The Best Outdoor Activities in San Diego

Discover the best hiking, camping, backpacking, fitness, and more.

Hiking Torrey Pines

San Diego / Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

The beach trail brings you from the parking lot across the lodge from the bluff down to the beach. You can choose to visit the Red Butte, the Razor Point, and the Yucca Point trails along the way.

1400 Saves

Exploring the Secret Sea Caves

San Diego / Cabrillo National Monument

From the park entrance, follow the park road down to the tide pools parking area. From the parking area, follow the trail down to the cliffs, and head north.

1273 Saves

Hike to the Los Penasquitos Waterfall

San Diego / Park Village Trailhead

The Los Penasquitos Preserve waterfall is a hidden gem of San Diego and a popular spot for locals within the area. The hike to the waterfall lies within a preserve of approximately 4,000 acres.

1149 Saves

Day Hike Elfin Forest

San Diego / Elfin Forest Parking Lot

Elfin Forest is one of the most beautiful and unique trails in all of San Diego, CA. The parking is free as well as the overflow parking area.

1098 Saves

Catch a Sunset at Sunset Cliffs

San Diego / Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs Natural Park area is a 68-acre park on the western edge of Point Loma. The cliffs overlook the Pacific, creating a great spot to take in the sunset.

1061 Saves

Hike Mount Woodson & Potato Chip Rock

San Diego / Mount Woodson Trailhead

Mt. Woodson is located in Poway's most eastern region and is one of San Diego's most popular and most iconic hiking trails. Known for its grand photo opportunistic "Potato Chip Rock", Mt.

1026 Saves

Hiking to the 3-Sisters Falls

San Diego / Three Sisters Falls Trailhead

Although this hike is not very long (in terms of distance) it will be a workout possibly one of the harder hikes in all of San Diego.

1023 Saves

Swing on the La Jolla Tree Swings

San Diego / La Jolla Tree Swings

From Torrey Pines Rd, turn left onto La Jolla Shores Drive. After about 1/4 of a mile down start to look for parking preferably near UCSD Coastal Apartments.

1018 Saves

Explore La Jolla Cove

San Diego / La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is one of the most photographed beaches in San Diego, located on the coast just south of Torrey Pines Natural Reserve.

968 Saves

Hike the Mushroom Caves

San Diego / Solana Beach Mushroom Caves Trailhead

If you're looking for a super short hike, this 10 minute flat walk couldn't be more ideal.

803 Saves

Hike to Cedar Creek Falls

San Diego / Cedar Creek Falls Trailhead

The trail starts out at a hill in a residential area and ends in an unexpected spot where there is a beautiful waterfall complete with swimming hole.

725 Saves

Day Hike Iron Mountain

San Diego / Iron Mountain

Iron Mountain is the longest wilderness trail in Poway, CA. The parking lot is free and provides bathroom and water fountain amenities.

654 Saves

Hiking Along Penasquitos Creek

San Diego / Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail

Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail is a great easy hiking trail with views unlike any other in San Diego. The trail is well known for biking, horse back riding, walking, jogging and walking your dog.

631 Saves

Explore Sunset Cliffs Open Ceiling Cave

San Diego / Sunset Cliffs Open Ceiling Cave

Starting from you parking spot on the street you will see it right away. Then look to the right in the small bay--to the right of it you'll see a small place to climb down.

605 Saves

Bonfire at Fiesta Island

San Diego / Fiesta Island

This island offers scenic views of of mission bay and if you're lucky, you can catch fireworks from Sea World.

533 Saves

Hike Stonewall Peak

San Diego / Stonewall Peak Loop

This hike is one of the most popular in the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. When you reach Stonewall Peak's summit, enjoy the view of the surrounding park and nearby Lake Cuyamaca.

521 Saves

Photographing Scripp's Pier

San Diego / La Jolla Shores

Parking is easy, there are tons of random street you can park on just a little walk away. Be sure to arrive on scene at least an hour before sunset.

516 Saves

Camp at Joshua Tree's Jumbo Rocks

San Diego / Jumbo Rock Campground

Set your tent up next to a wall of tall boulders. This campground can offer a little shade, which is key especially during the warmer months.

509 Saves

Hiking "The Slot"

San Diego / The Slot Trail - Anza Borrego

The Slot is an amazing short hike located in the Anza Borrego Desert. Drive east on Hwy 78, and about a mile and a half after Borrego Springs Road, turn left onto Buttes Pass Road.

502 Saves

Photographing Hospitals Reef

San Diego / Hospitals Beach

Hospitals Reef is a photographer’s paradise. San Diego is known for its many beaches, but Hospitals Reef is one of my favorites to photograph. It’s easy to see why when you get there.

462 Saves

Hiking Otay Mountain

San Diego / Otay Mountain Truck Trailhead

The trek begins on the Otay Mountain Truck Trail at Pio Pico Resort & Campground.

454 Saves

Exploring Anza Borrego's Wind Caves

San Diego / Wind Caves

The drive to the caves is pretty lengthy, so be prepared.

447 Saves

Camping in Anza-Borrego State Park

San Diego / Borrego Palm Canyon Campground

With over 600,000 acres, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in the contiguous United States.

426 Saves

Oceanview Camping at San Elijo

San Diego / San Elijo Campground

This campground is located right next to the beach as well as next to the San Elijo Lagoon. Head to the beach during the day for a swim. This is also a great place to catch a sunset.

425 Saves

Hike to the Goat Canyon Trestle

San Diego / Mortero Palms Trailhead

The main attraction of this hike is the wooden trestle. This engineering marvel was built in 1932 and still remains the tallest and longest curved wooden trestle in the U.S.

421 Saves

Explore the Point Loma Tide Pools

San Diego / Point Loma Tide Pools

Begin by making your way towards the Point Loma Naval Base. Continue along that road as far as it goes and you will come to the Cabrillo National Monument.

403 Saves

Camping at Paso Picacho

San Diego / Paso Picacho Campground

Paso Picacho, 5 miles north of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet.

395 Saves

Catch a Sunset at Oceanside Pier

San Diego / Oceanside Pier North Side

Both sides of the pier are awesome to shoot but depending on the time of the year/sun position one might be better than the other. Super mellow beach to chill out at and watch the sunset.

378 Saves

Watch the Sunset at Windansea Beach

San Diego / Windansea Parking Lot

One of San Diego's hidden gems. This beach offers an incredible and beautiful view any time of the day. My favorite time to go to this beach is during the sunset.

375 Saves

Hike to Pyles Peak

San Diego / Pyles Peak Summit Trail

Most people who live in San Diego have heard of, if not hiked, Cowles Mountain. At 1591 ft., Cowles is the highest peak in the city of San Diego.

351 Saves

Hike to Black's Beach via the Ho Chi Minh Trail

San Diego / Ho Chi Minh Trailhead

Finding the actual trail is 80% of the adventure.

350 Saves

Explore Bayview Park

San Diego / Bayview Park

Even though I am quite familiar with this spot, I doubt that most San Diegans have sat in the benches at this little park to take in the sunset, sunrise, or spectacular views of downtown San Diego.

348 Saves

Hike Cuyamaca Peak

San Diego / Cuyamaca Peak Trail

This peak is one of the tallest in the county. Reaching the summit of the peak takes you to an elevation of 6500'.

322 Saves

Dive La Jolla Shores

San Diego / La Jolla Shores Parking Lot

While it doesn't get the attention of La Jolla Cove's green fields, the shores are one of the best parts about San Diego.

321 Saves

Hiking Mount Woodson's East Approach

San Diego / Mount Woodson Trailhead via Fire Access Road

Mount Woodson is a well know hiking trail in San Diego County. It is know for its breath taking views and the famous potato chip rock.

315 Saves

Hike and Fish at Lake Calavera

San Diego / Lake Calavera

Lake Calavera Preserve is located in Carlsbad, CA and is home to one of North America's smallest volcanoes.

313 Saves

Photograph the Cholla Cactus Gardens at Sunrise or Sunset

San Diego / Cholla Cactus Garden Loop

The Cholla Cactus Garden is something everyone can appreciate and enjoy. The trail is in total about a 0.25 loop, but you are certainly free to wander around more.

311 Saves

Stand Up Paddle (SUP) in Mission Bay

San Diego / Mission Bay

They call it one of the world’s largest man made water parks. Mission bay is an amazing SUP location of man made bays and parks located just minutes from the San Diego Airport.

310 Saves

Hike Thunder Spring and Chimney Flat Loop

San Diego / Upper Doane Valley Parking Area

Palomar Mountain is the hidden gem of San Diego.

308 Saves

Explore Chambers Hidden Dam and Waterfall

San Diego / Chambers Dam Parking

Once you get off on Poway road, turn right onto Sabre Springs Parkway. Take your immediate left onto Creekbridge Road and park right there on the hill.

306 Saves

Hike El Cajon Mountain

San Diego / El Cajon Mountain Trail

This challenging trek is a great way to get in shape for that spring or summer trip to the Sierras. You may have heard others tell you how tough the hike is and they're not kidding.

291 Saves

Hike Eagle Rock via the Pacific Crest Trail

San Diego / Eagle Rock, Pacific Crest Trail

With doing more hikes in the SoCal area, I've realized half the battle is just trying to find the damn trailhead. Technically you have 2 ways to enter this trail ...

286 Saves

Hike Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail

San Diego / Mission Road to Bernardo Summit Trail

Bernardo Mountain is located on the Coast to Crest Trail in San Dieguito River Park. The 7.36 mile out-and-back trail to the 1150 ft. summit starts on the east side of I-15.

285 Saves

Hike to French Valley

San Diego / Upper Doane Valley Parking Area

When it comes to Palomar Mountain State Park, most people stick to Doane Lake and Upper Doane Valley.

272 Saves

Hike Tahquitz Peak via Devil's Slide Trail

San Diego / Humber Park

The trailhead for this hike starts on the Devils Slide Trail around 6500ft before meeting up with the PCT for a short while, and then breaking off towards the Tahquitz lookout.

262 Saves

Surfing at Black's Beach via the Main Gate

San Diego / The Main Gate at Black's Beach

With arguably some of San Diego’s best waves, Black’s Beach can be found in the vicinity of the University of California San Diego campus, at the southern end of Torrey Pines State Beach and north of.

262 Saves

Explore the Mud Volcanoes of the Salton Sea

San Diego / Red Hill Marina Pull-Off

It should be noted that extreme caution should be practiced when going to the mud volcanoes. While the photographs above appear close, they were taken on a zoom lens from a safe distance.

254 Saves

Run the Convention Center Stairs

San Diego / San Diego Convention Center

This is a great spot to get in a workout and to get some fresh air. The stairs are around 100 steps to the top, so if you're feeling good, you can get a few rounds in.

243 Saves

Hike to Black's Beach via the Gliderport

San Diego / Torrey Pines Gliderport

Park at the Torrey Pines Gliderport, which is conveniently empty before sunrise.

237 Saves

Exploring the Salton Sea

San Diego / Bombay Beach, Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is the largest lake in California, created when irrigation canals from the Colorado River broke.

236 Saves

Rock Climb Locomotion in Joshua Tree National Park

San Diego / Locomotion

Locomotion is a great spot to set up for the day and enjoy the world class climbing that Joshua Tree has to offer.

233 Saves

Hike to the Rope Swing in Tecolote Canyon

San Diego / Tecolote Canyon Parking

Tecolote Canyon offers a great opportunity to explore nature right in the heart of San Diego, whether it is a hike, run, or bike ride on the trails.

231 Saves

Hike to South Fortuna Peak

San Diego / Mission Trails Entrance

Hiking at sunset/night is a great way to beat both the heat and the crowds.

225 Saves

Run Grandview Beach

San Diego / Grandview Beach

You can start at either Grandview Beach and head south along the beach to the San Elijo lagoon, or you can start there and head north...either way you'll be amazed.

219 Saves

Photograph Joshua Tree's Hall of Horrors

San Diego / Hall of Horrors

A trip to Joshua Tree is an adventure in itself, but if you plan so that you are shooting Joshua Tree under a full moon, you'll lose yourself in its beauty all over again.

214 Saves

Hiking the Dripping Springs Trail

San Diego / Dripping Springs Trailhead

The trail immediately begins to climb out of the campground on a well-graded incline. The next mile contains some climbing leading to a set of switchbacks.

212 Saves

Hike to Lost Horse Mine

San Diego / Lost Horse Mine Loop Trail

To get to the trailhead, take Key's View Road from Park Blvd for around 2.5 miles and turn left onto a dirt road. The trailhead is at the end of this road. From here, you have the option to do the 6.

210 Saves

Camp at Ryan Campground in Joshua Tree NP

San Diego / Ryan Campground

The Ryan Campground is but one of many beautiful campgrounds in Joshua Tree National Park. It is located just south of the Hidden Valley use area. There are 31 sites as well as a horse camp.

205 Saves

Watch the Sunset at Sunset Seat in Del Mar

San Diego / Del Mar

In a place in our country where you can take an epic sunset picture nearly everyday, its hard say there is one location tin San Diego that is better than another.

203 Saves

Catch a Sunset at Coronado Beach

San Diego / The Hotel Del Coronado

Photograph the iconic and historic Hotel Del and Coronado Beach on Coronado Island. The Del is a beautiful Victorian resort, which is the second largest wooden structure in the United States.

196 Saves

Hike Miner's Ridge Loop Trail to Black Mountain Peak

San Diego / Miner's Ridge Loop Trail

The Miner's Ridge Loop Trail is relatively mild 4.5 mile out-and-back loop that takes you to the 1554 foot summit of Black Mountain Peak.

195 Saves

Hike the Garnet Peak-Champagne Pass Loop

San Diego / Penny Pines Trailhead

Fresh mountain air, shrub-covered backcountry, jagged peaks, and a killer climbing workout aren't this route's only perks.

187 Saves

Backpack the Boy Scout's Trail in Joshua Tree

San Diego / Boy Scout Trail

The Boy Scout trail connects the main part of the National Park to the outer rim campground, Indian Cove Campground.

182 Saves

Hike the Skyline Trail (Cactus to Clouds) to San Jacinto Peak

San Diego / Skyline Trail (Cactus to Clouds)

The Cactus to Clouds Trail begins in the parking lot for the Palms Springs Art Museum. Get ready, you're going to start heading uphill right away and it's not going to stop for 16.5 miles.

179 Saves

Camp at Cottonwood Campground in Joshua Tree NP

San Diego / Cottonwood Campground, Joshua Tree

The Cottonwood Campground is roughly 40 minutes south of the main attractions in Joshua Tree on Pinyon Canyon Rd and is located right next to the visitor center The biggest advantage of this site is .

174 Saves

Explore the Algodones Sand Dunes

San Diego / Algodones Dunes, CA

The North Algodones Dunes Wilderness System offers 200 square miles of open dune wilderness to explore. You can do as little or as much as you want in this vast open space.

171 Saves

Night Hike Painted Canyon

San Diego / Mecca Hills Wilderness Trails

Take Box Canyon Rd to Painted Canyon Road. Painted Canyon Road is a dirt road, so exercise caution. The road dead ends at the Painted Canyon Trailhead parking lot.

157 Saves

Night Photography at the Salton Sea

San Diego / Bombay Beach, Salton Sea

Heading from the Los Angeles area, hop on the I-10 East, eventually keep righ to continue on CA-86 South signs for Brawley/El Centro/865 Expy, then a left on 195 East, then a right onto CA-111 South,.

155 Saves

Hike Oak Canyon in Mission Trails Regional Park

San Diego / Oak Canyon Trailhead

Starting on Father Junipero Serra Trail, drive 0.7 miles west to the Old Mission Dam parking lot on the left.

154 Saves

Off-Road through Split Mountain in Anza Borrego

San Diego / Fish Creek

For all you desert lovers- this is a must.

154 Saves

Hike a Portion of the Pacific Crest Trail

San Diego / Nobel Canyon Trailhead

Noble Canyon Trail is used by hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders. The trail is mostly dirt with an occasional rock patch and low shrubs on both sides.

147 Saves

Hike up Black's Mountain in San Diego

San Diego / South Point View Trailhead

Starting at the trail head at the end of Oviedo way, you will see a power line on top of the small hill across from the rec center, which is the start of the South Point View Trail.

147 Saves

Night Shoot at Mt. Laguna USAF Station

San Diego / Mt Laguna USAF Station

This is a great stop when passing through the Anza Borrego Desert. The drive is very scenic, and passes through Sunrise Highway.

141 Saves

Swim in La Jolla Cove

San Diego / La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is an iconic destination in San Diego for visitors and locals alike.

140 Saves

Catch a Sunset at the Imperial Beach Pier

San Diego / Imperial Beach Pier

From San Diego, head South on Hwy 5 for 12 miles. Take a right on exit 5A for Palm Ave/CA-75. Take CA-75 west for 1.6 miles. Stay on Palm Ave as it splits from CA-75.

137 Saves

Palm Canyon Trail

San Diego / Indian Canyons, Palm Springs

The fifteen mile long Palm Canyon, one of the Indian Canyons, is among the most beautiful natural sites in Western North America.

135 Saves

Hike to the Antenna Station on Cowles Mountain

San Diego / Big Rock Trailhead

Start by plugging 8125 Arlette St, Santee, CA into your GPS. This takes you to Big Rock Park, a convenient parking spot for the Cowles Hike.

133 Saves

Hike the South Lykken Trail to Picnic Area

San Diego / South Lykken Trail

The South Lykken Trail is the south half of the 9.5-mile Carl Lykken Trail, which weaves along a series of mountain ridges above downtown Palm Springs. This section of the trail runs 4.

127 Saves

Hike the Barker Dam

San Diego / Barker Dam Nature Trail

The Barker Damn trail is a 1.5 mile loop trail across flat terrain which makes it great for the whole family.

117 Saves

Hike the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve

San Diego / Blue Sky Ecological Reserve Trailhead

Starting at the trail head where you park your car, head south along the Green Valley Truck Trail.

115 Saves

Hiking the Laguna Hills via the PCT

San Diego / Laguna Hills Trail via the PCT

This trail is well-maintained, but gets a little rocky on the PCT, and the Chariot Fire burn-zone between Penny Pines and Hayes peak will have a few downed trees and some overgrown grasses.

114 Saves

Explore the Sutherland Dam

San Diego / Sutherland Dam

Once your on Sutherland Dam Rd, follow it until your right next to the dam. Park on the side of the road where you see a small turn-out.

102 Saves

Photograph the Mexican Border on the PCT Southern Terminus

San Diego / Pacific Crest Trail Southern Terminus

From San Diego head East on Hwy 8 for roughly 60 miles to Buckman Springs Road (Exit 51). Take a right on Buckman Springs road an drive South for 10 miles.

101 Saves

Winter Hike to Ryan Mountain

San Diego / Ryan Mountain Trailhead

Hike starts at the base of Ryan Mountain. The trail runs along side the mountain, offering great views overlooking Joshua Tree.

92 Saves

Catch a Sunset at Twin Peaks Mountain

San Diego / Silverset Park

Start by parking at Silverset Park. You will see the trail head for Twin Peaks just behind the park.

86 Saves

Visit the Anza Borrego Metal Sculptures

San Diego / Borrego Springs Sculptures

Here's a map I made that marks where most of the sculptures are (here).First, you enter the park and drive through the little city of Borrego Springs.

76 Saves

Hike the Oakoasis Open Space Preserve

San Diego / Oakoasis Parking Area

Starting at the trail-head, head down towards the oak-lined ravine marking the beginning of the hike.

73 Saves

Hike Corte Madera Mountain

San Diego / Corte Madera Mountain

From Buckman Springs Road, turn onto Corral Canyon OHV/Morena Stokes Valley Rd and drive almost 5 miles to a green gate with a red heart on it, this is the trailhead.

72 Saves

Catch a Sunset at Lake Murray

San Diego / Murray Reservoir

Lake Murray Reservoir provides drinking water to parts of San Diego, and thus is a no swimming lake.

72 Saves

Multi-pitch Climbing at Corte Madera

San Diego / Corte Madera Mountain Trailhead

This is one of San Diego's finest multi-pitch climbing crags. South-facing and standing 500 feet tall, Corte Madera has a history of both traditional and sport routes.

70 Saves

Hike Garnet Peak Trail

San Diego / Garnet Peak Trail

While there are a few trail options, the designated Garnet Peak Trail begins off of Sunrise Highway at Mile Marker 27.8.

70 Saves

Hike to Battle Mountain's Cross

San Diego / Battle Mountain Trailhead

When it comes to Rancho Bernardo, most people overlook this "mountain" because of its size compared to Mule Hill and other neighboring peaks.

70 Saves

Hike Ryan Mountain

San Diego / Ryan Mountain Trailhead

One of the most prominent peaks in Joshua Tree National Park in Ryan Mountain. It's centrally located rising to a total of 5,456 feet above the valley floor.

69 Saves

Hike to Crystal Cave

San Diego / Crystal Cave Trailhead

Starting at 8100 Mesa road, you will see parking along the side of the road in a few places, take advantage where you find it.  Pass over the trail gate that marks the start of the journey.

68 Saves

Catch a Sunset at Ryan Ranch

San Diego / Ryan Campground

If you're in Joshua Tree, this is a great spot for sunset. A short, maybe 1/2 mile hike to the old ranch from the parking lot.

68 Saves

Hiking in Santa Ysabel

San Diego / West Vista Loop Trail

Starting at the trailhead on Hwy 79, enter through the gate and make sure to close it behind you - the preserve is open range area for herds of cows, make sure not to disturb them when hiking.

65 Saves

Hike the Calcite Mine Trail in the Anza-Borrego Desert

San Diego / Calcite Mine Road Lookout

Open from March until October - but I would not particularly recommend this hike in the summer months, unless you started in the wee almost dark hours.

53 Saves

Visit the Rice Shoe Fence

San Diego / Rice Shoe Fence

If you're traveling on CA-62, keep an eye out on the south side of the road for the enormous shrine of retired footwear from passers by.

51 Saves

Hike to Lake Cahuilla

San Diego / Cove to Lake Trailhead

From Hwy. 111 take Washington (South) 3 miles to Avenue 52 (Turn Right). Take Avenue 52 a 1/2 mile to Avenida Bermudas (Turn Left). Follow Avenida Bermudas for 2 miles (becomes Calle Tecate).

50 Saves

Hike around Goodan Ranch

San Diego / Sycamore Canyon Trailhead

Starting at the Sycamore Canyon Trail head, you will see the sign and gate that leads to Goodan Ranch. Head down the gravel road for 1.1 miles, until you reach a 3-way directional split.

45 Saves

Hike to Mountain Palm Springs, Anza Borrego SP

San Diego / Mountain Palms Road

At first glance the Anza-Borrego desert appears lifeless, a wasteland of rocky plain peaks rising up from Carrizo Plains covered in Cholla cactus and Ocotillo.

45 Saves

Catch a Sunset at Fonts Point

San Diego / Fonts Point Trailhead

The best time to go to Fonts point is right before the sun sets. It is located in the desert, so be sure to dress warmly and bring a blanket or two.

42 Saves

Hike the Ladder Canyon/Painted Canyon Loop

San Diego / Painted Canyon Trailhead

From Interstate 10, take State Highway 195 (Box Canyon Road) to Painted Canyon Road.

28 Saves

Dispersed Camp at Old Dale Mining District

San Diego / Joshua Tree National Park

It can be a pain to try and camp in Joshua Tree. Most of the sites get reserved way in advance and if you are looking for privacy or a quiet area, it's not going to happen.

24 Saves

Hike to Kwaay Paay Summit

San Diego / Kwaay Paay Summit Trail

Park your car in the small gravel parking lot at the southwest corner of Father Junipero Serra Trail and Bushy Hill Drive (this is especially important if you plan to take the sunset hike, so you'll .

16 Saves