Everyone is familiar with Balboa Park in San Diego. This massive space offers walking trails, gardens, outdoor concerts, museums, theaters, a carousel and miniature railroad, the United Nations Building, and even a zoo. It is safe to say that if you live in this city, you will spend a lot of time in Balboa Park. However, true outdoor enthusiasts consider this to be an attraction, not a park. If you like to hike, bike, canoe, fish, camp, or bird watch, then you want to know where the “real” parks are, right?
Below are a few that should keep you busy for a while.
Mission Bay Park
This park offers something for everyone. It has a paved path, trails, tall palm trees, a sandy beach, fire pits, picnic tables, and playgrounds. The paved path is marked every quarter mile, so you can keep track of your distance, and there are water fountains and restrooms along the path as well. It is even lit at night, which is nice when the sun goes down far too early in the summer.
Liberty Station NTC Park
This is a really nicely maintained park that is ideal for walking or running. It rarely gets crowded and the path runs along the water for some nice views. It is well lit, and there are nice grassy areas to fly a kite or have a picnic. There are sandy playground areas too, so it is perfect for the whole family.
If you have a dog, this is the place to be. There are trails you can walk and a lot of beach space, but there is also a huge off-leash dog park. Dogs are also welcomed in the beach areas, which is a huge bonus. If your four-legged friend is afraid of the rushing waves, take him over to the bay side of the island where the water is calm and there is less activity.
Mission Trails Regional Park
There are dozens of trails here waiting to be explored ranging from easy to strenuous, and short to long. If you are up for a challenge, take the trail that leads to Fortuna Mountain and climb up the stairs to the top. It is an intense workout, but the views are rewarding. Note that there are a lot of rattlesnakes in the park. They keep to themselves and won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. This means keeping dogs on a leash, so they can’t go exploring in tall grass, and around rocks.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
As the name implies, this is where you want to be to see the sun go down in San Diego. It is located at the western end of Point Loma and is a favorite among locals. If you enter the secluded area off Ladera Street, you will find hiking trails, a beach, sea caves, and more.
Torrey Pines State National Reserve
This 2,000-acre park is a haven for the hiking enthusiast; the possibilities are endless. Ask the friendly folks at the Visitor’s Center to point you in the direction of the trail that leads to the overlook of the Pacific Ocean for the best views in the park. If you bring your binoculars and head to the lagoon, you will find an abundance of birds to observe.