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San Diego is the slice of Southern California paradise that many people dream about. Perhaps the greatest thing about the metro is even though the population is huge (about 3.5 million), the area is spread out and properly spaced to preserve the natural beauty of the land.

Regardless of where you are in San Diego, there are plenty of awesome outdoor activities nearby.

Let’s talk about seven extraordinary spots to check out in America’s Finest City.

1. The Mushroom Caves

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The Mushroom Caves (now called the Annie Canyon Trail) is one of San Diego’s best-kept secrets. Tucked into the crevasses of Solana Beach and located next to the San Elijo Lagoons, this easy-going hike will take no more than a couple hours.

At first glance, the “natural” hike might seem a little out of place, as the trail takes you under the freeway. Once you get to the other side, you’ll notice the caves themselves are perfectly placed to bridge the gap between land and ocean. The toughest part of the outing is simply finding the entrance. You’ll want to:

  • Take exit 39 off the 5 to Manchester Avenue.
  • Turn left and park in the MiraCosta College parking lot.
  • Walk across the street.
  • Take a right towards the ocean until you arrive at the gate to the San Elijo Lagoon.
  • Walk to the second gate, and the trail begins.

This hike will provide you with one of the best views in the city!

2. Torrey Pines State Reserve

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Torrey Pines State Reserve is one of the most iconic locations in San Diego. With all kinds of rare flowers, trees, and geologic formations supplementing the breathtaking views of the Pacific, it’s easy to see why.

Located on the cliffs in La Jolla, Torrey Pines has a number of awesome trails for everyone to enjoy. Each one shouldn’t take longer than an hour (depending on how long you stop at the viewpoints). Some of the park’s highlights include Yucca Point, Red Butte, and Razor Point. Regardless of if you’re a local, or in San Diego for vacation, this spot is truly a must-see.

The exact address to enter in your GPS is 12600 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037.

The cost of parking can range between $10-$20 depending on which day you decide to go.

3. La Jolla Coves

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Just down the road from Torrey Pines State Reserve, the La Jolla Coves are an amazing spectacle. The park is placed right along the ocean and is a Southern California hotspot in the summer months. In addition to swimming, the small beach area has several caves you can enter and observe the wildlife. You can also rent snorkels and kayaks nearby if you want to explore a bit further.

Perhaps the main attractions of the area are the seals and sea lions. They LOVE to hang out on the cliffs and soak up the sun while people take pictures of them. Just be careful and keep your distance. Having one of these animals chase you off can be a terrifying situation!

While the area is pretty easy to find, parking can be a challenge. If you don’t have any luck on the street, there is a garage you can pay to use.

4. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

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If you are looking for a nice, relaxing spot to enjoy the picturesque appeal of Southern California, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is the place for you.

The trail has numerous access points and extends past the Point Loma peninsula into the gorgeous coastal landscape. The hike is about three easy miles and provides all sorts of cliff formations to looks at along the water. If you love to kayak, this a great place to paddle around and check out the seashore. Chances are, you’ll be able to spot some seals and dolphins too!

Perfect for a nice family outing, it’s recommended to start the trail in the late afternoon so you can enjoy the famous west coast sunset over the ocean.

To get to the trail’s entrance, the best address to plug into your GPS is 4501 Ladera St, San Diego, CA 92107.

5. Mission Trails Regional Park

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Mission Trails Regional Park is a huge acreage of natural preserve. If you’re keen on exploring the area, there is no shortage of trails to choose from! Ranging from “walk in the park” easy to difficult, there is truly a hike for everyone at this place.

The area is equipped with a helpful visitor and interpretive center to ensure you get the most out of your time here. The park is home to the Cowles Mountain, Pyles Peak, Kwaay Paay, North/South Fortuna, and much more.

Located a little further inland than the other entries on this list, Mission Trails is just north of La Mesa, and south of the 52: 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119.

The desert preserve is so extensive that you can come back multiple times and still have something new to try! Just be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, as it can get pretty hot during the day.

6. Tecolote Canyon Natural Park

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Tecolote Canyon Natural Park is a low key gem of San Diego. The trail is about 6 miles long and is great for beginner-level hikers. You are free to walk, ride your bike, and bring your dog to enjoy the landscape chock-full of all sorts of native flowers and foliage.

Ideal for a fun morning or afternoon to be at-one with nature, Tecolote Canyon is a great place where you typically won’t run into mobs of tourists.

Located in Clairemont, the park has a visitor’s center, as well as a park ranger, to answer any questions you might have. The front entrance can be found at 5180 Tecolote Rd, San Diego, CA 92110. Even though the park is surrounded by roads and suburban neighborhoods, Tecolote Canyon is a wonderful way to escape civilization for few hours!

7. Scripps Coastal Reserve

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Scripps Coastal Reserve has it all when it comes to natural beauty in Southern California. Occupying hundreds of acres in La Jolla, a trip here involves mesa tops, canyons, sandy beaches, coastal plains, and deep submarine landscapes!

The general mindset of this area is environmental awareness, which is obvious upon the first few seconds of arrival.

The upland part of the area, known as the “The Knoll” overlooks the Pacific and all its beauty. “The Bluffs” are a bit north of the Knoll and can be described as coastal canyons that plummet down to the beach below. “The Shore” is about as alluring as it gets. Between Black’s Beach and Scripps Pier, this area is home to awe-inspiring tide pools and various native species. You are free to swim, surf, or simply enjoy the scenery!

Scripps Coastal Reserve is a timeless place that never loses its appeal. It should be circled and underlined in any San Diego itinerary!

GPS Location: 9400 La Jolla Farms Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037.


Calling it a Day

San Diego is synonymous with natural beauty. The powers that be do an incredible job in making sure the place stays beautiful all year long.

Now, this list only covers a VERY small portion of all the natural wonders San Diego has to offer. Don’t worry, there will definitely be multiple parts to this extensive topic. If there are any spots you would love to see make the next list, don’t hesitate to let us know!