From the ocean to the sea, San Diego County has so many different hiking options. There are countless coastal trails, numerous valley hikes, and even mountain routes that can feature a wonderful winter playground. These following trails are the ten most popular hikes in San Diego County.

Top San Diego County Trails To Try In 2021

Lake Calavera, Calavera Nature Preserve, Calavera Trail, Carlsbad, San Diego

Lake Calavera and Volcano

For the second year in a row, this trail takes San Diego’s number one spot as a favored hiking trail. It’s not surprising to see it at number one knowing it’s just one of only three extinct volcanoes in Southern California. The Calavera hiking trails are located in the City of Carlsbad in North County San Diego. There is also a small dam that makes a small lake here.

Lake Miramar Hiking Trail Guide

Lake Miramar

Rising above the mesa’s of San Diego is a large man made reservoir with a five mile loop. In the heart of Scripps Ranch, this paved trail is great for families looking to get outside. The elevation of the hills and unobstructed views make for some beautiful sunsets over the city.

Palomar Mountain

There’s not much to hate about Palomar Mountain. This area in the northern section of San Diego County gets so much rainfall that the vegetation goes through a full four seasons here. From summer to winter, this mountain offers everything from snow filled trees to spring wildflowers.

Kitchen Creek Falls, Hiking, San Diego, Trail guides

Kitchen Creek Falls

This trail has been rising in fame over the last several years. Tucked away in the hills of Pine Valley, this watershed collects rainfall from portions of Mount Laguna. A short hike along the Pacific Crest Trail will lead you to this beautiful waterfall along Kitchen Creek.

Los Penasquitos Canyon

Another year round hiking option near the heart of San Diego is Los Penasquitos Canyon. This preserve features a year round creek. During the fall the trees put on a nice display of fall colors. The year round water makes a good opportunity to see some of San Diego’s larger wildlife like mule deer in the mornings. Halfway through the canyon is a small waterfall.

Balboa Park, Spring Showers, Rain, San Diego, Photography, Hiking

Balboa Park Hiking Trails

Balboa Park is mostly known for its rich cultural history, beautiful architecture, and world class museums. In addition to its rich history, Balboa Park is also a great place for an urban hike. Throughout the park there are a variety of mostly paved trails that wind through the area. It’s a great place to view some of San Diego’s rich history as well as unique and vibrant plants.

South Fortuna, Hiking, Trail Guides, San Diego

South Fortuna Mountain

Near the heart of San Diego is Mission Trails Regional Park. This regional park is home to five separate peaks that make up the bulk of the area. Despite being the park’s shortest peak, it attracts quite a few hikers. On the south trail up is a staircase leading up to the top where a bulk of the elevation gain is made. One of the best perks about this hike is the lack of crowds from Cowles Mountain with near identical views. This peak is also a part of the Mission Trails Regional Park Five Peak Challenge.

Bayside Trail Hiking Guide

Bayside Trail

In another area that’s rich in history is Cabrillo National Monument. This monument on the end of Point Loma is mostly known for it being the first landing by the Spanish missionary, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. The Bayside Trail winds down the tip of Point Loma and overlooks San Diego Bay to Ballast Point where Cabrillo first landed. The area is also well known for its lighthouse and World War II history.

Father Junipero Serra Hiking Trail Guide, San Diego River

Father Junipero Serra Trail

The Father Junipero Serra Trail is an old paved road that splits the peaks in Mission Gorge Regional Park. The old use road travels along the San Diego River and connects San Diego to the City of Santee. This trail is popular for its ease of use, proximity to the city, and paved road which is a great option for families.

El Cajoh Mountain Hiking Trail Guide

El Cajon Mountain

Meet one of San Diego’s most difficult hikes. This 11 plus mile trail features rolling hills. The hardest part about this trail is the roller coaster type trail. On this trail you’ll be going up on the way down as well. Also a recent addition to the Southern California Six Pack Of Peaks, this trail is best hiked before the warmer San Diego months.

This tops the list for the top trails to hike in San Diego County. Get out there and explore some of these trails if you haven’t already.

Editor’s note: List compiled from most visited trail guides on The Simple Hiker.