Welcome to springtime in San Diego! As the rain showers line up for what is expected to be one of the most epic seasons yet, now is the perfect time to get out and explore all that this beautiful county has to offer. Nature enthusiasts, rejoice! This spring season promises plenty of outdoor adventures and breathtaking views. From lush mountain trails to open desert canyons, spring is the ideal time to experience all of the beauty and diversity that San Diego County has to offer.
Here are five of our favorite spring hikes in San Diego County that you have to try this season:
Wilderness Garden Preserve
This hidden gem located in Pala. Only a short drive past the casino tucked away down a little road is a must-see spring hike! You have a few options for hiking here, the main trail/ pond loop is great if you are hiking with kids! It's mostly flat with lots of flora and fauna along the way to peak their interest. You can also opt for the upper meadow trail or the Alice Fries trail for a gorgeous view of the canyon. It's a beautiful hike after the rain and we have counted over 10 varieties of mushrooms here on our hikes! Amenities include picnic tables and portable restrooms. It will cost you $3 to park in the lot. (Bring exact change as it's just a drop box for the parking fee) Wilderness Gardens Preserve is the perfect way to explore San Diego’s springtime nature without having to travel too far outside of the city.
Palomar Mountain/Lower Doane Valley Trail
If you’re looking for more of a mountain adventure, then the Lower Doane Valley Trail in Palomar Mountain State Park is a must-do spring hike! This loop trail follows the contours of Doane Creek and provides stunning views of meadows and forests as well as access to Doane Pond. The trail meanders through the forest with beautiful foliage and trees and creek to peak your interest. This is our family go-to trail as it's one we can do year round. It's shaded by the trees and full of life. And our toddler can almost make the entire loop! You can also opt for a few other trail heads that begin near the pond. Bring a picnic and enjoy a Spring day in the forest. There are restrooms near the pond parking lot. Parking is $10 for the state park, and you can grab a trail map from the ranger when you pay. The road up Palomar Mountain is one of the windiest roads in the US so if you get car sick, maybe sit this one out.
If you’re looking for an outing with desert beauty, then Anza Borrego Desert State Park is the place to go! This area is in my opinion only hike-able in Spring as it gets very hot and very cold out here in the other seasons. It will take you through a variety of terrains- from sandy hills to canyons and desert oasis - and it’s a great way to experience the wild side of San Diego. There is lots of opportunity to create your own experience out there and at almost every turn you can pull over and explore. The visitor center has a plethora of information to guide you to the perfect hike that you crave in the most vast and beautiful backdrop! On our last trip we took our young son up Hellhole Canyon, which was full of big boulders and palms and then out to the open space for wildflower viewing. Grab a map to check out the desert art sculptures that are in different locations all over town. One of our favorite parts of any hike out in Anza Borrego is stopping at Kesling's Kitchen in Borrego Springs for their amazing wood-fired pizza! They offer creative daily specials that you wouldn't expect out in the middle of the desert. Definitely worth a stop if your tummy is rumbling. Be sure to check out some of the local shops in town. Frederick's Ancient and Ethnic Art is one of our favorite spots to comb through interesting finds. Parking is free in most spots but a few hiking locations do charge a fee so look out for signs when you enter a parking lot near a trailhead.
Potato Chip Rock
Located in the Mt. Woodson area near Ramona, this unique hike will provide you with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The reward at the end? A flat slab of rock that’s shaped like a potato chip! Lots of uphill for this hike but it is well worth it for the views. Be sure to take plenty of photos on your way up, but be sure to stay safe and keep a steady pace. My advice is to try this hike on a weekday as it gets very busy on the weekends and you have to wait in line to take a picture of the 'potato chip'. The base of this hike is beautiful Lake Poway, with picnic tables and opportunities for recreation. Parking is free in the lot and there are restrooms available.
This spring, take a hike through the rolling hills of Escondido and discover the beauty of Daley Ranch! This area is perfect for all levels, as there are many different routes you can take and it offers plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities. There are 20+ miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Enjoy springtime wildflowers and birdsong as you explore this urban oasis. For the more adventurous, you can hike to Stanley Peak up above the water tank. The view at the top of the peak is gorgeous!
So, whether you’re looking for a peaceful spring stroll through nature or an adventurous hike to take in some of the best views San Diego County has to offer, be sure to check out these five spring hikes. From Potato Chip Rock and Wilderness Garden Preserve to Doane Valley Trail, Anza Borrego State Park and Daley Ranch, springtime in San Diego offers something for everyone. Happy hiking!
Tips for your next hiking adventure:
- Always check conditions of the area you are planning to hike before heading out for closures or maintenance.
- Read all posted signs at hiking area and in state parks and follow them
- Pack in/ Pack out, leave no trace. Even a discarded apple core can disrupt the eco system
- Pack plenty of water and snacks even if you think you don't need them. Be prepared.
- Wear proper footwear and cover up. Some trails do have poison oak and you don't want it tickling your ankles.
- Wear sun protection even if it's a cloudy day. A hat and sunscreen is always a good idea.
- Rest and take in the sights. Don't rush to the top, enjoy the moment and take in the sights
- And most important, respect all wildlife. You are visiting their home.
Thanks for reading!