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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 nonetheless...as possibly one of the harder hikes in all of San Diego.
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.
Hike the Mushroom Caves
San Diego / Solana Beach Mushroom Caves Trailhead
The trail begins at the end of North Rios Avenue, there is plenty of parking, but on sunny, weekend days, it may be a tad crowded.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Exploring Anza Borrego's Wind Caves
San Diego / Wind Caves
The drive to the caves is pretty lengthy, so be prepared.
Hiking Otay Mountain
San Diego / Otay Mountain Truck Trailhead
The trek begins on the Otay Mountain Truck Trail at Pio Pico Resort & Campground.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hike Thunder Spring and Chimney Flat Loop
San Diego / Upper Doane Valley Parking Area
Palomar Mountain is the hidden gem of San Diego.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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,.
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.
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.
Off-Road through Split Mountain in Anza Borrego
San Diego / Fish Creek
For all you desert lovers- this is a must.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.