The Best Local Hikes for Beginners

There’s no better way to experience a new city than doing as the locals do, and locals in San Diego like to hike! Whether you’re looking for an urban stroll, a hike through historic sites, or a walk through protected wetlands, we have a trail for everyone. It doesn’t matter the time of year you’re visiting as our endless summers make it easy to enjoy the great outdoors all year long. So grab your water, sunscreen, and cameras, and let’s hit the trails! 

Tecolote Canyon Natural Park (3.3 miles) 

(Photo: @tecolotecanyon

This park offers visitors recreational and educational opportunities and is rich in history. Tecolote Canyon Natural Park includes 6.5 miles of trails perfect for hiking and mountain biking while the nature center features exhibits on animals and plants in the area. Keep your eyes open for owls, after which the park is named! 

Mission Trails Regional Park (9.2 miles)

(Photo: @missiontrails_regionalpark

Considered a hidden gem, Mission Trails Regional Park includes popular trails like Kumeyaay Lake Trail which leads you through lush meadows and past lakes. You’ll wind your way to the Old Mission Dam so make sure to bring a camera or have your phone charged up to capture stunning pictures. The park offers guided nature walks as well during which you can learn about native plants, birds, and more.


Cowles Mountain (9.5 miles)


(Photo: @thetrailseatery

Cowles Mountain is considered one of San Diego’s most popular hikes for a reason! Unbeatable city views and beautiful wildflower meadows make the Cowles Mountain Trail one you can’t miss. The leisurely three-mile walk is even and gradual which makes it great for walking, running, and mountain biking. The trail is dog-friendly and open year-round.


Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve (15.5 miles)

(Photo: @hike.sandiego

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve encompasses around 4,000 acres of two different canyons. Remnants of Native American history remain throughout the preserve and date back to 7,000 years ago. Enjoy hikes along waterfalls, streams, sycamore groves, and marshes, and keep your eyes open for animals including deer, bobcats, coyotes, and more!


Torrey Pines State Beach (16.4 miles) 

(Photo: @picturesandiego

Gentle rises, stunning Pacific views, and a plethora of local vegetation all make Torrey Pines State Beach a can’t-miss spot to hit the trails. Enjoy meandering trails that are perfect for most people. This wild stretch of land is home to the rare Torrey Pine and lets you imagine what San Diego looked like to those who first inhabited it. It’s important to note that the area is a reserve, not a park, therefore it’s protected land. Leave no trace!


Tijuana River Estuary (18.1 miles)

(Photo: @tijuanaestuary

The flat and easy trails meander through the Tijuana River Estuary and are handicap-accessible and kid-friendly. The unique wetlands are home to hundreds of species of birds and other native and migratory animals. Stop by the visitor center to learn about the research and preservation that takes place here. Tip: don’t forget your water and sunscreen as there is little shade on the trails. 


San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and Nature Center (21.2 miles)

(Photo: @enjoying_the_wild_life

Perfect for hikers, bikers, and those who simply want to appreciate nature, the San Elijo Lagoon provides seven miles of easy to moderate trails. Interconnected trails — including the ever-popular Annie’s Canyon, pictured above — wind through the wetlands and provide a chance to see native flora and fauna. Stop by the museum-like Nature Center featuring interactive exhibits and more.


Recover from your hike at the Days Inn San Diego Hotel Circle! We provide our guests with comfortable accommodations and unbeatable amenities including a heated pool and jacuzzi, perfect for soothing those worn out muscles.