This easy 5-mile urban hike spans some of the city’s finest canyons, parks, museums, and more
Whether you call it "walking" or "urban hiking," this easy 5.5-mile loop packs in some of San Diego's best sights, including Balboa Park and the charming neighborhoods of Hillcrest, North Park, and Banker's Hill. The terrain is flat and easily accessible to bikes, strollers, and kids (with only a handful of stairs thrown in). If you still want to take a break or two, you'll be passing a plethora of coffee shops, eateries, and watering holes along the way, as well as several museums and everything else Balboa Park has to offer. Look for a cool day, get an early start, and don't forget your camera!
Park Boulevard Bridge
Start on the east side of Park Boulevard near Village Place and find the entrance to a bridge by one of Balboa Park’s sweetest-smelling features: the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden. Make your way across and toward the park’s Bea Evenson Fountain.
Head west on El Prado through the heart of Balboa Park and past the California Tower, and you’ll reach the iconic Cabrillo Bridge. It was built in 1914 ahead of the Panama-California Exposition and was the state’s first multiple-arched cantilever bridge. Back then, a pond flowed below it.
First Avenue Bridge
Continue west on Laurel Street for a few blocks before turning right on First Avenue. Keep walking north and across the First Avenue Bridge, also known as The People’s Bridge. The bridge was assembled in a Midwestern fabrication plant, dismantled, and shipped to San Diego in 1931 before being retrofitted for earthquakes in 2010. This bridge is the only steel-arch bridge in San Diego.
Quince Street Bridge
Keep walking along First Avenue for another block, then turn right onto Quince Street and continue until you reach the 236-foot-long bridge crossing 60 feet above Maple Canyon. The wooden-trestle affair was constructed in 1905 for pedestrian access to the Fourth Avenue Trolley Station. Once you’ve crossed the bridge, turn back and cross it again. As one of the more scenic bridges of the hike, the extra 236 feet will be well worth it.
Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
Now head one block west and make a right onto Second Avenue. Turn left when you hit Spruce Street and continue west to this iconic, gently swaying suspension bridge built in 1912 that crosses Kate Sessions Canyon. Get your camera out for a selfie as this is a popular Instagram location.
Vermont Street Bridge
Once across, turn right onto Brant Street and follow the road as it turns into Upas Street and then Albatross Street. Make a right on Walnut Avenue and a left on First Avenue. A few more blocks and you’ll reach University Avenue. Make a right and continue through a swath of Hillcrest’s commercial district, where you’ll find many fine places to take a break. When you’re ready, continue until you reach Vermont Street, and turn left to go through the shopping area. Here you’ll arrive at the Vermont Street Bridge, built in 1995 to replace a wooden-trestle bridge dating back to 1916. Cross the bridge into University Heights and turn right on Lincoln Avenue, and continue to Georgia Street, turning right and continuing until you reach the last bridge.
Georgia Street Bridge
This concrete bridge connecting Hillcrest and North Park was built in 1914 and is landmarked. The bridge is currently ongoing major restoration work and is slated to reopen to pedestrian traffic in 2018, but it’s still worth a peek. For now, bypass the bridge by simply walking back to Park Boulevard, making a left, and strolling for one final mile back to the hike’s starting point.
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