There are so many pretty & easy hikes in San Diego.
From beautiful beaches to dramatic sea bluffs to the vast desert — you don’t have to trek hard or far to enjoy some of the most beautiful natural views in the county.
And in the time I’ve lived in San Diego — I’ve really only done easy hikes every weekend. Why suffer so much when there’s more easily accessible beauty?
Where should you go? Here are some of the most beautiful easy hikes in San Diego! These are perfect whether you’re just starting out, hiking with kids, or just want something quick and approachable.
Disclaimer: I am able bodied and in reasonably good shape. So I double checked that these hikes are easy not just by my definition but also against sites like AllTrails too. Beauty is completely relative though, but I will say that I didn’t really edit these pictures or seek unrealistic angles!
Things to know before you go hiking in San Diego
But before we get into the hikes, we need to go over some things you should keep in mind. These might be obvious to some. But you see people regularly breaking these rules!! This causes trails to close and leads to people getting hurt, so I’m adding them in here as a reminder.
- Don’t take any plants, including flowers, or small animals from the trails. Most of these hikes are in places trying to preserve endangered species. You are destroying that effort by taking them out.
- Don’t leave your trash. It’s probably not good for the animals who live in there areas. Plus, no one wants to look at your plastic water bottle over the next 450 years.
- Stay on the paths. Going off the paths, especially in the areas that are trying to preserve native species, degrades the area and destroys the flora. Sometimes areas get closed off for danger reasons too. I won’t get in the way of natural selection though.
- Be prepared for little shade and lots of sun. Of course, this means water and sunscreen, but also consider bringing a hat or light layers to protect against the sun.
- These trails will be busy because they’re gorgeous and approachable. This makes it a bit safer if you want to hike by yourself. If you want to avoid more people, try going on weekdays, early in the morning, or late in the day.
- And last, read and follow the signs. I know it’s trendy to break these for Instagram, but please don’t ruin everyone else’s chance to enjoy the trails for your mediocre pictures.
Related Posts: Still need a place to stay when you go to San Diego? Check out my San Diego neighborhood guide! Or looking for more things to do in San Diego? Check out my San Diego bucket list (perfect for adventurers and foodies)!
Easy Hikes In San Diego
Almost Every Hike In Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Torrey Pines is a natural reserve dedicated to preserving San Diego’s torrey pines tree and other native plants. It’s also full of beautiful, easy hikes that take you along the coastal cliffs and clear, deep blue water beaches.
It’s hard to suggest just one best trail in this park. I’m partial to the views on Razor Point Trail, but Guy Fleming Trail is one of the most popular. You can read about each one here. But you don’t necessarily have to “choose” one — it’s really easy to switch between different trails. Try to see how many you can do!
Note: Because this is a natural reserve, it has a few different rules than a national park or unnamed nature place. You can read them on their official website here. The big one for me is you’re not allowed to bring food.
Cost: $20 to park, but check out their website for the most up to date info.
Hardest Part: There’s almost no shade. There are some (gentle) inclines. And it’s hard to make sure you’re staying on the right trail. But if you just want nice views and exercise, it doesn’t matter too much.
Note that this picture only has wildflowers because I went the spring after a rainy winter. Depending when you go, you might not see them!
Annie’s Canyon Trail
Let’s move away from the ocean cliffs to one of San Diego’s largest wetlands. In the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve, you’ll find some pretty diverse views– from wetlands and marshes to slot canyons and caves There are a few different hikes here, but my favorite is Annie’s Canyon Trail, which takes you from the wetlands to the canyon. And if you go during wildflower season, the path will be full of colorful wildflowers.
If you end up feeling ready for a challenge, there’s a really surreal path that takes you throw a narrow, upwards walk through the canyon. This is not easy, since it gets slippery and will not work for claustrophobic people, but just in case you’re curious!
The preserve is outside San Diego the city, in the nearby town of Solana Beach. If you can make it up there, this is an easy hike you’ll want to check out! For the museum lovers, also check out the Nature Center that’s part of the reserve– this goes over not the nature of this area, but also its history.
Hardest Part: There really isn’t one, unless you try the strenuous trail. The trail to Annie’s Canyon is really flat, and the moderate trail up is only moderate because it goes uphill.
La Jolla Trail
La Jolla Trail is a short, beautiful, coastal hike that takes you up cliffside views of the ocean. For whatever reason, it’s not really described on hiking websites, but you can find the trailhead on Google Maps.
And if you want something even easier, try parking at Torrey Pines Gliderport and walking along the cliffs from there. You get similar views as you walk along this side of the cliff, but it’s all along the cliff– no need to go uphill!
If you’re starting from the actual trailhead, be careful that you don’t end up on Ho Chi Minh Trail– if you’re truly looking for easy hikes in San Diego. While this one is incredibly gorgeous too, it connects to La Jolla Trail and is a more dangerous trek. Think rope swings and slippery sandswept cliffs. And if you follow the stairs, be aware that this part is more on the moderate side, and you’ll end at Blacks Beach, which is a nude beach. Just so you know.
Hardest Part: Staying on the trail (if you’re me and get lost easily).
Point Loma Tidepools and Bluffs Trail
The Point Loma Tidepools are home to a couple easy and quick hikes. The scenery is gorgeous, but the most unique part is that you can find many small sea creatures– since it’s also a well protected, intertidal area! Make sure you go during low tide so you can best check them out. And to make sure it stays protected, please read through their tips before you go.
This area is also unique because it’s part of the Cabrillo National Monument, a US National Park dedicated to the first white person to land on the West Coast. There’s a ton of history throughout the park (including of the native people)– you can go through it with the museum and the many outdoor exhibits!
Cost: $20 for vehicles, at the time of this writing. You find the most up to date pricing on their website here.
Hardest Part: Staying on the trail (if you’re me)- there’s so many other cool places to explore on the way!
Balboa Park is San Diego’s urban park, home to everything from famous museums, beautiful gardens, restaurants– and so many easy hikes. You can read about all the different hikes here.
Florida Canyon is my favorite though for the wildflowers! If you go after a season of rain, the trail and hills are filled with pretty wildflowers. Since it’s seasonal, it’s a more unique opportunity compared to Balboa Park’s other trails which are pretty similar all year.
If you go outside of wildflower season, it’s still a great easy hike in Balboa Park because it takes you to less trafficked parts of the park. Usually the Spanish colonial architecture and San Diego Zoo come to mind when people think Balboa Park, but Florida Canyon takes you through the hilly outskirts. You’ll get you’ll experience another side!
Hardest Part: The hills are gentle, but they still take you up and down. Also finding parking on a weekend is hard.
I don’t know why I didn’t just wait for the fam to get out of the way, but check out the hills and wildflowers!
Sunset Cliffs Park Trail
Most people say to go during sunset for the ultimate beauty. Technically I live here and I’ve never been able to catch it on a day where it’s not cloudy. Hoping you have better luck if you try though!
Instead, I think the best time to go is during low tide, so you have more opportunities to explore the sea caves, beach, and some random sea creatures.
Hardest Part: Depending where you start, weaving through the car traffic and trail. Also if you’re walking along the beach, beware of slippery rocks.
Note: Once you’re on the beach, the landscape is pretty similar to the Point Loma Tidepools. If you’re less interested in animals/history and want to save money, explore the beach by Sunset Cliffs instead of the tidepools!
Borrego Palm Canyon Trail
Palm Canyon Trail is the furthest from the city, in San Diego County’s Anza Borrego State Park.
But, if you’re able to make it out there, it’s a totally unique, can’t miss experience! One of the most popular hikes in the park, Palm Canyon takes you through the desert and ends in a palm tree oasis. We went in May after a winter with no rain and the oasis was totally dry, but it was still one of the most unique views I’ve ever experienced!
Don’t forget to bring a lot of water! They recommend bringing a gallon of water per person and turning back around if you’ve reached the halfway point with your water. For more hiking tips especially for this park, check out my desert hiking guide before you go.
Cost: $10 per vehicle for day use at the time of this post. You can check the latest prices on their website.
Hardest Part: You’re in the desert- so it’s hot and there’s literally no shade. Don’t wear outfits like mine unless you want to be fried!
And there you have some of the prettiest easy hikes in San Diego! Which would you go on first? Which would you add? Let me know in the comments!