Top 5 Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails In San Diego County
Looking to keep your kids busy but hoping they learn a little something while you’re out and about? Read our top trails for hiking with kids around San Diego County that offer flat trails, gorgeous views plus interpretative elements to keep their minds growing and learning.
San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and Nature Center Trails
Flat trails with birdwatching, plus a free nature center to mark the start or end of your hike. Recently completed construction of two bridges now connects to the trails on the Solana Beach side of the lagoon, including Annie’s Canyon.
Pro Tip: Pack a picnic and enjoy it on the 2nd level of the Nature Center where there is comfortable seating, clean bathrooms, plus a gorgeous view of Cardiff State Beach.
San Elijo Lagoon, 2710 Manchester Avenue, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007.
Nature Center open 9:30am-5:00pm
Piedras Pintadas & Bernardo Bay Trail
The Bernardo Bay Trail is a great hiking spot, located just off the 15 freeway in Rancho Bernardo. The trail is a 2.5 mile loop offering beautiful lakeside views and plenty of wildlife. Mountain bikers use the trail too so be mindful and courteous as it can be narrow to pass at some points.
The Piedras Pintadas part of the trail features painted rocks and interpretive signs describing the historical use of the land by the native Kumeyaay people.
Parking is limited so if the designated lot is full, head to the Rancho Bernardo Community Park parking lot.
San Dieguito River Park, 18448 W Bernardo Drive, San Diego, CA 92127
Lake Calavera Loop Trail
This 3 mile loop around Lake Calavera offers plenty of lakeside views and the trail edges alongside a now-extinct volcano. The more adventurous and active hikers can take the trails up to the top of volcanic Mt. Calavera.
There are several different entrances to the Lake Calavera Trail. One popular option is to park on Tamarack Ave in Carlsbad and another is off Sky Haven Lane in Oceanside.
Carlsbad Parks, Parking: 3701 Sky Haven Ln, Oceanside, CA 92056
San Dieguito County Park
Located just off the 5 in Del Mar, San Dieguito County Park is a great spot for short nature hiking with kids in San Diego. There are 5 miles of trails offering three lookout pavilions over the valley with interpretive exhibits plus two suspension bridges.
Pick up a nature-themed scavenger hunt map from the map markers at the park entrances. The park also has dozens of picnic areas, grassy areas perfect for soccer or frisbee, three playgrounds and two duck ponds.
Tip: There’s a brand-new playground at the Upper part of the park next to the baseball fields but there are also two smaller, older playgrounds at the far west side of the park that are rarely in use and offer plenty of shade.
Also, arrive early to park outside the entrances to save on the $3 parking fee.
San Dieguito County Park, 1628 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Del Mar, CA 92014.
Open 9:30am – sunset.
Mission Trails Regional Park
Mission Trails Regional Park has tons to offer San Diego families hiking with kids both big and small. There’s a nature center with an interpretive trail toop that’s perfect for little ones. Another favorite hike is taking the Father Junipero Serra Trail – a paved road to the Mission Dam (about 4 miles roundtrip). The Dam has picnic benches plus a pond area which is a great spot for birdwatching and for kids to play.
For active families hiking with older kids, there are plenty of other trails plus the challenge of conquering Cowles Mountain.
Mission Trails Regional Park, 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA.
Open 9:00am – 5:00pm.