San Diego Seven Bridges Walk
The Seven Bridges Walk is one of those cool, “well-known secrets” that make living in San Diego special. Essentially, there are seven unique bridges located in central San Diego — some are very recognizable and you’ve probably driven past (or under) them, while others are tucked away in quiet little neighborhoods, built decades ago to help people easily cross canyons to get to trolley stations. Explore the bridges during a 5.5-mile mostly flat loop, making it great for families or those in the mood for a long yet easy walk. Of course, you can drive from bridge to bridge as well if you have a family member who can’t do the walk but would enjoy crossing, or at least admiring, the various bridges.
While you can start at any point in the loop, here are the bridges in order that would take you from Balboa Park in Hillcrest, to Bankers Hill, to the edges of University Heights and North Park. With plenty of shops, restaurants, and sights to see along the way, you can easily turn your urban hike into an all-day adventure roaming some of the most charming neighborhoods in America’s Finest City.
Head to the east end of Balboa park and admire the prickly plants in the cactus garden and, if they are in bloom, enjoy the bright colors and fragrances of the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden. After that, cross the footbridge that runs over Park Blvd and ends by the lovely fountain in front of the Fleet Science Center. Stroll down El Prado, the main footpath running through Balboa Park, and you’ll soon be at the Cabrillo Bridge.
If you’ve ever been driving on the 163 and looked up to see a stunning, multi-arched bridge, then you are familiar with the Cabrillo Bridge. Built for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915, the bridge is nearly 125 feet high and 1,500 feet long.
After you’ve crossed the Cabrillo Bridge continue walking west on Laurel street until you reach 1st Avenue. Turn right and head north a few blocks. Once you pass Nutmeg, you’ll soon be on the only steel arch bridge in San Diego. Built in 1931, the bridge crosses over Maple Canyon Open Space. It’s the only bridge on this walk with vehicle traffic, and it may take you a minute to realize you are on it — until you look over the side and see the canyon far below! Keep walking north on 1st until you get to Quince Street.
You’ll see the wooden trestle bridge to your right. It was originally built in 1905 to help people easily cross the canyon to get to a nearby trolley station. It’s said that it only cost $805 at the time to build this 236 foot long, 60 feet tall bridge. San Diego has only a few wooden trestle pedestrian bridges left, so it’s a special treat to get to walk on it. After you’ve crossed it, cross it again to get back to the 1st street side. Then, walk one block west and turn right on Second Ave.
From Second Ave, turn left on Spruce street and continue until you see the suspension bridge. Built in 1912, you get a wonderful view of Kate Sessions Canyon 70 feet below. If you have a fear of heights, this may not be for you if the wind picks up and causes the bridge to sway, but for everyone else — it’s pretty fun!
Getting from the Spruce Street Bridge to the Vermont Street Bridge is the longest walking portion of the hike, about 1.6 miles, but there are plenty of places to grab a snack or take a break along the way.
Cross back over the Spruce Street Bridge until you are back on 1st Ave. There are many ways to twist and wind through Hillcrest, but the most direct route is to walk up 1st until you get to University, then head east. The opening to the Vermont Street Bridge is nestled behind the Trader Joe’s in the Hub Hillcrest Market complex. You’ll get to enjoy the inspirational quotes lining the 420 ft. bridge as you walk over Washington Street until the bridge ends on a quiet residential street in University Heights.
You can wind your way through University Heights until you get to Park, and then take it South to University, or simply cross the Vermont Street Bridge again (why not!) and take University east until you see the Georgia Street Bridge arching over it just west of Park Blvd. You’ll need to walk uphill slightly to get to the top, and from there you can cross the short bridge. The bridge was built in 1914 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.