Exploring Southern California: Parks and Places

Contributor: Ruben Tapia
Photographer: Taylor Balding
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Finding the best locations in which to take advantage in nature can seem like a mind-boggling task. The choices often seem endless or just lay hidden from the everyday individual who may not know where to begin. Here are a few top places featured in our hiking classes that provide a great environment for fitness enthusiasts and lovers of nature alike.


Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve – 1 to 2 miles

The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is one of the largest sections of protected land along the coast of California within San Diego’s city limits, and despite its location, its natural integrity has been preserved! Tribal home to the Kumeyaay people, this reserve has been the home to vivacious coastal flora and fauna for thousands of years. The park’s namesake, the Torrey Pine, is a rare sight reserved for this particular area— as it grows nowhere else in the world. A visit here is like looking into a past world, making it a perfect place to appreciate the sights and sounds, exercise, or meditate on its spacious 2,000 acres. For those of us who love to run with our furry friends, be aware that dogs are not permitted in the reserve.

Cowles Mountain – 3 miles

As the highest point in the city of San Diego, at 1,592 feet, Cowles Mountain is a gold mine of both stunning and inspiring vistas. Cowles Mountain is unequivocally an iconic representation of nature’s powerful beauty. Though the trail is shorter than many at around 3 miles, it is one made to challenge the body and mind. And as an added plus, it is a pet friendly trail.

La Jolla Walking Trail – 2 miles

If you are feeling more of a coastal walk, the La Jolla Coast Walk Trail will take you along the coast from La Jolla Shores to La Jolla Cove. This is by no means a challenging trail, as it is meant to entice you with stunning views of the pacific, coastal chaparral, and one can’t forget basking harbor seals! A walking trail of this sort is certainly a site for beautiful seascapes and the calmness that comes with the sound of the ocean’s breathing ebb and flow.

Lake Miramar Trail – 5 miles

Located east of Mira Mesa, Lake Miramar Trail is a five-mile loop trail. As far as difficulty, it is a well-balanced, pet-friendly trail for individuals of all skill levels. The view of the lake is a delightful one, and with its close proximity to nearby towns, it is not inconveniently out of the way for those interested in a picturesque stroll or a solid run.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Trail – 4.7 miles

Los Peñasquitos, translated to “little cliffs”, Canyon Preserve is positioned between Rancho Peñasquitos, Sorrento Hills, and Mira Mesa. This area is of both natural and historical importance, with a gorgeous park and with native artifacts dating back as far as 7,000 years. Filled with trails for running and biking, the park takes you into the beauty of this resource-laden natural wonder where two canyons come in close proximity of one another. The canyon scenery can take you from towering sycamore trees to cascading waterfalls. And the central trail, taking the park’s namesake, is no exception with a good balance of distance and difficulty to the fitness-focused individual and rugged masterpieces for an observer of nature.

If you haven’t had the chance to hike through any of these sites, now’s a great time to give them a try. These are a few top places we feature in our hiking classes, and this fall we will be visiting each of these spots in five different morning outings. Please join us to experience the beauty of La Baja!