Spanish Landing & North Embarcadero Trail
For those staying on Harbor Island, Liberty Station, Little Italy, or downtown, this waterfront pedestrian path is ideal. Spanish Landing Trail runs alongside the bay, through Spanish Landing Park and connects with the North Embarcadero Trail that runs adjacent to Harbor Drive. When you’re headed South, just after Harbor Drive connects with Laurel Street (there’s a giant white anchor here that’s hard to miss) the trail curves and you’ll get a spectacular view of downtown. Runners and walkers can continue their pace past Waterfront Park, the Midway and Seaport Village. Those on bicycles will enjoy the less crowded Spanish Landing side, which connects to Liberty Station’s multiple wide, bike-friendly paths.
Convention Center Steps
If you’re downtown in the off-chance that there’s not a giant conference in town, head to the Convention Center for the ultimate stair-running site. With nearly 100 steps to the top of the grand staircase – the one that faces the Gaslamp District – even climbing this bad boy once will ensure you work up a sweat! Circle the Convention Center for several other shorter staircases that you may have all to yourself. With the San Diego Bay on one side and downtown on the other, you’re in for a gorgeous view at the top wherever you decide to climb.
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park
This 68-acre natural park is always bustling with Ocean Beach and Point Loma runners, dog-walkers and the like. The seaside path offers several small parking lots, and neighborhood parking is often available. Start at Adair Street and walk South to Ladera Street; from there you can explore the hillside section of the park. Follow a number of dirt trails that weave through designated conservation spaces, and be prepared for incredible cliffside ocean views!
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
This local favorite is open from 7:15 a.m. to sunset. Even if you’re not staying in the Del Mar or La Jolla area, a visit to Torrey Pines is definitely worth the drive. Park in one of the reserve’s designated parking lots (entrance fees vary) and follow a number of the reserve’s short trails and scenic overlooks. This is a beautiful space for a walk or trail run, offering dramatic coastal views, a variety of colorful birds, seasonal plants, and of course the rare Torrey Pine trees.
Looking for a hike with an incline? Cowles Mountain, just 20 minutes Northeast of downtown, is a terrific option. It will take about 40 minutes to reach the peak of this dog-friendly 3 mile hike, with many spots to stop and take a quick break if needed. Look for the summit plaque at the top, marking 1,591 feet above sea level – the tallest point in all of San Diego! Bring your camera or just take a mental picture of Lake Murray, downtown, and mountains in the distance on a clear day. Cowles and all of the other hiking trails in Mission Trails Regional Park are inland – meaning it can get hot hot HOT here. Don’t forget the sunscreen and lots of water!
While this may be known as a popular local surf spot, Grandview’s steps to the beach will make your lower body burn! Park in the free lot on Neptune Avenue and follow the surfers down an impressive set of wooden steps to the beach. If you don’t mind getting sandy, the beach is a serene place for a walk or run during low tide. A walk through the neighborhood on Neptune Ave is equally exciting; this flat one-way street is a great spot to walk, run, and fantasize about an oceanfront home. The walk from Grandview to Beacons, another epic surf spot, is about one mile.