5 Fun Hikes in North County San Diego

Hiking in San Diego? Yes please! With great weather, green hillsides, and beaches along the coast, San Diego has countless exciting hiking areas. This article focuses on five popular hikes in North County San Diego. The costal cities in North County SD include Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, Encinitas, Del Mar, and Solana Beach. The inland cities include Escondido, Fallbrook, San Marcos, Poway, Valley Center, Ramona, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, and San Diego Country Estates. Now lets get to the good stuff!

#1 Double Peak Park


Location: San Marcos

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 5 miles

Double Peak Park is known for its 360 degree views of Northern San Diego. One could drive directly to the top and experience the breathtaking scenery or strap on their hiking boots and make their way up. Either way, the view here will take your breath away, especially during sunset when the sky turns to a soft pinkish orange. This location is perfect for families, due to available table seating at the top, and don’t worry you love birds, there are plenty of boulders to snuggle on as well.

#2 Mt. Woodson Trail- Potato Chip Rock


Photograph by Krista Skellern

Location: Poway

Level of Difficulty: Hard

Length: 7.5 miles

Mt. Woodsen Trial is one of the most iconic hiking venues in San Diego. It’s signature “Potato Chip Rock” has tourists coming near and far just to snap a picture. The rock was coined “Potato Chip” due to its thin chip like appearance. Wow Pringles sound good right now! Due to its popularity, a waiting line forms fairly quickly in the morning and has been known to have at least an hour long waiting time. But what better way to reward yourself after a difficult hike than by snapping a selfie at one of the most iconic locations in San Diego?

#3 San Elijo Lagoon Reserve


Photograph by GT W.

Location: Encinitas 

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Length: 4 miles

San Elijo Lagoon Reserve is a great place to bring your dog, friends, and even grandma! This location has well-defined trails, sitting areas, and a visitor center which has available bathrooms as well. Natural beauty, extensive shade, informational placards surround the lagoon. Once on the trail, there is only slight noise made from the freeways. Generally, this location does not have large qualities of people occupying the area at a given time.

#4 Daley Ranch

The Engelmann Oak Trail

Photograph by Alexander S. Kunz

Location: Escondido 

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 20 miles

Daley Ranch is great venue for hiking because the trails vary depending on difficulty. If you think you can only do 2.5 miles max, then no worries! The best trial choice for you would be the Boulder Loop Trail (2.4 miles) which has gorgeous views of Escondido or the Ranch House Loop (2.5 miles), which passes two small ponds and the site of Daley’s original log cabin. This hiking venue is popular, but due to its enormous size, bumping shoulders with another hiker is highly unlikely. So stretch those arms and start up the trials!

#5 Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 7.46.53 PM

Photograph by Delyan Rusev

Location: Escondido 

Level of Difficulty: Moderate-Hard

Length: 11 miles

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve is the perfect challenging hike if you want appreciate nature’s beauty. This popular location has multiple trail options to accommodate a variety of trail blazers. Upon entering the Reserve, maps are made available and a bridge over the creek leads you to the beginning of your hike. The trail leading up to the top of the mountain sometimes becomes congested because the paths are not very wide. However, about a mile in, the trail begins to open up and visitors spread out across the Reserve. Dogs are welcome, but make sure you bring extra water for your feline friend because during April, temperatures increase.

Hope you enjoyed this article! Feel free to comment below your favorite hiking areas in San Diego, CA and encourage your fellow hikers to challenge themselves with new trails.

Linsey Kelly


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