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Hiking, Climbing & Beyond

Taking adventure to the next level

Most of San Diego’s trails are pedestrian-only, so hikers have limitless options to go off the beaten track. You can also rent and ride horses at ranches throughout San Diego.


Most of San Diego’s trails are pedestrian-only, so hikers have limitless options to go off the beaten track. The essential must-have resource for would-be wanderers is Jerry Schad’s "Afoot and Afield in San Diego County" (Wilderness Press) with detailed descriptions of hundreds of hikes from the Coast to the Desert, from the Mountains to the Mexican Border.

A popular urban hike is the Torrey Pines State Reserve from the bluffs down to the beach and back. In Cuyamaca, try the climb to the top of Stonewall Peak or a dip in the swimming holes at Green Valley Falls. The Palm Canyon Nature Trail in Borrego Springs is a perfect choice for spring when temperatures are mild and the wildflowers are in bloom. 

Rock Climbing

San Diego doesn’t have high mountains or big walls, but we’ve got some of the finest bouldering this side of Joshua Tree. Most of the rock is nice grippy granite, and the approaches are within easy walking distance of the parking areas. Looming on San Diego’s eastern horizon is the premier climbing area of Mt. Woodson. This boulder-infested peak has more than 100 rated routes in the 10’-20’ range, many of which are ideal for soloing, while the longer routes are also top-roped. There is more face climbing than cracks, but it's the number and variety of cracks that truly makes this area unique. Cracks of every size and shape are found here on typically smooth, clean granite. 

Mission Gorge, at the upper end of the San Diego River Valley, is a great one-pitch, top-rope climbing area, within minutes of downtown. A favorite of clubs and classes, plan to get there early on weekends to lay claim to the prime lines. 

Down by the Mexican border is Valley of the Moon. An hour east of El Cajon, look for the signs for Old Highway 80. A quarter-mile after turning off, a Bureau of Land Management bulletin board shows the way to San Diego's version of the famed Joshua Tree climbing area. Boulders and technical faces dot the arid desert landscape. Camping is permitted.

There are several indoor climbing gyms in town and a favorite outdoor workout is a traverse of an old stone seawall overlooking the beach near the Children’s Pool in La Jolla. A more demanding training spot is "Pump Wall" in Ocean Beach. Located along Sunset Cliffs Blvd. near Pt. Loma Avenue, this textured retaining wall built of large concrete blocks is a higher and longer climb than the La Jolla seawall, with a rocky landing area.

Going Way Off

If surfing and skating and motorbiking aren't radical enough for you, there are other unique ways to get your thrills in San Diego. Try scuba diving with great white sharks or exploring the 300-foot wreck of The Yukon off Mission Beach.

It's a Bird...

At the Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla, you can launch off the cliff in a hang glider and soar 300 feet above the surf. There are auto races at the El Cajon Speedway and Rodeos in Ramona. Or, if you’re feeling particularly brave, you can sample the super hot salsa at a local Mexican food restaurant. If it's hard core, you’ll find it here in San Diego.

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