From the ocean to the mountains, San Diego County has some amazing hiking options. There are countless coastall trails, valley hikes, and even mountain routes that can involve a winter wonderland. If time time of year is right, there are even several waterfalls to be found throughout the mountains and valleys. For some fun hiking ideas, check out these ten San Diego hikes to try in 2022. Editors note: list compiled from most visited trail guides on The Simple Hiker.   

 10 Popular San Diego Hikes To Try in 2022 

 

1: Lake Calavera and Volcano

Feel like exploring one of Southern California’s three extinct volcanoes? Yep, this is the place to do it. This preserve in Carlsbad features the remains of an extinct volcano that last erupted more than twenty million years ago. Also located here is dam along a creek that has formed a small lake. The water source attracts a variety of birds. While visitors can hike along the caldera remnants, there is a hike that skirts around the perimeter of the lake that is great for families with strollers.

#2 South Fortuna Peak

South Fortuna Peak is one of the five peaks that make up Mission Trails Regional Park. This park is one of the largest regional parks in the country and is a great way to get outside so close to the city of San Diego. At 1,094 feet in elevation, this is a great place to see some of the views that make San Diego worth living in. There are several ways to hike this trail. The southern route featured in this image shows a popular and leg burning staircase that leads to the very top. South Fortuna is also one of the peaks that make up the Mission Trails Five Peak Challenge.

#3 North Fortuna Peak

North Fortuna peak is the twin peak to South Fortuna. It is also one of the five peaks that make up Mission Trails Regional Park. North Fortuna Peak is higher in elevation than South Fortuna by about two hundred feet. This is actually my favorite peak to hike in Mission Trails Regional Park. Both North and South Fortuna can be hiked separately. The distance between the two is only about a mile and a half so many people include both of them on their hike. There are several ways to hike this trail with my favorite route being from the Tierrasanta neighborhood. On a good rain year the hillside turns a vibrant green with a variety of wildflowers. North Fortuna is also one of the peaks that make up the Mission Trails Five Peak Challenge.

#4 Father Junipero Serra Trail

Mission Trails Regional Park is a very popular place. I promise, not all hikes on this list are located there but this one is also. For those who aren’t interest in hiking one of the park’s five peaks, the Father Junipero Serra Trail trail is a more mild option. This trail is an old paved road that travels between the peaks along the San Diego River Gorge. The paved road is mostly flat and is actually a very popular place for hikers, cyclists, and runners. The views along the road will mostly consist of North and South Fortuna on the west side of the road with Kwaay Paay Peak towering above the east side. On the south side of the trail will be the Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center. On the north end will be the Old Mission Dam, a registered national landmark. During the late fall the cottonwood and sycamore trees along the San Diego River turn a vibrant yellow before they shed their leaves for the season.

#5 Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

The Los Penaquitos Canyon Preserve lies between the communities of Mira Mesa and Rancho Penasquitos. The preserve follows the Los Penasquitos Canyon creek and watershed from Interstate-15 to where the creek flows in Carmel Valley near Interstate-5. The creek flows nearly year round and with its consistent water source it provides a dense riparian habitat with animals from rabbits to mountain lions and deer. Eventually the creek flows into the Los Penasquitos Lagoon which lies directly behind Torrey Pines State Beach. This trail is a great option for wildlife viewing early in the morning near the creek. There’s also ample amount of shade along parts of the trail for San Diego’s persistent sunshine. The hike can be done from one end to the other but many people opt to make the hike to the middle of the creek where there is a short (and I mean short) waterfall.

#6 Lake Hodges High Trail

Looking for a trail with views overlooking Lake Hodges? The Lake Hodges High Trail is worth a try. This trail skirts above the north end of Lake Hodges which divides the City of San Diego from Escondido. Lake Hodges is a man made reservoir which collects water from the San Dieguito River watershed area. This trail is also part of the San Dieguito River Park and Trail System. This segmented trail system features over seventy miles of trails along the San Dieguito River that run from the coast in Del Mar to the river’s orgination along Volcan Mountain in Julian. This trail is a grate hike to view migratory and local bird populations as well as wildflowers during the spring.

#7 San Dieguito Lagoon Trail

Curious what the San Dieguito River looks like towards the coast? Check out the San Dieguito River Lagoon Trail. This short trail is great for families and even strollers. The hike follows the lagoon that forms from the river along the I-5 corridor. Hikers can then follow the lagoon through the border for Del Mar and Solana Beach. The lagoon empties out at the north end of Del Mar where the very popular, Dog Beach is. This is a great place to view the species of birds that visit the San Diego lagoons. In the spring it’s very common to see the very large osprey nests in the parking lot of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

#8 Boucher Trail and Palomar Mountain Loop

I personally wish that this hike was higher up on the list. Given its distance from the City of San Diego and length, I can understand why it’s not as popular. San Diego is home to several state managed lands and this is my favorite one by far. This trail is in Palomar Mountain State park and is essentially a loop trail through the entire park. For those that love dense forests, this hike is as close as it gets to anything nearby in the San Bernardino or Angeles National Forests. Due to its southwest facing slopes, this range picks up as much as some areas of the southern Sierra Nevada when it comes to annual rainfall. What you’ll find here is an experience that is very close to a full four seasons by Southern California standards. Given the right time of year you can find fall colors, a wide range of wildflowers, and even spend time during the winter snowshoeing.

#9 Lake Miramar Trail

Another manmade reservoir right in the middle of the City of San Diego is Lake Miramar. There is a paved trail that circumnavigates the entire span of the lake and is about five miles long. Not all five miles need to be traveled of course to get the views of the lake. In the middle of a city, this place is a great area to achieve peaceful lakeside views. This is a great place for families and those with strollers. The Lake Miramar trail is also a popular route for cyclists and runners as well. The west end of the lake looks down onto the mesa’s of San Diego towards La Jolla with the Pacific Ocean in the backdrop. Lake Miramar is a wonderful area to catch a sunset.

#10 Kitchen Creek Waterfall

This list wouldn’t be complete without a waterfall someplace on the list. The mountain ranges of San Diego are home to several waterfalls. This is a straight forward two mile in and two mile back hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Kitchen Creek Falls near the town of Boulder in Pine Valley features a nearly one hundred and fifty foot cascading waterfall. The waterfall can be a little finicky and requires a lot of rainfall to get going. It’s best to hike this waterfall during the peak of winter and after a few good storms.