Ready to know more about San Diego?


3 Less-Popular San Diego Hiking Trails to Try This Year

Skip Cowles, Iron Mountain, and Potato Chip and try one of these treks on your next excursion
Tecolote Canyon hiking trail in Clairemont, San Diego
Courtesy of Friends of Tecolote Canyon

It’s February, which means people have probably already made and broken their new year’s resolutions. I promised to myself that I would meditate four times a week and…yeah that hasn’t happened.

But hiking and running are already a staple of my life, and hopefully something that will never go away. And for hikers, either veterans who go out every weekend, or those who are brand new, there’s a pretty easy resolution that you can make and keep this year.

Try a new trail. That’s it. 

Instead of going to your usual routes that you’ve already done so many times, or going to the routes that come up highest on Google searches for San Diego hikes, try something literally off the beaten path.

The rewards will be great, I promise. You’ll challenge yourself in a new way—possibly physically—if you try a new trail that’s longer or steeper than your usual routes. And likely mentally, as you navigate a new course that’s unfamiliar to you. And those challenges pay off with fresh soreness in your muscles and fresh perspectives as you take in new sights.

Look, I’ll even make it easy for you. I have suggestions for three new trails that you very likely have not done before. 

The Navajo Canyon Open Space trail located in Allied Gardens San Diego featuring a trail sign and a path through the valley
Courtesy of San Diego Canyonlands

Navajo Canyon Open Space

2 Miles

This little trail tucked into the canyons in the Allied Gardens neighborhood is really a hidden gem. You will feel like you’re miles into the wilderness, even though you’re basically walking through a neighborhood. It’s two miles out-and-back, and you can start it across the street from a playground. Park on Adobe Falls Road and take the trail up to the top.

View from the Bernardo Mountain Summit hiking trail in Escondido, San Diego overlooking Lake Hodges
Courtesy of AllTrails

Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail

7 Miles

This is a challenging hike in Escondido that is different from the usual Cowles Mountain/Iron Mountain/Mount Woodson routine. It’s a little more than seven miles out-and-back, with about 900 feet in elevation gain. The difference is the views, since it’s in North County, you don’t get the typical San Diego skylines you see on Cowles. The trail passes under Interstate 15, and takes you past Lake Hodges. It’s part of the Coast to Crest trail system, so you can make your hike even longer if you’re up for it. 

A group of hikers walk down a trail surrounded by nature at Tecolote Caynon in Clairemont, San Diego
Courtesy of Friends of Tecolote Canyon

Tecolote Canyon Trail

6 Miles

A lot of people like to hike Marian Bear Park in the UTC area, and this trail gives a different option. You can make it six miles out-and-back, with only a few short hills—though those hills are pretty steep. It’s a great way to get into trail running, too, for the first time without having to drive way outside the city. 

Start at the Tecolote Nature Center at 5180 Tecolote Road off Morena Boulevard. Follow the trail and go left when you reach a junction by the golf course. Keep bearing left to hug the golf course and then follow the trail as it curves right. Stay to the right as you reach a crossing trail at 2.3 miles and continue until you reach Genesee Avenue. There, you can turn around and go back the way you came.

By Claire Trageser

Claire Trageser has been writing for San Diego Magazine for 10 years. She also is a reporter at KPBS and writes for The New York Times, National Geographic, Marie Claire, Elle and Runner's World.

Share this post

Contact Us

1230 Columbia Street, Suite 800,

San Diego, CA