Finding a trail in San Diego isn’t difficult, but finding a lesser known kid-friendly trail can be a challenge. You just have to know where to look! Here are some of the best parks in San Diego County that have hidden trails for families to explore and escape from the daily hustle and bustle. Each of these parks offers everything that makes a great day: fun playgrounds, clean bathrooms, plentiful parking and, of course, beautiful hiking trails.
FELICITA COUNTY PARK
742 Clarence Ln., Escondido
Walking into this park, you can almost feel the rich Native American history, and it's no wonder—this park is home to the oldest ancient oak trees in Southern California. With 2.5 miles of trails to explore, it’s a wonderful place to spend the day. The trails all loop around, so turn left or turn right when driving in—you can’t lose. Walk across one of the sweet creek bridges, skirt the creek side, and head up through the Upper Knoll to find yourself back at one of the two play areas. There are both paved and unpaved trails throughout the park, so take a stroller or explore by foot.
If you’re a history buff, this park is a must-visit. Felicita County Park has the honor of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Book a guided interpretive hike to learn more about the rich history of the area: www.sdparks.org/content/sdparks/en/park-pages/Felicita.html.
Insider tip: Parking is $3; there’s a pay station that accepts cash and cards upon arrival.
Balboa Park’s PALM CANYON
1549 El Prado, Downtown San Diego
Covering two acres of Balboa Park is an out-of-this-world, winding trail lined with more than 450 palm trees. Exploring Palm Canyon is such a unique experience—follow the trail from the park all the way across the street to the Old Cactus Garden. The groomed trails are great for little explorers, and there are more than 50 species of palms to discover.
Insider tip: Find the trail close to Pan American Plaza, across from Spreckels Organ Pavilion.
OTAY VALLEY Regional Park
2155 Beyer Blvd, San Diego (South Bay)
Extending from the San Diego Wildlife Refuge to I-805, Otay Valley Regional Park provides eight miles of trails for walking, hiking, biking, even riding horse. There are seven ponds to walk around, with plenty of benches and picnic tables for necessary snacks along the way. The park and its trails are mostly flat. If you choose the path to the Finney Overlook, you’ll find two unique structures shaped like the first gliders that flew over Otay Mesa in the 1880s.
- Find parking along Beyer Blvd, close to the ranger station.
- This park is a work in progress. Keep an eye out for fun new things coming!
GUAJOME REGIONAL PARK
3000 Guajome Lake Rd., Oceanside
Driving up the coast to Oceanside promises a generous dose of ocean air and awesome views, but did you know there’s also a lake with marshland? Guajome is a unique park that offers four miles of trails to roam. Pass other San Diegans on horseback (share the trail!), enjoy lovely views, and keep an eye out for flocks of migratory birds known to inhabit the area.
Insider tip: Bring defrosted peas, chopped lettuce, oats or birdseed to feed the ducks along the way (never bread or other snacks).
KATE SESSIONS PARK
5115 Soledad Rd., Pacific Beach
Kate Sessions Park is known for its expansive views and perfectly placed picnic trees. In our family, this park is revered as one of the best spots to watch fireworks, but it’s also great for hiking and exploring. The park offers a .75-mile paved walking path around the park—perfect for stroller walks. If you want something a little more off road, head towards the playground to find the trailhead. You’ll discover jaw-dropping views of Mission Bay, SeaWorld, and downtown as you explore some of the 79 acres this park has to offer.
Insider tip: If you want to avoid the playground distraction, enter along Soledad Rd. to access the trails.
Local mom and San Diego blogger Sandra Page can be found adventuring on Instagram at @playdatesandpints. All photos provided by Sandra Page.