San Diego

13 Great San Diego Hikes to Go on This Fall and Winter

From urban hikes to river walks and waterfall treks, there are plenty of opportunities to get lost in nature.

Flickr/robwiss
Flickr/robwiss
Flickr/robwiss

San Diegans love to brag about our 70+ miles of spectacular coastlines and beaches, but we’re equally proud of our miles and miles of trails that snake all over the county, along rivers and streams, over boulders and rock walls, and through pine and oak forests. Fall is one of the best times to hit the trails; the weather’s cooler and you might even get to peep some fall foliage here and there. Whether you crave a rugged, day-long adventure, a dog-friendly excursion, a quick jaunt to clear your head, or a gentle, sloping journey along the bay, we’ve gathered 13 of our favorite hikes into one handy list that has something for every skill level. So grab some water and sunscreen and hit the trails!

Travis B Johnson Photos/Shutterstock
Travis B Johnson Photos/Shutterstock
Travis B Johnson Photos/Shutterstock

Santa Margarita River Trail

Distance: 5.2 miles
It can be hard to find a hike in San Diego County that’s consistently water-adjacent, but the out-and-back Santa Margarita River Trail near Fallbrook takes you along the winding river, where you’ll see lizards and turtles sunning themselves on the rocks and trek through shady forests and past moss-covered outcroppings. Sycamore and cottonwood trees give you a glimpse of golden fall color, and you can take a dip in one of the enticing swimming holes before you head back.

Preserve Calavera
Preserve Calavera
Preserve Calavera

Cerro de la Calavera

Distance: 5.4 miles
Did you know that there’s an extinct volcano in San Diego County? Cerro de la Calavera last erupted 15 million years ago, but the remains of the plug dome volcano can still be seen from the Cerra de la Calavera Loop trail. Part of the Carlsbad Highland Ecological Reserve and the Lake Calavera Preserve and considered moderately challenging, there’s a good mix of terrain, including wide, well-maintained pathways, scrub brush, rolling hills, spectacular views of Calavera Lake and the volcano, and a little scrambling up and down to the summit. There’s a number of unmarked offshoot trails that can be confusing; experienced hikers recommend downloading the map before you head out.

Flickr/Kevin Baird
Flickr/Kevin Baird
Flickr/Kevin Baird

Balboa Park Trails

Distance: Varying
Balboa Park isn’t just full of culture, it’s also full of hiking trails. There are 19 trails with varying levels of difficulty that take you 65 miles through the park. Access the trails from one of five trailhead gateways, where you’ll find info on length, difficulty, and type of trail, and can download maps of specific areas or the entire park. When you don’t have time to drive off into the wilderness, but still want some exercise and fresh air, take advantage of San Diego’s crown jewel and try a little urban hiking.

Sahil fatehpuria/Shutterstock
Sahil fatehpuria/Shutterstock
Sahil fatehpuria/Shutterstock

Annie’s Canyon Trail

Distance: 2.2 miles
Traverse past towering walls and uphill through a short slot canyon, complete with a small, graffiti-covered cave, before emerging at a scenic vista outlook point with views of the San Elijo Lagoon, the Pacific Ocean, and the canyon you’ve just climbed through. From there, it loops through a series of fairly well-groomed switchbacks to return to the trailhead. It can get busy on weekends, when you can expect a bottleneck at the slot canyon, so arrive early if you’d rather avoid the crowds. There’s even a cool little video so you know what to expect.

HannaTor/Shutterstock
HannaTor/Shutterstock
HannaTor/Shutterstock

Bayside Trail

Distance: ~2 miles
How lucky are we to have a National Park right in the city, with wide, gently sloping trails and an array of accessibility options that make it easier for everyone to enjoy the stunning, 360-degree views of the skyline and water? There’s a couple of steeper spots to negotiate along the out-and-back route, but numerous benches along the way ensure plenty of places to relax and unwind. Once you’ve made it back to the top, head down to the Point Loma Tidepools and Bluffs Trail for an additional easy, one-mile hike down to the famous tidepools.

Jimmy W/Shutterstock
Jimmy W/Shutterstock
Jimmy W/Shutterstock

Three Sisters Falls Trails

Distance: 4.1 miles
This challenging out-and-back hike begins with a two-mile, 980-foot descent that includes some bouldering, climbing, and traversing before you reach the sparkling falls and pools. The polished rock walls and boulders are smooth and slippery, so climb up to the top falls or scramble on the boulders and rock faces either before you go for a swim or after you dry off. Fuel up after you take a dip, and save plenty of water (and time) for the uphill return trip.

Walker Preserve Trail

Distance: 5.8 miles
The Walker Preserve Trail is a fairly high-trafficked jaunt that meanders for nearly six miles along the San Diego River on a wide, well-maintained, decomposed granite trail. Gentle grades make this a fairly easy trek, and a beautiful redwood deck, complete with a bench, overlooks the water. It’s popular with walkers, runners, and cyclists and can accommodate most wheelchairs and strollers for the entire route. Perfect for when you need to get some steps in but don’t want a full-on hike.

Kevin Key/Shutterstock
Kevin Key/Shutterstock
Kevin Key/Shutterstock

Stonewall Peak Trail

Distance: 3.4 miles
You’ll think you’re in the backcountry, sans the three-hour drive, at the Stonewall Peak Trail, which offers spectacular vistas and ever-changing vegetation along its 3.4-mile out-and-back course. Thanks to a series of gentle switchbacks up, a mere 830-foot elevation gain, and plenty of shade from the beautiful forest setting, hikers of almost any skill level can hit the summit for 360-degree views of Lake Cuyamaca and the park. Afterwards, you’re just a quick 14-minute drive into Julian where you can get a well-deserved slice or two of their famous apple pies.

Unsplash/Greg Bulla
Unsplash/Greg Bulla
Unsplash/Greg Bulla

The Goat Canyon Railroad Trestle

Distance: ~Six miles
Hidden back in the desert mountains of Anza-Borrego State Park east of San Diego is the largest wooden railroad trestle in the world. This trek is definitely for experienced hikers and will undoubtedly take the entire day. The trail is not marked or maintained at all, so you’ll have to do some navigating for this one. If you don’t have a GPS unit or at least know how to use a map and a compass, don’t even think about marching off into the desert like you’re Indiana Jones or something. This hike is intense and involves rugged terrain, bouldering, navigating through brush, and possibly an encounter with snakes, glowing orbs, or the Borrego Sandman. Some of the tunnels you’ll see along the way have collapsed, but the workaround will be obvious, and experienced hikers recommend downloading the trail maps in advance. So bring a lot of water, a headlamp or flashlight for the tunnels, use your common sense, and be prepared for anything. Once you reach the trestle it will all be worth it.

@loscoyotestribe
@loscoyotestribe
@loscoyotestribe

Hot Springs Mountain

Distance: 9.8 miles
You’ll conquer the highest point in San Diego County when you hike to the top of Hot Springs Mountain in the Los Coyotes Reservation. After destructive visitors forced the closure of the land to recreational use for years, the tribe has reopened the area to the public for a $10 per person (not per car), cash-only, day-use fee. The trail starts at the Los Coyotes Campground and follows an old fire road as the hike takes you through a dense and shady conifer forest. Expect your quads to burn for the first two miles, some rock climbing, and a ladder/rope assist to the top. Sitting atop the 6,553 foot peak, you’ll find the remains of an old fire lookout and beautiful views in every direction. Register for a day pass online in advance (you must be 18+ to book). Gates open at 8 am.

Bryan Brazil/Shutterstock
Bryan Brazil/Shutterstock
Bryan Brazil/Shutterstock

The Slot

Distance: 2.3 miles
There’s no need to traipse all the way to Arizona or Utah for a slot canyon experience-we have one of our own just east of San Diego in Anza Borrego State Park. The trail marker for the slot can be tricky to find, so you’ll want to download a trail map first. Once you’re there you can wind your way through this narrow loop canyon that was carved into the desert by rushing water. You’ll need $10 cash for parking/entrance, and plan to arrive early, especially on weekends. It’s not uncommon for the entrance to be closed when the parking lot is full.

Flickr/mechanoid_dolly
Flickr/mechanoid_dolly
Flickr/mechanoid_dolly

El Cajon Mountain Trail

Distance: 11.3 miles
If you’re looking for a great view and a good workout, El Cajon Mountain Trail is for you. It’s known as one of the most challenging hikes in SD, following an old mining road that’s a mix of uphill and downhill on the way up to the peak at 3,675 feet. That means you’ll be going up and down on the descent as well, so expect some burning quads. The trail is closed in August due to extreme summer temperatures, so bring plenty of water and snacks if you want to try this trail. Plan to spend the better part of the day on this hike and obey the signs that let you know when it’s time to turn back, since the parking lot gates are locked promptly at sunset. Experienced hikers recommend wearing hiking boots to manage the steep, slippery parts.

Miners Ridge Short Loop Trail

Distance: 2.5 miles
Miners Ridge Short Loop Trail is one of a dozen trails of varying length and difficulty in Black Mountain Open Space, and packs a decent workout in a short couple of miles, with the added bonus of some shade along the way. Add the Black Mountain leg for an additional two miles and ~350 feet in elevation gain. This is a dog-friendly trail, just make sure you keep your pooch leashed while you roam.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat!

Sara Norris is a contributor for Thrillist. 

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.

San Diego

How to Celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego

Check out female-led dance programs, pop up markets, beer dinners, and more events this March.

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Women have played a huge part shaping San Diego into the city it is today. In celebration of Women’s History Month, there are a variety of events across the city that commemorate women’s contributions to our community and culture. Home to the Women’s Museum of California, which hosts events throughout the year, be sure to check out all the ways to support and honor women this month. From art exhibits to dance performances, pop-up markets and yoga, check out the best events to celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego:

Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art

Discover works from overlooked women artists

Ongoing through November 7, 2023
Balboa Park
The San Diego Museum of Art currently has 20 modern and contemporary works of art on display from women who unjustly didn’t receive the same amount of fame as their male contemporaries. The museum’s Modern Women exhibit is your chance to see work from artists like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner, who were overshadowed by artist husbands Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock but whose work has long deserved its own moment in the spotlight. The collection showcases pieces that range from acrylic paintings to photography, inviting us into an untapped artistic sphere.
Cost: $20

Practice Sun Salutations while supporting a good cause

Saturday, March 4, 10 am to 11 am
Pacific Beach
Make a difference in the lives of teen girls of colour while taking a yoga class at Kate Sessions Park. Organized by local nonprofit One Love Movement, all donations for the event go towards college scholarships for girls of the DETOUR F.A.N.C.Y. Expo & Leadership Academy, a mentorship program that promotes equity and inclusion in higher education for girls of colour. All while enjoying stunning views of Mission Bay.
Cost: Donation-based

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Shop local women-owned businesses

Sunday, March 5, 1 pm to 5 pm
Middletown
What better way to celebrate the women in your community than by supporting their local businesses? The Women’s History Month Market, located in the FEMX Quarters venue, is a pop up market you don’t want to miss. The market will feature over 35 vendors from women artisans and you’ll find uniquely crafted sunglasses, jewellery, clothing, and more. The family-friendly (and pet-friendly) event will also include food and music.
Cost: Free

Drink beer crafted by female brewers on International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 8, 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm
Escondido
Women were the original brewers of ale, after all, so it only makes sense to honour our past and present beer connoisseurs with dinner and brews. Located at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Stone International Women’s Day Beer Dinner features three courses, each paired with a tasty beer specially brewed by a team of women at Stone Brewery. The event is part of a larger global celebration for International Women’s Day, where brewers all over the world brew a speciality beer that supports The Pink Boots Society, a non profit that empowers women and non-binary people in the beer industry through scholarships and education. Grab your tickets while you can! 21+
Cost: $50-$70

Attend an exhibition celebrating female and non-binary artists

Saturday, March 11, 5:00 pm
Barrio Logan
Head over to the entertainment and community venue Corazon del Barrio and show your support to female and non-binary artists, whose art and music will be featured in the Diosa Art Show. Around 40 artists are on the bill at this all-ages event.
Cost: Free

Drink some pints for the pups

Saturday, March 11, 12 pm to 4 pm
Carmel Mountain
If you need another excuse to down some brews, Second Chance Beer Company is hosting its first ever Ladies & Pups Market for Women’s History Month. The brewery, which holds various events throughout the year, donates a percentage of its sales to animal rescue organizations in California and Arizona. The dog-friendly market will include pop ups from women-owned businesses such as Bold Bouquet, Wet Nose Pottery, and No, You Sit! Treats. For the occasion, Second Chance will serve Fistful of Gummies – Berry Edition, a rendition of their fruited sour beer created in collaboration with Pink Boots Society, an organization that supports women and non-binary individuals in the beer industry.
Cost: Free

Photo courtesy of Women's Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California

Attend a ceremony at the Women’s Museum of California

Saturday, March 18, 11 am to 1 pm
Rolando
Perhaps San Diego’s largest Women’s History Month event, the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame recognizes local women for their achievements in the community. The annual event, which takes place at Joan B. Kroc Theatre, is a project of the Women’s Museum of California, a museum dedicated to educating the public about women’s contributions through history with exhibits, programs, and events. Over 100 women have been inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame since the program was founded in 2001, and this year’s class includes notable women like activist Norma Ch√°vez-Peterson and Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. The event includes a VIP brunch followed by the Induction Ceremony. Be sure to purchase tickets early to secure your spot.
Cost: $20-$150

Join a community of local women and get inspired

Monday, March 20, 5 pm to 7:30 pm
Miramar
The Women’s Speaker Series at Alesmith Brewing Company is a monthly community gathering where local women come together to support one another in achieving professional and personal goals. The event includes a social hour followed by a selected speaker. For this month, the Women’s Speaker Series features career coach and small business owner Laura Bashore, who will share her insight on how you can advance your career or business. Make sure to reserve your spot before attending!
Cost: Free

Come hear about the roles San Diego women played during World War II

Tuesday, March 21, 1 pm to 3 pm
Mission Valley
In the early 20th century, many women were not allowed or expected to be the breadwinners for their households, but things suddenly changed with the United States’ entry into World War II. Here’s your chance to learn about the real experiences of women who lived through WWll and how they navigated through it all. Presented by Oasis San Diego, head over to Mission Valley Library to attend this in-person event.
Cost: Free

Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project

Attend a ballet program choreographed entirely by women

Thursday, March 23 ‚Äď Saturday, March 25 & Monday, March 27, 7:30 pm
Liberty Station
Experience not one but three world premiere ballet performances at The Rosin Box Project, a contemporary ballet company that works to redefine the concept of dance and how it’s experienced for both artists and audiences. To coincide with Women’s History Month, TRBP is kicking off its 2023 season with Empower, a female-led ballet program choreographed by TRBO Residents Lauren Flower, Bethany Green, and Carly Topazio. The program, which takes place at Light Box Theater, offers a fresh take on dance by pushing the boundaries of traditional ballet. Your ticket includes a post-show reception.
Cost: $45

Hear music by a little-known female early 20th-century composer

Friday, March 24, 6:30 pm to 7:45 pm
Balboa Park
While you may not be familiar with composer Alice Barnett Stevenson, she played an integral part in San Diego’s music scene during the early 1900s. Stevenson was an active member of various music organizations at the time, and she composed art songs for voice and piano and performed at schools all over the country. Her home became a hub for local recitals from visiting musicians, and was also where the San Diego Symphony was founded. This month, you can hear her compositions performed live for the first time in nearly 100 years at the San Diego History Center. Selected works by Stevenson will be performed by musical scholar Katina Mitchell and pianist Yewon Lee. Be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time.
Cost: $25-$40

Listen to Black San Diego women discuss important community issues

Saturday, March 25, 12 pm to 4 pm
Valencia Park
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Friends of Malcolm X Library are hosting Ain’t I a Woman, an event featuring Black women who will be speaking about their professions and discussing the challenges faced within the workplace and the community while offering suggestions on how to further enhance and embrace equality. The event includes a Q&A panel discussion, door prizes, free raffles, as well as music, poetry, and dance. Seating is limited so be sure to reserve your spot early.
Cost: Free event. Lunch purchase is $15.

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Michelle Harris¬†is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Over the years her writing has also appeared in¬†Atlas Obscura,¬†Mental Floss, and¬†Audubon Magazine. When she’s not busy typing, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and cooking vegan food.

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