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10 Best North County San Diego hiking trails

North County San Diego is blessed with a varied coast-to-mountains landscape that provides year-round opportunities for outdoor recreation.

In addition to its famous beaches, the region’s attractions include numerous trails perfect for hiking, jogging and biking, with bird and wildlife watching on the side. Mostly found along the lush foothills of San Marcos Mountain, Palomar Mountain, the Santa Margarita Mountains and other majestic peaks in the backcountry, these picturesque trails offer an experience that’s both relaxing and exhilarating.

Here are 10 of the best North County San Diego hiking trails:

  1. William Heise County Park

    The William Heise County Park Trails spans a 3-mile loop accessible from the park’s campgrounds. You have a choice of mountains, woods or desert landscape. The trails are quite easy to manage and provide an elevated view of the surrounding mountains and desert.

  2. North Lake Hodges trails

    Lake Hodges offers numerous, mostly level trails for a relatively easy walking or biking experience. You’ll be treated to great views of the mountains and the lake along the way.

  3. Los Peñasquitos Canyon

    A mostly level terrain provides a relatively easy hike covering 4.7 miles. Along the path are marshes, ponds and streams that offer great birdwatching opportunities.

  4. Pacific Crest Trail

    The entire trail runs 2,650 miles from Canada to Mexico, and the first 133 miles traverses San Diego. The trail offers numerous sections, providing great views of hillsides, rolling plains, the peaks and the desert.

  5. Palm Canyon Trail

    This is considered the most popular hiking trail in the Anza-Borrego State Park. It winds its way beside a river which hasa depth that varies according to the rainfall. The trail is home to natural oases, and if there’s enough water, you’ll get to see waterfalls and ponds teeming with wildlife.

  6. Cedar Creek Falls

    This trail starts at Eagle Peak Road in Ramona and ends in the stunning Cedar Creek Falls, also known as the Devil’s Punchbowl. You can hike to the watering hole below the falls or to the top of the falls. While the hike to the falls is relatively easy, the hike back is mostly uphill, which makes it more challenging.

  7. Lake Poway Loop

    This trail covers 2.7 miles around serene Lake Poway, and offers wonderful views of wild flowers surrounding the lake. The trail has plenty of uphill and downhill sections and is considered moderately challenging. In addition to the loop, Lake Poway also branches out to other trails.

  8. Torrey Pines State Reserve

    This beachside park offers several trails that vary in difficulty. The steeper hikes lead you to elevated areas that provide stunning panoramic views of the beach and the reserve. The place is named after the pine variety that only grows in this area.

  9. Santa Margarita Trail

    This trail follows the Santa Margarita River and meanders through some of the most scenic spots in the region. The first parts of the trail are shaded by a canopy of trees, which also serve as home to various wildlife. In certain areas, the trail gets sandy and you may have to cross the river, which is knee-high at this point.

  10. Volcan Mountain Trail

    This scenic trail leads to the top of the Volcan Mountain along a path lined with beautiful wildflowers and shady conifers. The ocean can also be seen from various parts of the trail. Thirsty? Stop by the two wineries that are close by.