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Ten Great Hikes for Fall

Top recommendations from expert trail guides, the Canyoneers

Hiking is proven to reduce stress levels. And we could all use less stress and more nature. This fall, scout out some new trails with help from the Canyoneers, museum-trained naturalists and volunteer trail guides. Whether you’re looking for a seaside stroll, a nice hike on rolling hillsides, or a tough climb to a peak with a view, there’s a trail for you. 

In selecting these hikes, the Canyoneers took into consideration the width of the trails to allow for social distancing. They include a variety of locations within San Diego and farther out into the county. Many have ocean views or cool breezes—especially important as our fall months can remain quite warm—and there are still some places you can catch changing autumnal leaves. 

We hope you find opportunities to explore areas you might not know are available. Before heading out, check to see if the trail is open to the public, and be sure you’re prepared.    

Batiquitos  Lagoon
Great for kids, and wheelchair accessible.  This easy, 3-mile hike hugs the shoreline on the north side of the lagoon, and at low tide offers good views of the mudflats that provide cover for foraging birds in search of invertebrates.  It is said Batiquitos means “little watering hole,” which is what it was considered by early Native Americans who followed the tidal surges to gather shellfish and plants. Learn more.

Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension
Just across the lagoon from the main reserve, these less-traveled extension trails offer spectacular examples of the rare and endangered Torrey pine in their native habitat—plus a rich collection of coastal sage scrub and chaparral plant and animal life. The top of the ridge offers spectacular views of Los Peñasquitos Lagoon and leads into a pleasant, shaded pine grove. Learn more.

Tijuana Estuary
One of the few remaining salt marshes in southern California with natural, daily tidal flushing, this wetland is among the most biologically productive systems in nature. Trails are laid out to protect the multiple habitats, which include salt marsh, coastal sage scrub, maritime succulent scrub, dunes, and riparian environments. Endangered bird species—including the clapper rail, Belding’s savannah sparrow, and the California least tern—may be seen here. Learn more.

Mast Park
This is an easy stroll under trees and along waterways, following the San Diego River through the community of Santee. There are benches to sit on, a native plant garden to explore, and spots to look out on the river.  Interpretive signs describe the river ecosystem, and you’ll find enough open space to forget about busy city life. Wheelchair accessible and kid friendly. Learn more.

Santa Ysabel East—Coast to Crest Trail
One of San Diego County's best-kept secrets, Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve has more than 11 miles of hiking trails encompassing oak woodlands, riparian, chaparral, and grassland habitats. The hike starts as an easy walk through grasslands and wildflower meadows. After crossing Santa Ysabel creek, the trail climbs to the upper meadow end of the Kanaka Loop. The landscape is dotted with giant sycamores and several varieties of oak trees. Learn more.

South Fortuna Mountain, Mission Trails Regional Park
At 1,094 feet, the top of South Fortuna Mountain has sweeping views of all the major peaks in Mission Trails, the city’s largest regional park. Once used for fitness training by the U.S. Marines, it is still a great place for a workout. This challenging trail changes from oak woodland to grassland to coastal sage scrub as a steep wooden staircase climbs nearly 560 vertical feet in just over 1/2 mile. When it cools down in November, it’s well worth the effort. Learn more.

Wooded Hill and Big Laguna, Gatos Spur    
If it's too warm in the desert but overcast at the beach, head to the Laguna Mountains. A nature trail leads to Wooded Hill Peak, which at 6,223 feet is the highest wooded summit in these mountains—rewarding you with  beautiful surrounding views. Lengthen your hike with a loop through the Big Laguna Trail spur, featuring large Jeffrey pines, California black oaks with beautiful fall colors, and California incense cedar. Learn more.

Kumeyaay Lake, Mission Trails Regional Park
A great, short hike for even the smallest kids. Originally a sand and gravel mining operation and later as the Hollins Lake Fish Farm, the now renamed Kumeyaay Lake supports lush vegetation and a first-class botanical and wildlife habitat. Interpretive signs depict many of the birds seen around the lake, including the blue-gray gnatcatcher, California quail, and great blue heron. Shade is provided by western cottonwoods that change colors, western sycamores, and willows. Learn more.

Boulder Loop Trail, Daley Ranch
Daley Ranch in northeast Escondido is a treasure for anyone who likes to hike, run trails, mountain bike, ride horses, or just experience nature. Boulder Loop is one of the many routes in an intricate network of 20 miles of trails. The hills are clothed with coastal sage scrub and chaparral, while the valleys are home to ponds, oak woodlands, and grassy meadows. Trees include the increasingly rare Engelmann’s oaks and the more common coast live oak. Learn more.

Bayside Trail, Cabrillo National Monument
Views rule on the  Bayside Trail at Cabrillo National Monument, part of the National Parks system. You’ll see stunning vistas of downtown San Diego, Coronado, San Diego Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. Signs identify many common plants seen on the hike and highlight the natural history and military importance of Point Loma and San Diego Bay. Although the trail is a relatively short round trip, it is a good workout as the hike back up the trail is all uphill. Learn more.

See you on the trails!   

The  Canyoneer  program is made possible with support from dedicated volunteers and proud partner Subaru of America .   


Posted by Stephania Villar, Digital Communications Manager .

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