Hikes in San Diego County

San Diego County is located at the bottom of California and covers over 4,500 square miles from the Mexican border up to Orange and Riverside counties. Despite being the second most populous county in California, San Diego County has a wide variety of outdoor opportunities for hikers ranging from coastal strolls to mountain ascends to desert trails.

This website currently offers only a small selection of trails in San Diego County (more coming soon). In the meantime, if you are serious about hiking in San Diego County and like books, there is no better source than Afoot and Afield San Diego County, a thorough guide in which the late Jerry Schad diligently documented 250 trails across the San Diego County.

The west side of San Diego County has 70 miles of scenic Pacific Ocean coastline. On the eastern front of the county, the landscape is quite different. Desert terrain dominates, including Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is the largest state park in California. As a housekeeping note, the trails in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are not listed in the Southern California section of hikespeak.com and can be found with the other hikes in the California Desert.amazon book

Hiking San Diego County

Indian Flats TrailIndian Flats Trail
This easy half-mile hike from Indian Flats Campground explores seasonal pools in the East Fork of the San Luis Rey River.
Indian Flats TrailMoserate Mountain
This 4.4-mile loop begins with a 1 2/3-mile ascent that gains 1,200 feet to reach a panoramic summit and then descends along a ridge for even more views.
Observatory TrailObservatory Trail
The 5.1-mile hike travels between Observatory Campground and Palomar Observatory, crossing a pleasant mountain woodland with valley views along the way.
Kwaay Paay Peak TrailKwaay Paay Peak
This 2.5-mile hike rewards a good workout with panoramic views as it climbs to a 1,194-foot summit in Mission Trails Regional Park, just 10 miles from downtown San Diego.


Tenaja Falls Trail San Mateo Canyon Wilderness Santa Ana Mountains Waterfall Hike
Tenaja Falls pours over a sandstone staircase in the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness of the Santa Ana Mountains. Even through the waterfall's setting is picturesque and remote, the hike to the waterfall is a short and easy, following Tenaja Falls Trail for 1.5 miles round trip with 275 feet of elevation change. Totaling 150 feet in height with multiple tiers, this Southern California waterfall... Read more.
By: Published: Last updated: March 24, 2019
Heaps Peak Arboretum Sequoia Trail San Bernardino Mountains Nature Trail San Bernardino National Forest Arboretum hike Lake Arrowhead California
Get to know the plants, animals, and natural history of Southern California at Heaps Peak Arboretum. Located near Lake Arrowhead, the arboretum is a developed piece of San Bernardino National Forest. Sequoia Trail is the main trail through Heaps Peak Arboretum, covering 3/4 of a mile with 90 feet of elevation change. The star of the trail is a planted grove of sequoiadendron giganteum, or... Read more.
By: Published: Last updated: July 3, 2021
Kwaay Paay Peak Trail Hike Mission Trails Regional Park San Diego California Mission Dam to Kwaay Paay Mountain
Pay a visit to Kwaay Paay Peak for an efficient workout that's rewarded with panoramic views. The 2.5-mile round trip hike to the 1,194-foot summit climbs 885 feet, with steep stretches that will have your heart pumping. The summit is just ten miles from downtown San Diego, within the 6,800 acres of Mission Trails Regional Park, so you'll see beautiful natural landscapes and cityscapes on... Read more.
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Tagged with · Free Trails · Mission Trails Regional Park · Santee · Summits
Distance: 2.5 miles · Elevation change: 890 feet
By: Published: Last updated: December 27, 2022
Monserate Mountain Preserve Hike Fallbrook Monserate Mountain Summit Trail Monserate Mountain Loop Trail San Diego County
Monserate Mountain offers a workout of a hike, beginning just off Interstate 15 in the Northern San Diego County city of Fallbrook, just ten miles south of Temecula in Riverside County. There is 1,200 vertical feet between the trailhead at the base of Monserate Mountain and the panoramic summit at the top, tackled on a 1 2/3-mile ascent. You can turn around at the top for a 3 1/3-mile... Read more.
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Tagged with · Fallbrook · Fallbrook Land Conservancy · Free Trails · Monserate Mountain Preserve · Summits
Distance: 4.4 miles · Elevation change: 1200 feet
By: Published: Last updated: February 5, 2024
Canyon View Loop Trail Whitewater Preserve Pacific Crest Trail San Bernardino Mountains Palm Springs hike
You would not expect to find a Whitewater River in the vicinity of Palm Springs, but this surprising river is vital for the fertility of the Coachella Valley, bringing wonderful water from the San Bernardino Mountains to the desert below where it empties into the Salton Sea. Journeyman hikers can pass through Whitewater Preserve on the Pacific Crest Trail and day hikers can get in on the... Read more.
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Tagged with · Creeks · Free Trails · Pacific Crest Trail · San Bernardino Mountains · Whitewater Preserve
Distance: 3.75 miles · Elevation change: 650 feet
By: Published: Last updated: January 10, 2018