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Running in San Diego

Whether you're planning a solitary jog along the shore or a leisurely run with a friend through a canopy of mountain oaks, here are a few favorite San Diego running trails.

San Diego is to world-famous runners what Hollywood is to movie stars. Locals are accustomed to seeing some of the fastest athletes in the world pop in at the local 5k, just for a workout. Or, more famously, watch them tear through the streets of Solana Beach and Del Mar during the legendary Tuesday Morning Run, a 14-mile routine that began as a two-man affair between triathletes Mark Allen and Greg Welch.

San Diego is also ideal for a solitary jog along the shore, or a leisurely run with a friend through a canopy of mountain oaks. Few places have more running territory than San Diego. Most towns in America might offer a single great bike path or regional park, but every city in San Diego County has a network of runner-friendly domains.

For instance, runners in Rancho Santa Fe like to meet at San Dieguito Park, then head out onto the 30 miles of wood chip covered trails. In Coronado, runners like to start at the legendary Hotel del Coronado, then amble down the sand to watch Navy SEAL commandos power through a typical dawn-to-dusk to dawn training cycle. And in Solana Beach or Encinitas, the place to run is the San Elijo Lagoon, tucked between the two communities. It's 3.5 miles from San Elijo to San Dieguito Park, meaning you can continue on into Rancho Santa Fe or turn back for a nice seven-miler.

And don't be surprised, no matter where you run, to see plenty of other athletes along the way.

A Few Favorite San Diego Running Trails

Balboa Park: Located near Downtown San Diego, this mammoth public space is home to the San Diego Zoo and the finish area for the America's Finest City Half Marathon (which starts, appropriately enough for the city's defining running event, at the Cabrillo Monument on Point Loma). The park features 1,200 acres of grass, three miles of paved footpaths, and 4.5 miles of dirt trails, much of it shaded by pine and eucalyptus trees.

Mission Trails: Located in La Mesa, this rugged offering offers more than 30 miles of running, all within the confines of a 5,800-acre regional park. Of special note is 1,591-foot Cowles Mountain, the highest point in San Diego (the city, not the county - that honor belongs to Mount Palomar, home of the world famous Palomar Observatory).

Torrey Pines State Park: The 8 miles of looping dirt trails skirting the coast are stunning for their scenery. But don't gawk too long: the narrow paths wind over and around oceanfront cliffs. Of special note are the Torrey pines growing along those cliffs, which are found there and only one other place on earth.

Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve: Located at 1966 Olivenhain Road in Encinitas, this 800-acre park features 17 miles of dirt trails. The trails interweave, so you can run short or long, depending upon your mood, and still stay close to where you parked your car.

Los Penasquitos Canyon: This forest preserve is a popular haven for runners and bikers alike. Located near Mira Mesa, just 12 miles north of downtown San Diego, this combination of narrow single track and fire roads can offer from 5 to 20 miles of quality running. Look for the waterfall 3 miles inland from the trailhead, and watch out for the mountain bikers on the fire roads.

The Stores

Befitting an area with such a large running community, the running stores around the county are top-notch, designed to meet the needs of runners of all levels. Milestone Running offers a wide assortment of shoes, and prides itself on knowledgeable staffers with a passion for running; the company has stores in Pacific Beach and North Park.

Road Runner Sports, the world’s largest running and walking store, offers a wide array of running-related products, along with a free run analysis to help you find the right shoes. Road Runner has local stores in Solana Beach, Carlsbad, Otay Ranch and Kearny Mesa (the flagship location).


Find more here on sports & recreation activities in San Diego!

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