Wellness & Nature

Run Wild: Discover San Diego’s Top 12 Running Trails

If you're a runner in San Diego, you're in luck. This city has a plethora of running trails to choose from.

Whether you prefer a scenic coastal route or a challenging mountain trail, San Diego has something for everyone.

With its mild weather year-round, San Diego is the perfect place to lace up your running shoes and hit the trails.

But with so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide where to go.

That's why we've put together a list of the best running trails in San Diego. From beginner-friendly paths to more advanced routes, we've got you covered.

So, whether you're a seasoned runner or just starting out, read on to discover some of the best running trails in San Diego.

With stunning views, fresh air, and a variety of terrains, these trails are sure to keep you motivated and inspired on your running journey.

So, grab your water bottle and let's hit the trails.

1. Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park
1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119 (Google Maps)

Mission Trails Regional Park offers a variety of trails for runners of all levels.

With stunning views and plenty of wildlife to see, this park is a must-visit for anyone looking to get some exercise in nature.

The trails are well-marked, making it easy to navigate through the park. However, be prepared to bring plenty of water and sunscreen as there is little shade along the way.

Despite this, the experience of running through the park is well worth it.

2. Cowles Mountain

Cowles Mountain
Cowles Mountain, San Diego, CA 92119 (Google Maps)

Cowles Mountain offers a challenging and scenic trail for runners of all levels.

With well-marked paths and maintained trails, runners can expect a clear and wide path with moderate slopes and stunning views.

It's a popular spot, but not overcrowded, making it easy to enjoy the trail without feeling cramped. While the trail is dog-friendly, it's not recommended for pets on hot days.

With a round-trip lasting about 40 minutes each way, Cowles Mountain is a great option for a quick and rewarding workout.

3. Gardena Loop Trailhead

Gardena Loop Trailhead
5181-5199 Gardena Ave, San Diego, CA 92110 (Google Maps)

If you're looking for a peaceful and easy trail to run on, the Gardena Loop Trailhead might be just what you need.

You'll encounter some elevation changes and beautiful wooded areas to explore.

However, be aware of coyotes in the area and don't forget to bring bug spray.

All in all, the Gardena Loop Trailhead is a great choice for a quick and easy run or hike with some nice scenery and a bit of a challenge.

4. Boulevard Trail

Boulevard Trail
9494 Lake Murray Blvd, San Diego, CA 92119 (Google Maps)

Boulevard Trail is a great option for runners looking for an easy and kid-friendly route.

Although there are some challenging areas on the Mesa trail, the overall hike is fairly easy. The trail is flat and straight, leading to Santee and branching off to Cowles Mountain.

However, the Cowles Mountain route is strenuous for amateur hikers. The trail is mostly dirt with a few potholes at the extreme north end, but it is still navigable on a road bike.

All in all, Boulevard Trail is a great option for runners looking for an easy and scenic route.

5. San Dieguito River Park – Santa Fe Valley Trail

San Dieguito River Park - Santa Fe Valley Trail
8173 Del Dios Rd, San Diego, CA 92127 (Google Maps)

San Dieguito River Park – Santa Fe Valley Trail offers a great running experience with beautiful scenery and well-maintained paths.

The trail is suitable for running, walking, riding, and trotting, with options ranging from easy to moderate. Cyclists and dog owners will appreciate the facilities available along the trail.

However, be aware of bikers and bring water as it can get hot midday. The trail has recently undergone some upgrades due to COVID-19.

The trail has a varied terrain and a hidden section that goes from high to low and back up again. Keep an eye out for rattlers when you are down by the creek. In short, this is a great place to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise.

6. Del Mar Mesa Preserve

Del Mar Mesa Preserve
WRXP+4X, Del Mar Mesa Road, San Diego, CA 92130 (Google Maps)

Del Mar Mesa Preserve is a 900-acre preserve that offers a network of multi-use trails for hiking and mountain biking.

The trails wind through a beautiful canopy of trees, providing a shaded relief from the sun. Visitors can enjoy stunning canyon views and seasonal wetlands as they explore the preserve.

The Tunnel Four trail is a unique experience, shaded by towering scrub oaks that have not burned in over 100 years.

The preserve connects to other trails in the area, like Penesquitos Canyons, providing ample opportunities for outdoor exploration. It's a great place for nature lovers and adventure seekers to escape into the wilderness of their own backyard.

7. Rose Canyon Trailhead

Rose Canyon Trailhead
San Diego, CA 92122 (Google Maps)

Looking for a beautiful and challenging running trail with diverse scenery and wildlife encounters along the way, Rose Canyon Trailhead is a great option.

While the trail can be busy at times, there are sections where you'll have it all to yourself.

However, be careful of poison oak and coyotes at dawn and dusk. The trail offers both shaded and sunny areas, making it a good choice for any time of day.

Whether you're a seasoned runner or just starting out, Rose Canyon Trailhead is definitely worth checking out.

8. Tecolote Canyon Trailhead

Tecolote Canyon Trailhead
5188 Tecolote Rd, San Diego, CA 92110 (Google Maps)

Tecolote Canyon Trailhead is a great option for those looking for an easy hike with a challenging hill about a mile and a half in.

The trail offers beautiful views of flowers, but unfortunately has a strong sewer smell.

This hiking area is recommended for those looking for a quick and simple outdoor workout.

9. Cabrillo Canyon

Cabrillo Canyon
San Diego, CA 92103 (Google Maps)

Cabrillo Canyon is a beautiful nature preserve that offers a variety of well-kept trails for running.

Despite the noise from the nearby highway, the scenery is picturesque and worth the visit.

The park is especially stunning during the Lunar Blood, Wolfie Moon Eclipse event.

Located within Balboa Park, this tourist attraction has something to offer for visitors of all ages. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a refreshing and scenic running trail.

10. Rueda Canyon

Rueda Canyon
Baroque Ln, San Diego, CA 92124 (Google Maps)

Rueda Canyon offers an 800-acre nature walk with seasonal streams and wildlife. This hiking area boasts a 2.4-mile loop perfect for hiking and biking.

It is a local go-to for canyon hikes and scenery. The trail starts at Roadrunner park and ends at the golf course.

Visitors can enjoy learning about the plants along the trail, making it an educational experience as well.

The early morning hike offers a beautiful view of the canyon and is a must-try for outdoor enthusiasts.

11. Maple Canyon

Maple Canyon
San Diego, CA 92103 (Google Maps)

Maple Canyon is a nature preserve in an urban area. The trail is not too long, but it offers a great view of the 1st Street Bridge.

It's perfect for an afternoon walk or a quick addition to a running route.

The canyon has some unique features, including old cabins and cool bridges. There are also coyotes and birds to see.

The trail can be accessed from either the top or bottom, and there are great eateries nearby.

12. Carson's Crossing

Carson's Crossing
San Diego, CA 92130 (Google Maps)

Carson's Crossing is a must-visit running trail for nature enthusiasts. The trail features a beautiful stream crossing with well-maintained bridges for hikers and bikers.

The shallow crossing is perfect for equestrian riders and those looking to test their biking skills.

The shaded trail offers a serene environment for a refreshing run amidst nature. The picturesque view of the stream and the surrounding greenery is truly breathtaking.

If you're looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, Carson's Crossing is the perfect spot for a rejuvenating run.