With its practically perfect weather, stunning, picturesque views and a multitude of great trails, San Diego is a perfect hiking destination. Planning ahead and adding the element of water proved the magic ingredients for fun and fascinating hikes with our grandchildren, ages six and eight. Here are some of San Diego’s best water-view hiking trails for kids. (Oh, and the adults will love it too).
Hiking in San Diego
When our grandchildren visit every summer, we factor plenty of outdoor activities into our plans. We love to hike, so one of our goals was introducing them to the love of hiking. The trick we discovered was to be prepared, build the enthusiasm, deliver the promise, and keep it fun. Oh, and just add water- something San Diego has plenty of.
Before the hike, we made certain the kids were in comfortable clothes and tennis shoes that offered firm footing-and sunglasses and hats if needed. Slathering on the sunscreen and armed with plenty of snacks and drinks in our backpacks, we were off for our first hiking adventure.
Torrey Pines State Reserve
We drove to the overlook at Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve in picturesque La Jolla where there are numerous hiking trails. Choosing the Razor Point Trail with wilderness paths provided us with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean atop lofty cliffs with miles of gorgeous coastal beach. Razor Point and Yucca Point trails share the same trailhead. Both are relatively short and easy, ideal for little legs.
For younger kids on their first hike, role playing helped make the experience unforgettably magical. We assigned one of the kids to be the scout, the other the ranger. The scout forged ahead on the lookout for trail markers, and land and sea creatures. The ranger watched our backside, ever alert that we were not being followed by any “dangerous” elements.
Both eagerly assumed their roles with enthusiasm. Before we knew it, they were both taking the lead, shooting up the trail ahead, finding caves and rocks for clambering about, and leaving us slowpoke adults behind.
The closer we got to the ocean, the more excited they became. Bringing a second set of binoculars was a smart move, otherwise we’d have been referees for “time sharing”-especially when a pod of dolphins just happened to be swimming in the wave breaks along the beach, giving the grandkids an unexpected thrill.
Cabrillo National Monument
Where can you hike to a lighthouse, see breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and downtown San Diego, watch ships pass under the Coronado Bridge and explore a tide pool all in the same day?
Located at the southern tip of the Point Loma peninsula, Cabrillo National Monument marks the spot where explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to set foot on the west coast in 1542. Educational wayside boards located throughout the park enabled the kids to spot different types of Navy and civilian ships, aircraft and landscape features. Telescopes on the observation deck provide opportunities for closer views.
The two mile out and back easy Bayside Trail winds from the Visitor Center toward the restored Old Point Loma Lighthouse where kids can see what life was like for families in the 1880s at this once-lonely outpost setting. During the winter, (January through March) migrating whales can be seen just south of the lighthouse at Whale Overlook.
Point Loma Tide Pools are lauded as one of the very best in all of California. Here park rangers and volunteers are on site to educate and answer questions about this amazing ecosystem. Optimum times for a visit to the tide pools is late fall and winter when low tides occur during daylight hours. The pools teem with sea life such as starfish, anemone, crab, octopi and more.
But even during high tide, the shoreline here is impressive. Waves crashing over the rocks had our grandkids squealing with delight as they scampered through the sea spray.
La Jolla Ocean Path & Coast Walk Trail
An easy hike along a gorgeous ocean path provides some of the most spectacular views of San Diego with plenty of nature and wildlife to explore. Only about two miles round trip, we began our walk along the rocky shores of La Jolla’s ocean path near the Children’s Pool. In 1932, a seawall was built to protect the shore from oncoming waves, making it the ideal spot for children to swim and paddle without danger. In recent years, however, seals have taken up residence in this area.
Along the path, we came across two bold and energetic squirrels aptly named Chubby & Itty Bitty by our captivated grandkids. The surf pounds against stunning rock formations along most of the trail.
Swimmers, surfers, scuba divers, and snorkelers explore the rocky shoreline of La Jolla Cove, home to the friendly nurse sharks and famous La Jolla Caves. The cliffs and hillside above the cave provide a spectacular overlook of the entire La Jolla Bay. Noisy barking sea lions and a multitude of squawking sea birds inhabit the shoreline bluffs.
Mission Beach to Pacific Beach
And speaking of waves, four miles of gorgeous white sand and oceanfront connect the Mission and Pacific Beaches. A walk in the morning or low tide yields fresh ocean air, lots of sea gulls, and a nice selection of shells and sand dollars.
When we had enough sand in our shoes, we strolled along the flat ocean side boardwalk toward Pacific Beach to take in the positive vibe and energy of an authentic California beach town. Crystal Pier, part of the San Diego waterfront since 1927 is most noted for its iconic cottages that allow guests to sleep over the ocean. But, most fascinating for the kids was watching surfers “catch a wave” and fishermen bringing in their daily catches on this long wooden pier.
Quiet, pristine Lake Miramar is a reservoir located in the Scripps Miramar Ranch community of San Diego. Five miles of mostly flat, well-paved trails meander around the lake with wonderful shaded benches for breaks along the way.
The scent from eucalyptus trees surrounding the lake wafts through the air. Squirrels scamper along the path. A multitude of geese and waterfowl fly by, some landing on the lake, sharing its calm waters with a handful of fishermen, paddle boaters and an occasional kayaker. This is what we called our “totally relaxing hike”.
One of the sure bets when planning the kids’ yearly trip to San Diego will always include a hike of some sort-preferably with water. Somehow, the views, explorations, and discoveries we share together always make for a memorable experience, one we hope we’ll talk about for years to come.
Have you hiked in San Diego? Share your experience with us!
This post was written by Noreen Kompanik.