After exploring Disneyland solo (see previous post), I was inspired to continue my adventures of solitude. I decided to go on a hike twice a month. Some may think hiking alone is unsafe. In my opinion, it depends on a few different factors: What time of day are you going? How long is the trail? What wildlife resides in the area? The trails listed below are very safe for lone adventurers because they are not lengthy and running into dangerous wildlife is extremely rare. I like to use the AllTrails app or website to discover new trails. It’s a great tool to find which trails are rated the highest and also the level of difficulty. You can also find very helpful tips and advice in the review comments from other explorers.
Favorite San Diego County Hikes (including links to more info and trail maps)
Manchester Preserve (Encinitas)
This is a small 123-acre oasis in the middle of residential homes that features three or four trails for a total of about three or four miles. You can access the trail from Manchester Avenue, Calle Ryan or Taegan Lane. I started on Taegan but I would recommend starting on Calle Ryan. That’s the best trail in my opinion. I only saw one other person the entire time, so it was very peaceful…despite the sounds of rattlesnakes every once in a while. There are all kinds of different birds and insects to observe. It took me about an hour to complete. The terrain was easy to moderate. The preserve is only a couple of miles from the ocean, so I headed over to Moonlight Beach for some more rays and relaxation afterwards. It’s a nice little hike to do paired with time at the beach for a nature-filled day.
Calavera Nature Preserve (Carlsbad)
An extinct volcano that sits next to Lake Calavera provides a special set of trails. There are many trails to choose from, some that go up to the peak and some that circle it. I unfortunately didn’t follow the signs correctly and didn’t make it up the peak, but it gives me an excuse to return. The loop trail I completed was almost five miles. The closest trailhead for the trail to the peak would be on Tamarack Avenue. I started at the trailhead for the preserve in general on Peninsula Drive. Overall, this is an easy to moderate hike depending on which trail you choose. It took me around an hour and a half to complete but I would recommend longer if you are going to the peak. This one could also be paired with Carlsbad State Beach close by for a day of relaxation.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve (La Jolla/San Diego)
I almost feel like this one needs its own post. The trails here are usually very crowded on the weekends, and for good reason. The views are so breathtaking and diverse, depending on which trail you take. You can see sculptured sandstone, the lagoon, the reserve, wildflowers, cacti, beach. Probably the most popular trail is the Beach Trail, a 3/4 mile trail that ends at Torrey Pines State Beach. Whenever I go, I don’t really pay attention to what trail I’m on. If I see a view I like, I head for it. The trails are all very well-maintained and clean. Walking along the beach back to the parking lot is a relaxing end to the adventure. Or you can even spend a few hours sunbathing. What can I say? I am a fan of pairing morning hiking with afternoon beaching (?). Check out this YouTube video for more info:
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park (San Diego)
I would call this more of a walk on a dirt path than a hike, but boy, are the views spectacular! After taking in some peaceful vibes, make your way down to the beach, nicknamed Garbage Beach for unknown reasons, and catch some rays. The only water-free access route down is very steep and even has a fixed rope at the bottom used for safety, which is an adventure on its own! Another access point requires you to wade south through the water from the stairwell below Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and Ladera Street. It makes you feel like it’s a private beach only locals know about. There were only around 20 people down there on a Friday afternoon.
Balboa Park is one of San Diego’s most popular tourist attractions. But did you know there are 19 trails in the park, spanning 65 miles? I didn’t until recently. I entered at the Sixth and Upas Gateway and encountered some unexpected views of the Cabrillo Bridge and the Museum of Man building. You can even end up in the main Balboa Park grounds and make a pit stop to the botanical building or a museum. You really could spend a whole day exploring here. Learn more about the park here.
Those are my favorite areas for hiking solo in San Diego County and I hope to discover more soon! Comment below if you have a favorite not listed here! Happy trails!