Park is generally known for it’s picturesque architecture, popular museums, and the world famous, San Diego Zoo. What the park also houses is over sixty miles of trails suitable for hiking, jogging, and walking. The best part is that the trails take people through the park perimeter, through the heart of the park, past the museums, by the zoo, and through a variety of gardens which include a cactus, rose, and a botanical lily pond.

There are several trailheads throughout the park. I have two recommended trail starting points. The first one is off of Sixth and Upas which I used to use to train for 10K races. The Sixth and Upas trailhead has five different trails that range in length from 1.5 miles to 6.6 miles. The longer of the trails takes a person through often unseen areas of the park that include oak and pine covered areas and the trail winds through the museums, across the Laurel Street bridge, through the cactus and rose garden, and past the San Diego Zoo.

The second starting point is at the Park Blvd Trails Gateway. This starting point takes a person through the heart of Balboa Park’s museums, architecture, and beautiful gardens. The Park Blvd Trails Gateway is also close to many of the main parking lots to Balboa Park. Keep in mind that many of these trails sync together and can be used to make trails as long as you want them to be. Check out the different starting points to see where your adventure can begin in the Balboa Park Trail system. With a little bit of research, a person could see some pretty beautiful sights through these trails and explore the heart of one of San Diego’s iconic tourist destinations. Balboa Park is a choose your own adventure suitable for all levels of hikers.

Do you have any updates to the hiking trail or want to share your hike/pictures? Please leave a comment below.

  • Overall Difficulty: 35% 35%
  • Overall Views: 90% 90%
Balboa Park Trail Quick Facts:
  • Elevation: Balboa Park is at coast level around 100 feet in elevation.
  • Elevation Gain: About 100-300 feet.
  • Estimated Distance: Most trails are 0.5 miles to just over 6 miles with over 65 miles of trails.
  • Estimated Time: 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Balboa Park Trail Directions:
There are generally two large parking areas near Balboa Park. Parking off of Park Blvd houses a number of parking complexes on both sides of the street. These parking lots are generally where most people choose to park is it’s near the heart of the park. On the opposite side of Balboa Park is Sixth Avenue. Sixth Avenue is scattered with many large green lawns and street parking throughout the area. See the park website for further information on determining the best entrance for you.
Balboa Park Trail Pictures:
Who Balboa Park Trails Are For:
Novice Hikers: Balboa Park is great for novice hikers. The proximity to modern civilization means that you could basically call it quits whenever you want and you’ll always be near food and water. Novice hikers can choose between flat walking paths. If you’re feeling more adventurous, check out the longer trials, loop them together, and try some of the dirt paths with some slight elevation gain/loss.

Advanced Hikers: While these trails will not bring any challenge associated with any of the inland San Diego hikes, the beauty of the park is unique and iconic.

Expert Hikers: The trails won’t me challenging by any means but the park’s rich history and views will be enticing.

It’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of hiking level you’re at.

Best Time Of Year To Hike Balboa Park Trails:
San Diego’s climate is famous for having moderate temperatures and mostly sunny weather throughout the year. Summer months can be warm but Balboa Park does offer quite a bit of shade. Any open trails on pavement will be hotter as they naturally reflect the energy of the sun. Balboa Park is great to check out year round but avoid the trails in the rain if you don’t want to get wet. I do however, enjoy the freshness the rain.
Balboa Park Trail Conditions:

About The Author

The Simple Hiker

Husband. Father. ER nurse. Hiker. Nature lover.

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