7 Family-Friendly Day Trip Hikes from San Diego

National Take A Hike Day falls on November 17 – the perfect time of year in Southern California to enjoy some quality outdoor time with your family. The hot days begin to cool down, the back-to-school rush has tapered off and the holiday chaos hasn’t yet begun.

Although San Diego has its share of excellent family-friendly hikes, why not take a day trip to explore a new outdoor adventure? These awesome kid-friendly trails are all located two hours or less from San Diego and include coastal, desert and mountain excursions. Your whole family will revel in the incredible natural beauty that Southern California has to offer!

  1. Idyllwild Nature Center – Just east of Hemet, you’ll find the charming, scenic mountain town of Idyllwild. The Idyllwild Nature Center is the perfect place for a family day trip out in nature. It has a museum area with mountain ecology exhibits, trail maps, picnic tables and four miles of uncrowded trails peppered with serene meadows, streams and views of the forest. The Perimeter Trail is the most popular trail, an easy 3.5 mile hike with hardly any elevation gains.
  2. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – This popular desert state park hosts over 100 miles of hiking trails that vary in intensity, elevation and scenery to give visitors the ultimate desert experience. But there are several easy family-friendly trails in particular that kids will love, as they are packed with interesting rock formations, cool desert fauna, hills to climb and rarely seen wildlife (like bighorn sheep!).
  3. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve – Huntington Beach’s Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a stunning destination for nature lovers to view wildlife habitats, coastal dunes, seabird nesting and walk over five miles of easy nature trails. Your family will be in awe of the 200+ bird species that are regularly seen throughout the peaceful preserve. Be sure to bring your binoculars and cameras!
  4. Crystal Cove State Park – On PCH near Laguna Beach sits Crystal Cove – 2,400 acres of preserved open space that includes backcountry wilderness and an offshore underwater area for explorers of all ages. There are six miles of easy-to-moderate well-marked hiking trails that feature a breathtaking view of the California coastline and the San Gabriel mountains. After your adventure, enjoy a meal or snack seaside, by the cliffs.
  5. Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park – Outside Mission Viejo is Whiting Ranch, a 2,500-acre park full of shady oak canyons, lush rolling hills and amazing rock formations. The park has 23 hiking trails, several of which are easy and accessible to nearly everyone. One great aspect of Whiting Ranch is that you won’t need to trek out into miles of rough terrain to find interesting, beautiful views. The first trail, Borrego, is a shady, gently rising path that’s perfect for hikers of all ages and abilities.
  6. Cuyamaca Rancho State Park – The closest and most accessible state park in San Diego County, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park features over 25,000 acres of dense forest, sprawling meadows and seasonal waterfalls. There are over 100 miles of hiking trails to explore, many of them family-friendly and packed with memorable scenic views along the way. The kids will especially love checking out the Stonewall Mine Trail, a short jaunt to an old gold mine!
  7. Terranea Discovery Trail – The posh Terranea Resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes offers truly exquisite views of the pristine Southern California coastline. But you don’t have to book a room there to enjoy the spectacular Terranea Discovery Trail – a two-mile leisurely trail that offers jaw-dropping panoramic views. When you’re finished there, head over to the cliffs at Pelican Cove Park for additional views and an easy hike along the cliffs. If you have the time, you can even continue on out to the historic Point Vicente Lighthouse.

Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups has you covered for all the best family-friendly outings in San Diego County.

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