Carmel Valley, San Diego is the perfect place to enjoy an active lifestyle– with it’s year-round sunny weather, nearby beaches, and miles of open space preserves, canyons, parks, and trails. Hiking outdoors is a powerful cardio workout that can lower your risk of heart disease, build strength, and boost your mood. Below are some of the best places to hike near Carmel Valley, San Diego.
Del Mar Mesa Preserve
Del Mar Mesa Preserve protects a beautiful 2,000-acre mesa on the northern ridge of Los Penasquitos Canyon in an area that spans through Carmel Valley, Sorrento Valley, and Rancho Penasquitos. Within the Del Mar Mesa Preserve and Los Penaquitos Canyon are hiking, biking, and equestrian trails through coastal chaparral, groves of sycamore trees, a forest of oaks, creeks, and vernal pools. Del Mar Mesa Preserve is known for its “tunnels”, which are trails that are under a canopy of scrub oak and manzanitas.
How to Find It: From the corner of Rancho Toyon Place and Toyon Mesa Court, head east on a community trail as it parallels Rancho Toyon Place for 0.3 miles before circling the south side of the gated community. Stay left as another trail branches off south toward Los Penasquitos and arrive at a four-way junction with a kiosk at 0.9 mile. Head straight, slightly uphill, toward the mesa. > Learn more.
Torrey Pines State Reserve
Torrey Pines State Reserve is a 1,750 acre coastal wilderness reserve located on the cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach in La Jolla, CA, just a short drive from Carmel Valley. There are eight miles of hiking trails for all experience levels along the cliffs through sandstone canyons and pine forests that offer breathtaking ocean views. Some of the trails at the park are strenuous, so it’s best to ask a park ranger for advice on which trails are right for you.
How to Find It: From Interstate 5, exit Carmel Valley Road west to Torrey Pines Road south (aka Highway 101 or Pacific Coast Highway). An entrance fee ($10-20 per vehicle, depending on the day) is collected at the gate which is open from 8:00 AM until sunset daily. If you’re willing to walk further, you may also find free parking along Hwy 101. > Learn more.
Gonzales Canyon / Torrey Pines Loop
Gonzales Canyon is a hidden gem in Carmel Valley where hikers can choose from a variety of mild to moderate trails. The Torrey Pines Loop Trail is one of the most popular routes for locals. As one of the least rigorous trails, the 3.5-mile loop is great for people looking to get some exercise while enjoying beautiful views of the chaparral canyon and local plants and wildlife. Other trails at Gonzales Canyon include the Sword Trail, Lagoon Trail, Overlook Trail, and Cathedral Trail. Mountain biking is permitted on designated trails and pets are allowed on a leash.
How to Find It: Access the Torrey Pines Loop Trail from Torrey Highlands Park off of Lansdale Drive just behind Torrey Pines High School. > Learn more.
San Dieguito River Park Lagoon Trail
San Dieguito River Park Lagoon Trail is a 3.8 mile trail located off the coast of Del Mar, California near Carmel Valley. Originating from a spring on Volcan Mountain in Julian, the waters of Santa Ysabel Creek combine with other streams and creeks to form the San Dieguito River a 55-mile watershed that traverses across the county to flow into the Pacific Ocean at the San Dieguito Lagoon. The lagoon teems with wildlife, being a stop for migrating birds and a nesting and foraging areas for endangered, threatened and sensitive animal and plant species. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are allowed on leashes.
How to Find It: From the 5 freeway, exit on Via De La Valle and head east. Turn right onto San Andres Drive and follow it to the end. Park on the street along San Andres Drive, the trailhead is located at the end of the cul-de-sac. > Learn more.
Black Mountain Open Space Park
Black Mountain Open Space Park is 2,352 acres of chaparral and sage covered hills, ridges, and canyons located in Rancho Peñasquitos, just short drive from Carmel Valley, San Diego. Locals love the 2.5-mile hike or bike ride up a dirt road to the 1,554-foot summit of Black Mountain, which provides 360-degree views of the surrounding area, including ocean views to the west, mountain views to the north and east, and views of downtown San Diego to the south. Dogs are welcome on leashes.
How to Find It: 12115A Black Mountain Road, San Diego, CA 92129. Access to the summit is near Hilltop Community Park, located at 9711 Oviedo Way. > Learn more.
San Dieguito County Park
In addition to offering a playground, basketball court, baseball field, exercise stations, and picnic areas, San Dieguito County Park is a great place to hike or run. Various trails climb up the hillside to lookout points offering lovely views of the surrounding area. The park is located on the border of Del Mar and Solana Beach, not far from Carmel Valley.
How to Find It: 1628 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Del Mar, CA 92014, between Sun Valley Rd & Lina Del Cielo. > Learn more.