arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up play-button plus tab-indicator dots close menu search facebook google-plus instagram pinterest rss twitter youtube rss-two heart Check FeaturedBadge linkedin minus apps placeholder linkedin

Seven Family-Friendly Hikes

Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Explore these amazing hikes in San Diego where kids have too much fun to ask, “Are we there yet?”

Hiking with children can be a wonderful way to enrich their vacation by allowing them to explore the array of sensory experiences offered in the outdoors. Hiking can provide a welcome and inexpensive break from typical vacation activities. Exploring rivers and waterfalls, spotting wildlife and enjoying quality family time in nature can create lasting and positive memories. Of course, not all children love hiking, and not all hikes are for children.

In curating this list, we selected seven hikes that feature opportunities for wildlife encounters and proximity to water with minimal effort to ensure that children of all ages can have a joyful and impactful experience. Enjoy your hike.  Are we there yet?

OAK CANYON, MISSION TRAILS

This beautiful corner of sprawling Mission Trails Regional Park features a wonderful mixture of historical features, hydrological features, and tactile sensations. The hike begins at the Mission Dam, constructed by Franciscan friars during the Spanish colonial period. Today, the pond created by the dam is a popular bird-watching spot, as well as a great place for children to play. The trail through Oak Canyon winds through aromatic chaparral and the shade of oaks and sycamores before reaching a seasonal waterfall that typically flows during winter and spring.

Difficulty: Easy
2.5 miles
Free. Open dawn to dusk
Get directions

CREST CANYON

This hidden canyon lies tucked into a crease in the bluffs of Del Mar Heights. Beautiful woodland of rare Torrey pines presides over aromatic and colorful coastal sage-scrub, which bursts into a glorious profusion of wildflowers during spring. This narrow, looping trail offers plenty of places to short-cut and shorten the loop should the kids become weary of hiking. The halfway point offers a scenic vista over the San Dieguito Lagoon – a haunt for a number of local and migratory bird species.

Difficulty: Easy
1.7 miles
Free. Open dawn to dusk
Get directions

DOANE VALLEY NATURE TRAIL

If you wish to introduce your family to an unexpected side of San Diego, take them to the cool forests of Palomar Mountain State Park to follow this short interpretive trail through the best of Palomar Forest. The trail starts from Doane Pond, itself a worthy destination popular with fishing enthusiasts. Deer and wild turkeys are common on this trail and the route follows a seasonal creek through lushly vegetated ravines.

Difficult: Easy
1 mile
$8 day use fee. Open dawn to dusk
Get directions

KUMEYAAY LAKE, MISSION TRAILS

This short and simple route departs from the Kumeyaay Lake Campground in Mission Trails Regional Park. Amazingly, the lake and its lush riparian vegetation were once part of a gravel mining operation adjacent to a military base. Careful habitat restoration has led to the lake’s present condition, with the cool shade of willows and cottonwoods shadowing the level trail to the banks of two adjoining lakes.

Difficulty: Easy
1 mile
Free. Open dawn to dusk
Get directions

LAKE CUYAMACA

This relatively flat, forested trail system travels along the shores of the Cuyamaca Reservoir where a diverse array of bird life congregates and fishermen try their luck. Mule deer and wild turkey sightings are frequent, and history-curious children can learn about the San Diego gold rush at the site of the Stonewall Mine.

Difficulty: Easy
1-3 miles
$8 day use fee. Open dawn to dusk
Get directions

SAN ELIJO LAGOON

This popular trail network on the south shore of the lagoon offers gentle terrain, an interesting mix of vegetation, close proximity to the lagoon’s sparkling waters, and endless opportunities for bird watching. Benches are placed at regular intervals for resting along the Gemma Parks Interpretive Trail. Numerous interpretive signs identify the types of foliage common in the lagoon.

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
1 to 4 miles
Free. Open dawn to dusk
Get directions

RANCHO LEO CARRILLO

This somewhat free-form walking route can be connected with the surrounding community network or can be taken as a wandering stroll through the grounds of film star Leo Carrillo’s ranch. Less of a nature walk than a stroll through old California, you will encounter Spanish-style ranch buildings, manicured gardens, a gurgling stream, and the park’s resident peacocks.

Difficulty: Easy
2-4 miles
Free. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Sunday 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
Get directions

*Please seek the advice of a professional outdoorsman or hiker before embarking on a hike with children.

Find a place to stay

Book online or call 1-800-350-6205 to speak with a local expert

Related Articles and Features

Deals just for you

Venues

$2 Off Pelly's Mini Golf

Del Mar Fairgrounds 22nd DAA
Valid: Feb 25 - ongoing

$2 Off your admission to either 18-hole course at Pelly's Mini Golf.

Event Planners

Referral Discount

Fit City Adventures
Valid: Feb 19 - ongoing

Refer a new customer to Fit City Adventures and you will receive a 10% discount on your current or future activity when they book and complete an event.  They will also receive the 10% discount...

Activities

Private tour and wine tasting

Hungry Hawk Vineyards & Winery
Valid: Dec 10, 2018 - ongoing

Take a private tour of the winery and vineyard with the owner and receive a tasting of 5 single ounce pours of our award winning wines.

Events to check out

Event

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

Dec 27, 2019

Don't miss America's Finest Bowl Experience! This signature San Diego event annually showcases a thrilling game between some of college football’s most competitive conferences, the Big Ten and...

Event

San Diego Bay Parade of Lights

Dec 8 - Dec 15, 2019

The San Diego Bay Parade of Lights is a time-honored holiday tradition with more than 80 boats lavishly decorated sailing by the shores for all to see.

Event

San Diego International Auto Show

Jan 1 - Jan 5, 2020

Where the cars are the stars! The San Diego International Auto Show features the widest variety of new vehicles under one roof.

Stay in touch

Sign up to receive the latest news, events, and updates about San Diego. Our monthly and weekly newsletters will keep you informed about the latest and greatest happenings in the destination.

Sign Up

Visitor planning guide

For the ultimate guide to planning your San Diego vacation, view and download the San Diego Visitor Planning Guide, packed with useful information that will help you plan the perfect San Diego getaway.

Read More

Partners

Explore

Plan

Stay

Follow Us

Language:

English | Change Language

Select your country or region

China FlagChinaGermany FlagGermanyGreat Britain FlagGreat BritainJapan FlagJapanMexico FlagMexicoKorea FlagKoreaSwitzerland FlagSwitzerlandBrazil FlagBrazilFrance FlagFranceAustralia FlagAustraliaCanada FlagCanada USA

Or use Google Translate

Afrikaans Albanian Arabic Belarusian Bulgarian Catalan Croatian Czech Danish Deutsch Español Estonian Filipino Finnish Francais Galician Greek Haitian-Creole Hebrew Hindi Hungarian Icelandic Indonesian Irish Italian Japanese Korean Latvian Lithuanian Macedonian Malay Maltese Nederlands Norwegian Persian Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Serbian Slovak Slovenian Swahili Swedish Telugu Thai Turkish Ukranian Vietnamese Welsh Yiddish