With year-round sunny climate and oceanfront views, San Diego is every visiting (and local) runner’s dream. Although America’s Finest City may be known for its endless summer beach runs, experience mountainous desert trails, semi-urban paths and long highway stretches along the coast as well. Plus, an avid and friendly community of runners and endurance athletes will make you feel right at home, making it even harder to leave.
Extending across and up this vast county, here are the five must-do trails and paths in San Diego:
Within San Diego’s famed park sprawls 65 miles worth of trails that range from casual and short to long and strenuous. Some routes provide a tour of the park’s art galleries and museums, including the San Diego Zoo, while others consist of dirt trails run in the more secluded parts of the park and along the CA-163. Conveniently located near downtown and the San Diego airport (about a 10-minute drive), the park has five different entrances that make it easy to access the network of trails.
Crown Point Park/Mission Bay Inner Loop
For a quick yet scenic run along Mission Bay, take this 3.5-mile paved path around the Crown Point Peninsula. It starts at a mini grassland park and then runs behind bayfront homes beside sandy beaches, giving it a tucked-away feel until it ends in front of Belmont Park. Double back to get a longer run in or make a detour at the beginning of the run by turning left onto Ingraham Street, and making one big 8-mile loop via Sea World Drive, through Mission Bay Park, past De Anza Cove and onto North Mission Bay Drive. Both routes are relatively flat with few streetlight interruptions.
Hitch a ride on the train from Solana Beach to Oceanside and run down the coast or run down the coast from Oceanside to Solana Beach and then hitch a ride back up; either way you’re covering 16 miles along the Coast Highway. This nonstop route cruising the coastline makes for a great practice long run while training for a marathon. Although you may have to pay for the train ride, the ocean views and quick tour of North County’s beaches is worth the experience.
Mission Trails Regional Park
Away from the coast and city, San Diego also offers some prime trail running opportunities. This 6,000-acre open space preserve contains 40 miles of trails, including the flat 1.2-mile Grassland Loop, the moderate 4-mile North Fortuna Trail, and the 6.5-mile out-and-back Fortuna Saddle Trail with 1,600 feet of elevation gain up Fortuna Mountain. Although the latter is quite challenging, the summit overlooks the rest of the park and provides distant views of Scripps Ranch.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Just off of North Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla sits a 2,000-acre natural reserve overlooking Torrey Pines State Beach. Six main trails wind their way through the sandstone bluffs, and although the trails are short—1.5 miles being the longest—each can be linked to one another for a longer run. There are two ways to gain access to the trails: Most people park at the lower entrance by the state beach and run up a steep asphalt road to the trailheads. Locals take the stairs further down the beach during low tide, gaining access to the main Beach Trail. Some trails are more technical than others, but all provide breathtaking views of Torrey Pine trees, chaparral, manzanita and sagebrush set against an ocean backdrop.