10 best running routes in San Diego

December 08, 2015                 4m read time
Nicole Wiegand


Every day is a great day for a run in San Diego. The city is known for year-round sunshine and mild weather. With such ideal conditions and so many great routes to conquer, there’s no question why locals are always lacing up their sneakers. Whether you’re training for a marathon or looking for a leisurely jog, there’s a running route to get you inspired.

1. Balboa Park

Balboa Park trail in San Diego, California Ken Wolter

Balboa Park trail in San Diego, California

Ken Wolter

 

Balboa Park is home to the San Diego Zoo, 15 museums, and a rose garden, but it’s more than just a cultural center. The park has more than 65 miles of trails, which range from well-trafficked sidewalks to tougher cross-country treks. Beginners will want to head for Trail No. 1, a flat, 1.5-mile loop that winds through some of Balboa Park’s quieter areas. If you’re looking for a longer route, start at Sixth Avenue and Upas Street to tackle the 6.6-mile Trail No. 5, a challenging trail run that takes you along less-traveled Florida Canyon trails.

2. Miramar Reservoir

The water around Scripps Lake Drive around Miramar Reservoir in San Diego, California Scripps Ranch

The water around Scripps Lake Drive around Miramar Reservoir in San Diego, California

Scripps Ranch

 

Want a relaxing run that offers some gorgeous lake views as a bonus? Head for the trail that loops around Miramar Reservoir. This easy 4.9-mile route starts at the parking lot right off Scripps Lake Drive. The route makes a great tempo run—the road is paved and you can track your mileage with the markers posted every quarter-mile. Be sure to check out some great views of La Jolla when you cross the dam.

3. Grasslands Loop

Running path around Grasslands Loop in San Diego, California Wildnerdpix

Running path around Grasslands Loop in San Diego, California

Wildnerdpix

 

If you’ve been hesitant to try trail running so far, the Grasslands Loop is a great place for beginners to take the first step. Located in the Mission Trails Regional Park, this 1.75-mile trail is wide and smooth with just a few small hills. No need to watch out for rough terrain or ankle-busting rocks on this trail: You can take in the rolling hills and colorful wildflowers instead. Stick to the loop for a shorter run or add one of the many connecting trails to ramp up your workout.

4. Los Penasquitos Waterfall Trail

Trail around Los Penasquitos in San Diego, California Mechanoid Dolly

Trail around Los Penasquitos in San Diego, California

Mechanoid Dolly

 

Whether you want a quick run or a longer challenge, this trail fits the bill. It offers five different places to cut your route short, but you can also complete the full 10-mile run. You’ll start off in a little eucalyptus grove and traverse through chaparral and grassland; the waterfall can be spotted about three miles in. Pro tip: The shade along this trail does little to beat the heat, so be sure to bring plenty of water.

5. Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California Dancestrokes

Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California

Dancestrokes

 

If you want some of the best ocean views San Diego has to offer, look no further. The Sunset Cliffs possess several awe-inspiring vistas. Start this 6-mile run at Ocean Beach's Dog Beach and head toward the pier; you’ll travel along Pescadero Drive and then Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. When you reach the coast, you’ll take a path high above the ocean, where you can look down at the crashing waves below.

6. Pacific Beach Boardwalk

Runners on Pacific Beach Boardwalk in San Diego, California Nathan Rupert

Runners on Pacific Beach Boardwalk in San Diego, California

Nathan Rupert

 

Runners love the Pacific Beach Boardwalk for its smooth, flat surface and ocean views. Watch the waves crashing against the shore, and enjoy the people-watching opportunities along the way. You’ll see surfers, sunbathers, volleyball players, and more as you run. The boardwalk gets crowded, so you may find yourself playing dodge-the-tourist unless you stick to early morning runs. If the scene gets too busy for your liking, you can always run on the beach instead!

7. Torrey Pines Trails

Trail at Torrey Pines in San Diego, California Artifan

Trail at Torrey Pines in San Diego, California

Artifan

 

Although they’re only about 2 miles, you’ll feel the burn when you run the trails up to Torrey Pines. Choose among the Razor Point Trail, Guy Fleming Trail, or a few other paths that take runners right to the edge of tall cliffs. These trails can be challenging, but the outrageous clifftop views totally justify the effort. Try to time your run so you’re rewarded with an amazing sunset.

8. Cowles Mountain

Cowles Mountain Trail in San Diego, California Samantoniophoto

Cowles Mountain Trail in San Diego, California

Samantoniophoto

 

Located just 8 miles northeast of downtown San Diego, Cowles Mountain is a favorite among hikers and trail runners. The mountain is just shy of 1,600 feet, and there are a few different ways to get to the top. The southern route offers a more moderate climb, but it can get crowded at times. Try the more challenging northwest route that starts at Big Rock Park for a shorter run that really gets your heart pumping. No matter which route you choose, you won’t be disappointed by the summit: There are gorgeous vistas in every direction.

9. Coaster Run

Coaster Trail between Oceanside and downtown San Diego, California Almana4327

Coaster Trail between Oceanside and downtown San Diego, California

Almana4327

 

You might not think the Coaster, a commuter train that runs between Oceanside and downtown San Diego, has anything to do with running. Insiders know better. They park their cars at the Encinitas or Solana Beach stations and ride the Coaster to the Oceanside stop. Then they run along coastal Highway 101 back to their cars. The distance adds up to about 15 miles, so route is best suited for serious runners. If you want to get a taste of the experience, park at the Carlsbad station and enjoy a leisurely 3-mile run.

10. Silver Strand

Silver Strand in San Diego, California f8grapher

Silver Strand in San Diego, California

f8grapher

 

Not only is the Silver Strand the longest continuous trail in San Diego, the 15-mile round-trip run is also one of the most gorgeous routes along the San Diego Bay. Start your run by the Hotel del Coronado and continue along Glorietta Boulevard. You’ll probably see a few Naval ships docked in the bay, and you’ll pass the naval amphibious base where navy SEALS train. Need a quick breather? Stop at Silver Strand State Beach and check out the tiny, iridescent seashells that blanket the sand and give the beach its name.

Nicole Wiegand

Nicole Wiegand is a native New Yorker who writes about everything from travel to technology. She loves exploring the city, hiking with her family, knitting, and cooking.

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