Ten Great Hikes for Spring

This spring, scout out some new trails with help from the Canyoneers, Museum-trained naturalists and volunteer trail guides. 

As the days start growing longer, so do those little green sprouts popping up from the soil. Following winter's rains, wildlife is back on the move. Wildflowers start to bloom and the weather remains sweet and cool enough for long hikes before that summer heat sets in. But there’s more than flowers to spring in San Diego. Vernal pools, birds, and spectacular views abound. 

Here, our Canyoneers recommend their favorite seasonal hikes, where you can stretch your legs and renew your love of nature at its most colorful. In selecting these hikes, the Canyoneers took into consideration the width of the trails to allow for social distancing.  

Of course, before heading out, check to see if the trail is open to the public, and be sure you’re prepared. We hope you find a new trail to love or an old favorite to appreciate once again. 

Azalea Glen Loop Trail – Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
Take a deep breath and find yourself taking in the fragrance of the western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale), the shrub for which this trail is named. Blooms along this trail also attract a variety of pollinators, and you may catch sight of the smallest bird in the United States. Learn more. 

Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve 
Ever heard of vernal pools? They are a uniquely spring phenomenon and this is just the place to see them before they dry out in the summer. Stay on the path and look for fairy shrimp, tadpoles, and lots of beautiful flowers—especially following a good rainfall season. Learn more. 

Plum Canyon
The special location of this canyon has allowed it to develop a rich diversity of desert flora. From California juniper to desert-lavender, and a variety of cacti, you’ll get a crash course in desert plant life. About those plums though... Learn more. 

Eagle Peak – Cleveland National Forest 
We know it's not all about wildflowers, but you’ll want to look for the blue flowers of the ceanothus while enjoying this hike through a live oak woodland. These four miles will also give you a stunning view of the San Diego River Canyon. Learn more. 

Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary 
Owned and operated by the San Diego Audubon Society, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to learn about the more than 100 species of birds that can be found here. Wildflowers bloom here in late winter and spring, and the views along the ridgeline are beautiful. Learn more. 

The Way Up Trail – Elfin Forest Reserve 
Lush chaparral gave the Elfin Forst its name, and with fresh leaves on these petite woody shrubs, spring is a delightful time to visit. There are lots of options for every hiking level here, and plenty of botanicals to see along the way. Learn more. 

Cibbets Flat from Kitchen Creek – Pacific Crest Trail 
A beautiful trail for spring in Cleveland National Forest. There are plenty of flowers to enjoy and the warming weather may bring more wildlife sightings. The trail cuts through the habitat of California’s largest known remaining population of the gray vireo. Starting in late March, you can listen for its song—brief phrases repeated at a deliberate pace, often in a cycle of four. Learn more. 

Tijuana River Valley Regional Park 
So. Many. Birds. This easy trail across a floodplain provides an accessible way to explore the unique ecosystem along the Tijuana River in the southern-most area of our county. Amphibians, reptiles, and varied vegetation can also be found here in addition to more than 340 bird species. Learn more. 

Louis A. Stelzer County Park 
There’s a little bit of a lot of things to enjoy on this Lakeside-area hike. Starting on the Riparian Trail, this route will wind you through chaparral, meadows, and hillside. Come back each season and watch the southern California wild grape change throughout the year. Learn more. 

Mountain Palm Springs 
Spring is still a lovely time to explore the desert. This loop will take you through multiple groves to showcase some of our native varieties of palms. You can also sit at a distance and watching what comes to the water to drink. If you’re extremely lucky, you may also spy a certain owl nesting here at this time of year. Learn more. 

Spring offers a lot of beautiful things to see. Be respectful of wildlife, our trails, and other hikers, and enjoy the incredible biodiversity the county has to offer. If you want to nerd out, take iNaturalist along. This app for your phone allows you to upload your nature finds and contribute to scientific research. For more information on iNaturalist, visit our Community Science resources. 

For more about wildflowers in our region, be sure to check out our newest exhibition: California Blooming

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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