I started hiking for fun about 2 years ago. Before that I loved to walk, and that sometimes included a trail, but usually walked in a neighborhood near my home (regardless of where my home was). I had also hiked in the Marine Corps, but rarely thought of that as fun! The Marine Corps term for hiking is a forced march, doesn’t really sound fun, does it? They also call it a hump, trying to make it sound fun. I didn’t dislike forced marches, but would not have called them fun.
I have lived in the San Diego area for 13 of the last 15 years, but not right in San Diego. I moved to the Point Loma area of San Diego in the Summer of 2009 and started hiking at the end of 2009. I got started hiking in the local area because of a book, “Afoot and Afield in San Diego” by Jerry Schad. I have met several people hiking in San Diego who had met Jerry, but never got the chance to meet him and thank him for his book. Unfortunately he passed away in September 2011. Without his book, me and many others may have never known many of the wonderful trails in the San Diego area. Yes, San Diego does have more than the harbor, Gas Lamp District, Old Town, a terrific Zoo, Coronado Island, and the beaches (although those are great things too).
I moved again this summer to the San Carlos area of San Diego, and now live very near some of the best hiking in San Diego. The most popular trail in San Diego starts in my neighborhood. It is the trail to the top of highest peak in the city of San Diego, Cowles Mountain. Although the correct pronunciation is ‘Coals’ Mountain, I’ve never heard anyone call it that. The common pronunciation is ‘cow-elz’ Mountain. There is a constant stream of people on this trail from early in the morning until dusk. I’ve never seen the trail when it was not busy. It is a fun trail to hike, a good workout, and the view from the top is great. Cowles Mountain is part of Mission Trails Regional Park which includes Lake Murray and a large area north of Mission Gorge Road that has an extensive set of trails. The other trails in Mission Trails Regional park are less busy than Cowles Mountain, but still very popular. There are a couple trails in north San Diego county that give Mission Trails Park some competition, Iron Mountain and Woodson Mountain are well traveled trails too.
There are more than 200 different trails in San Diego county. I’ve never hiked any of them without seeing several other groups of people. For many of the hikes I’ve gone with groups of local hikers I found on the site Meetup.com. I like doing hikes with meetup groups because there are always people who know the trail and people who do Meetups are usually very social. Although I’ve enjoyed every single hike I have been on in the past 2 years there are a few hikes that have been more special than the others. The Three Sisters Falls in east county San Diego is an amazing hike and really brings out the kid in me. The large boulders along the creek on the way up to the falls make it a giant playground for me. It is a challenging hike, but well worth the effort. Kitchen Creek Falls is another cool hike in east San Diego County. It is not a difficult hike and water falls are always a nice bonus.
My all time favorite hike in the local area was on the side trail off Cowles Mountain to Pyles Peak. It too is a deceivingly challenging hike, but the company on that hike was what made it so special. We went up the trail as friends and when we got back down I had decided to make sure she did not get away! Hiking, backpacking, camping are all great ways to bond with the people you care about. And San Diego is a great place to do all of those things. So get out there and enjoy the trail and the company!
Update 30 December 2013: I’ve added a page to my blog, Afoot and Afield in San Diego County Hikes to track my Bucket List goal to hike all 250 hikes described in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego.