8 San Diego Hikes to Try (That Aren’t Cowles or Torrey Pines)



It’s crazy how many people flock to Cowles Mountain and Torrey Pines when there are so many other San Diego hikes to choose from.  Between steep mountain lookouts and hidden waterfalls, San Diego has a lot more to offer than you might think. If you’re looking to expand your horizons, here are some other hiking trails to hit in the San Diego area:


Stonewall Peak in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park:


Cuyamaca State Park is one of my favorite places to go hiking in San Diego. It’s much greener than the rest of San Diego which reminds me of growing up and hiking back East. There’s a range of different hikes here, but Stonewall is one of the easier ones. The highlight is a cool rock stairway to the summit near the end of the hike. If you go under the rails at the top, you can capture the view featured below, but be careful!

Distance: 3.8 miles


san diego hikes

san diego hikes


Three Sisters Falls

Three Sisters is probably one of the most fun out of all the San Diego hikes. This hike is kind of the opposite of climbing a mountain, since you start out hiking down and have to hike up on the way back. A series of steep sandy cliffs and dirty ropes will take you to a set of three falls in the middle of the mountains. Tips for hiking Three Sisters: 1.) make sure to bring enough water, it gets realllllly hot. 2.) Make sure the fall is flowing, during dry months, the fall can dry up.

Distance: 3.5 miles

san diego hikes

san diego hikes

Ho Chi Minh Trail

I’m really into finding the hidden parts of San Diego, so Ho Chi Minh was actually one of the first San Diego hikes that I tried. It started off as a hidden surfers trail down to Black’s Beach, but it’s become a little more crowded since the public found out about it.  Actually, Hidden San Diego just took the directions off of their site due to the trail eroding because of all the foot traffic. This hike is short and easy, but can be really dangerous if you’re not paying attention. The trail is made up of a sandstone cliffside that dwindles away depending on the season. There’s also a huge crevice in the middle that you have to be careful not to fall in, but the views are certainly rewarding.

Distance: ~1 mile

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Cuyamaca Peak in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park

Cuyamaca Peak was one of my favorite San Diego hikes this year, as it starts in a pine forest and wraps up to the highest peak in Cuyamaca State Park (and the second highest in San Diego County). The view from here was the best mountain view that I’ve experienced in San Diego.

Distance: 5.6 miles

san diego hikes

El Cajon Mountain

El Cajon is commonly said to be the hardest mountain to hike in San Diego, and for a good reason. At 10 miles, it’s certainly the longest hike in San Diego, and it’s ups and downs seem to never end. Hike Cajon if you’re looking for a challenge, and then probably never do it again. I did it when I training for a long hike in Norway, and when I came down my legs felt like jello.

Distance: 11.1 miles

san diego hikes

san diego hikes san diego hikes

Cedar Creek Falls

Just over the mountain from Three Sisters, Cedar Creek is another popular waterfall hike in San Diego County. If you’re feeling daring enough, you could even take the plunge into Devil’s Punchbowl. I usually don’t say this, but be careful.

Distance: 5 miles


san diego hikes

Potato Chip Rock

Okay, you’ve definitely heard of Potato Chip Rock. Actually, this post should be titled “10 San Diego Hikes To Try that Aren’t Torrey Pines, Cowles, or Potato Chip Rock“. But, if you just moved here or have been living with wolves or whatever, the hike to Potato Chip Rock is Mount Woodson, and it’s actually not that easy.  Well, actually it is, if you take the short cut.

The actual Mount Woodson Trail: 8 miles

The cheapskate shortcut: 3.75 miles


san diego hikes

Goat Canyon Trestle

This is a bonus round, and Goat Canyon Trestle Hike isn’t exactly in San Diego. It’s 2 hours East of San Diego in Ocotillo. Who would I be if I didn’t list my biggest challenge? You can read more about it here.


san diego hikes



Have any questions about hikes in San Diego? Feel free to comment or leave suggestions below!


san diego hikes


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