The Best Hiking Spots in Town

The local gym can be very mundane, with the same old radio playlist on repeat and the smell of sweat circulating the enclosed space. But UCSD students don’t have to endure the sound of grunting men in the weight area or the sight of girls with full-faced make-up texting at a treadmill that has yet to be powered on. San Diego is filled with amazing landscapes and great weather all year long, both of which may be enjoyed while simultaneously getting in a good and challenging workout. Here’s the four best spots:

Beginner Level

Cowles Mountain
Golfcrest Drive and Navajo Rd, San Diego, CA 92119

Cowles Mountain, located on the expansive 5,800 acres of Mission Trails Regional Park, is the highest peak in San Diego. The hike has an elevation of up to 1,592 feet with a breathtaking 360-degree view of the mountain summit once you reach the top. Though the three-mile trail is not exactly a cakewalk, local hikers consider it to be very practical due to its gradual elevation. Cowles Mountain is less than 10 miles northeast of downtown, but its dramatic change from urban scenery makes the trail one of the most popular in San Diego.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
12600 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve may be the most appealing to UCSD students due to its close proximity to campus. The park opens daily from 7:15 a.m. to sunset. There are several different trails available, all branching out to various places throughout the reserve. Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is home to endangered plant species including the Pinus Torreyana, one of the most rare pine trees in the nation. The hiking trail also provides gorgeous views of the San Diego coastline. Picnicking and camping are prohibited, as well as pets, in order to preserve the vibrant plant life. Parking may be found on the street, otherwise there is a parking lot fee of $10.

Intermediate Level

Cedar Creek Falls
Eagle Peak Road, Julian, CA 92036 or Thornbush Road, Ramona, CA 92065

The Cedar Creek Falls, also known as the Devil’s Punchbowl, is unlike any other trail in or near the San Diego area. There are two entrances to begin the trail: one near the Ramona Estates (just east outside of San Diego) and the other in Julian. The hike is 4.5 miles downhill surrounded by a beautiful landscape of greenery and flowing rivers. The unique reward for hikers is Cedar Creek’s radiant waterfalls surrounded by 75-feet cliffs at the end of the path. The pool of water below is often filled with hikers enjoying a cool dip after breaking a sweat during the warmer seasons. Despite the downhill trail to the falls, local hikers have warned that the trek is more difficult than it may seem. All hikers are advised to bring an ample amount of water especially considering that the journey back is entirely uphill.

Expert Level

Potato Chip Rock
14644 Lake Poway Road, Poway, CA 92074

The Lake Poway Trail, located on Mt. Woodson, is best known for its Potato Chip Rock because of the thin sliver of rock that extends out for hikers to climb to the very edge and gain a sense of accomplishment — or, more importantly, snap a new profile picture to show off to friends. The trail itself is approximately seven miles, with an escalation of up to 2,000 feet. Due to the long and strenuous path, local hikers do not recommend the Lake Poway Trail for beginners. There is a $5 parking admission fee for non-Poway residents.