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Springtime Hikes in San Diego

Encounter lush spring growth throughout the county

Hikers in spring are often astonished to encounter lush growths of grass carpeting the hillsides while new growth erupts in profusion in seemingly every corner.

By: Scott Turner, Co-author of the 5th Edition of Afoot and Afield in San Diego County

To most untrained or unaccustomed eyes, the San Diego landscape appears scrubby, lifeless, monotonous, and drab, especially during the arid summer months. However, the wide range of habitats and ecosystems within the county actually guarantees an extended spring growth period that can range from early February deep into June. This gives San Diego County a much longer "spring" period than most climates!

For visitors looking to enjoy the habitats of San Diego County at their loveliest and most verdant, below is compiled a brief description of each major ecosystem along with the peak times for spring vegetation. Briefly, if you wish to see outdoor San Diego at its finest, come during winter and spring. Hikers in winter and spring are often astonished to encounter lush growths of grass carpeting the otherwise drab hillsides while new growth erupts in profusion in seemingly every corner.

San Diego Coastal Hike

Coastal Hikes

Best Times: early February to May
Hikes: Torrey Pines State Reserve

Coastal open space preserves protect the wonderfully aromatic coastal sage-scrub habitats. The plant life here is call "summer deciduous," meaning that the vegetation sheds its leaves during the arid summer months. In winter and early spring, every plant here is alive with new growth, buzzing insects, and a bewildering array of wildflowers.

Seven Star Coastal Hikes

Some of the Most Beautiful landscapes in SoCal

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Best Inland Hikes in San Diego County - Daley Ranch

Inland Foothill Hikes

Best Times: February through May
Hikes: Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, Mission Trails Regional Park

The chaparral belt that covers the inland foothills and lower elevations of the mountains features fewer blooming annuals. However, the brilliant blue of California lilac, a number of blooming vines and annuals in disturbed locations, and a progression of different blooms make the otherwise drab chaparral a surprisingly welcoming place to visit.

The Seven Best Inland Hikes

Panoramic views, oak woodlands, and valleys

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Stonewall Peak - Seven Best Mountain Hikes in San Diego County

Mountain Hikes

Best Times: February through August.
Hikes: Palomar Mountain State Park

Mountain habitats experience the closest approximation of "traditional" seasons with fall color, winter snowfall, a spring thaw, and warm summers. Wildflowers in the mountain chaparral begin blooming in February, and the bloom can transition through a number of different species deep into summer. Some of the best species, including azaleas, dogwoods, and lilies are found along mountain watercourses, and they reach peak bloom in June.

Seven Best Mountain Hikes

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Volcan Mountain - Seven Best Mountain Hikes in San Diego County

Desert Hikes

Best Times: 1-2 Weeks after a Spring Rain
Hikes: Borrego Palm Canyon, Hellhole Canyon, Galleta Meadows

The famous desert wildflower bloom is the most unpredictable and shortest-lived of the spring periods. Sometimes, the wildflower bloom lasts a scant two weeks or so before the desert sun causes spring growth to wilt under unbearable heat. However, if your timing is right, few sites in the county are more spectacular than a peak desert wildflower bloom.

Anza-Borrego Desert Wildflowers Hikes

Brilliant colors stretching across the desert

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