Relatively speaking, San Diego isn’t known for having four seasons compared to other parts in the country. There are however, places where one can find some pockets across the county that make for some pretty amazing winter hikes.
The inland mountains of San Diego aren’t always known for their winter playgrounds. Every once in a while there is a good winter storm that drops down far enough to dump several inches of snow on the local mountains. The white stuff is usually short lived before temperatures creep up but it’s enough to experience some cold snow before heading back towards the coast. Some of these trails are great for experiencing snow close to San Diego while a few of these hikes are best to enjoy during the winter months only. Enjoy!
Best San Diego Winter Hikes
Palomar Mountain is a great place to hike year round. The elevation and amount of rainfall received here gives this one of the few place in San Diego that is able to receive four seasons. It’s not uncommon for snow to leave the highest elevations of this mountain dusted in snow. Palomar State Park has multiple trails to explore from easy to moderate.
Volcan Mountain is just outside of the quaint town of Julian. This wilderness preserve is managed by the County of San Diego. The elevation is just high enough that a good winter storm can give this rounded mountain range ample snowfall. Views at the top will see the expansive mountainous peaks of San Diego County, east across the desert, and north towards San Jacinto and Santa Rosa.
Cuyamaca Peak is San Diego’s second tallest peak. It’s also included in the Southern California Six Pack of Peak Challenge list. The trails leading up to the peak are lined with manzanita and pine forest groves. The state park here makes for an excellent winter playground and vantage point to see down onto San Diego County.
Across the street from the trailhead to Cuyamaca Peak and located in the same state park is Stonewall Peak. This short trail is a great option for those who aren’t used to hiking longer distances. After a good winter storm the top of this trail makes for a place to see the snow covered Cuyamaca Rancho State Park and the Anza-Borrego Basin below.
Although this trail is high enough to get an occasional snowfall, it rarely happens and quickly melts when it does. The water basin to Kitchen Creek helps to drain some of the southeast side of the Laguna Mountains. During the winter months Kitchen Creek has an amazing waterfall but it quickly dries up as the spring nears and after long lulls in between winter storms.
Disclaimer: this hike is not for the faint of heart. El Cajon Mountain is easily one of San Diego’s most difficult hikes. Located in Ramona, the difficulty and warm temperatures make this trail rather uninviting during anything except the cooler months. This area gets so hot that even the County of San Diego closes the trailhead during the month of August. Winter is the best time to hike this trail to see some of San Diego’s inland hills and valleys at their best. You can also rest easily knowing you’re in good company with others who have completed this trail.
Hellhole Canyon County Preserve
Like El Cajon Mountain, this canyon in the foothills of Valley Center isn’t so suitable during the summer months. Managed by the County of San Diego there are almost two thousand acres and over thirteen miles of hiking trails to explore. The preserve’s gems are Paradise Mountain and Rodriguez Peak. These peaks make great point of view looking out to the foothills to Palomar Mountan and west to the Santa Ana Mountains.
Winter Hiking in San Diego
It’s well known that San Diego has some of the best weather in the country. The winters in this city are mild and the days of sunshine are numerous. In my opinion, the winter months are San Diego’s best hiking weather. These trails are some of my favorite winter trails to explore in the county but there are plenty of others. What are some favorite winter hikes that weren’t mentioned?