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9 Child-Friendly Hikes in San Diego
Health & Fitness

9 Child-Friendly Hikes in San Diego

Explore the most popular kid-friendly hikes in San Diego where the little ones will have the most fun!

Shahen Araboghlian

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7 min read

October 13, 2022

Between long runs on the treadmill and wellness retreats, you’re probably doing good, physically and mentally. But, doing all that and taking care of the kids can easily become overwhelming and very time-consuming. Now if you reside in San Diego that shouldn’t be much of a problem as gorgeous hiking trails snake through the county in all directions, providing you with numerous exercise routes.

These hiking trails will prove to be life-changing once you realize that you’re putting in your daily cardio and relaxing at the same time. It still gets better though; many of the most beautiful hiking trails in San Diego are child-friendly, meaning your kids can tag along too. Not only will they be in your sight as you exercise but they’ll also be putting all of their energy into those hikes, and learning to love being in nature, all at once. Have we piqued your interest? Then check out these fantastic kid-friendly hikes in San Diego, put on your hiking apparel, and hit the road.

Torrey Pines Beach Trail Loop is all about gorgeous views of the Pacific. Let your kids join you in enjoying its beauty.

1. Torrey Pines Beach Trail Loop 

Location: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.3 miles 
Time: 1 hour 
Route: Loop
Dogs allowed: No

Torrey Pines Beach Trail Loop is one of the most rewarding hikes in San Diego County especially if you choose to trek it in reverse. The hike starts with a challenging incline but gets easier once you start going on the decline. As you begin your journey downhill, you’ll be able to see gorgeous vistas of the beach and canyon rocks, making it worth the climb. At the end of the trip, you’ll even have the chance to get off track and continue your walk on the beach. 

If you enjoy watching the sun disappear beyond the horizon, then you’ll love to know that this is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Southern California. While the challenging incline at the beginning of the hike doesn’t make it ideal for younger kids, the older and more active ones will enjoy it. Keep in mind that this kid-friendly trail is popular among locals, and gets pretty busy all through the day.

2. Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail

Location: Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 6.7 miles 
Time: 2 hours 
Route: Loop
Dogs allowed: On leash

Just 30 minutes north of Downtown San Diego is the Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail, which happens to offer one of the best hikes in San Diego. This path is great for hiking and is also one of the best mountain biking trails in California.  Plus, this is one of the best horseback riding and birdwatching spots in the state, making it a haven for people wanting to exercise and enjoy nature at the same time. Well maintained, and lined up with trees that provide shade — at least half of the way — this is a great trail to hike with the family. But what makes this trail stand out among all the others in San Diego County is the breathtaking waterfall near the end. Follow the creek to the fall to enjoy a picturesque view of California’s natural beauty at its best.

Built in 1912, the iconic swaying suspension bridge at Spruce Street is the most scenic of all the bridges you’ll encounter on the Seven Bridge Walk.

3. Seven Bridge Walk

Location: Balboa Park
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 5.7 miles 
Time: 2 hours 
Route: Loop
Dogs allowed: On leash

Are your little ones always expecting you to take them on adventures? Here’s an adventure they will fondly remember for years to come: t the Seven Bridge Walk. Take your kids on an amazing quest to find the seven bridges at Balboa Park and the surrounding areas. This flat and stroller-friendly path is the best way to enjoy America's finest city. 

Walking allows you to take in details you might miss while driving and keep the kids busy at the same time. As you walk from one bridge to the next, you’ll have a lot of food and snack options along the way, a great way to keep energy levels high on an almost two-hour walk. Remember that some parts of this San Diego trail share the road with vehicles, so keep children in sight at all times. Most importantly, don’t forget to take beautiful photos at the suspension bridge, which is the highlight of this urban walk.

4. Sunset Cliffs Park Trail

Location: Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1 mile
Time: 25 minutes 
Route: Out and back
Dogs allowed: Yes

San Diego County is full of trails suitable for small children, and the Sunset Cliffs Park Trail is one of the best. At about a one-mile round trip, this coastal hiking trail is where exercise meets beauty. As you hike this short trail, you’ll have access to the beach and tide pools which become visible at low tide. So bring your kids, your pooch, and your swimsuit to make a family day out of this hike.  Just be sure to watch out for the cliffs, especially if you’re with smaller, more curious children. Is this too easy of a hike for you? Sunset Cliffs Park Trail is considered to be one of the most fun running trails in California, so you can increase your speed as you go.

At an elevation of 1,593 feet, the highest point in San Diego offers views that extend from Mexico to Orange County.

5. Cowles Mountain Trail

Location: Mission Trails Regional Park
Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3 miles 
Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Route: Out and back
Dogs allowed: On leash

If you’re looking for a visually pleasing hike in San Diego, Cowles Mountain Trail is the way to go. This is the trail that will lead you to the highest peak in the city of San Diego. At the end of the 3-mile hike, you’ll arrive at the summit, which offers 360-degree panoramic views of Downtown San Diego, Mexico, North County, and Orange County on a clear day. The road can get a bit steep near the end, but the views are worth the trouble. This is a trail you can enjoy with the whole family, especially if your children are of an age where they can handle a few steep sections. To avoid the heat, go on this family-friendly hike as early as you can, because it gets really hot real quick.

6. Chollas Lake Park

Location: Chollas Lake Park
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 2.3 miles 
Time: 50 minutes 
Route: Loop
Dogs allowed: On leash

The trail at Chollas Lake Park is one of the best hikes for kids in San Diego. With a beautiful lake as its centerpiece, the 2.3-mile trail is home to diverse wildlife such as birds as well as gorgeous fauna and flora. The very well-maintained trail is mostly exposed to the sun except for the areas surrounding the lake, so make sure to bring sunscreen and stay hydrated.

Trekking the Point Loma Tidepools and Coastal Trail will be an unforgettable adventure for your kids.

7. Point Loma Tidepools and Coastal Trail

Location: Cabrillo National Monument
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1 mile 
Time: 25 minutes 
Route: Out and back
Dogs allowed: On leash

As the name suggests, the Point Loma Tidepools and Coastal Trail leads you to some of the best tide pools in Southern California. With just a few steep slopes this is one of the easiest hikes in San Diego and the kids will have a blast walking its length. This coastal hike boasts unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean and is considered one of the most incredible places for whale watching in the state, especially during the winter months. Besides whales, you’ll also get to see pelicans and seals chilling in the area. The beginning of the trail is accessible for strollers but the rest of the way is muddier, so if you’re with little kids make sure to keep that in mind.

8. Mission Bay Trail

Location: Mission Bay Park
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 6.3 miles 
Time: 2 hours 
Route: Out and back
Dogs allowed: On leash

Completely paved and stroller friendly, the Mission Bay Trail is a can’t-miss kid-friendly trail in San Diego. Like many other trails in  San Diego, Mission Bay Trail offers untainted views of the Pacific. But unlike most other trails in the region, it’s cool and windy almost all the time allowing you to beat the California heat even while exercising. And it does get better still. As you hike the trail, chances are you’ll encounter the occasional ice cream vendor along the way. So bring the kids along, have fido on a leash, and enjoy the hike.

Set your kids free and allow them to explore the beautiful nature of Mission Trails Regional Park while hiking the Grassland Loop Trail.

9. Grassland Loop Trail

Location: Mission Trails Regional Park
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.9 miles 
Time: 45 minutes 
Route: Loop
Dogs allowed: On leash

Do you want to know where most families in San Diego head on a good Sunday afternoon? The Grassland Loop Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park. Surrounded by open fields and greenery, this is a great hike to brush off the stress and spend time with the kids. The more you hike the Grassland Loop Trail, the more it grows on you and the more you love it. Stroll along this mostly flat and wide trail and enjoy one of the best family hikes in San Diego County.

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