We love visiting the world’s greatest cities and enjoying all they have to offer. But after a few days, we always crave a little bit of nature to give us a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Thankfully, most cities have parks or urban hikes where you can escape to enjoy nature. When we are planning a trip to a city, this is one of the first things that we look for. We were thrilled to discover San Diego has many great options for families who love the outdoors.
Here are 5 family friendly walks that we recommend for San Diego:
- Torrey Pines Natural Reserve
- La Jolla Cove
- Mission Beach Boardwalk
- Mission Bay
- Balboa Park
- Bonus: San Diego Zoo & Safari Park
These walks are great for families travelling with either an infant, baby, toddler or even preschoolers. The length of each of the walks can be modified to fit your family and your energy level. They also give an opportunity to let the little ones who are walking get out and burn some energy.
We brought a stroller and two structured baby carriers with us on our trip to San Diego. We used the stroller for almost all of these walks and always brought a baby carrier along too. This gave us the option to have our baby in either the carrier or the stroller, depending on if our toddler was walking or not.
TORREY PINES NATURAL RESERVE
Home to the rare and beautiful Torrey Pine tree, the Torrey Pines Natural Reserve is dramatically perched high above the shores of the Pacific Ocean. This park offers beautiful views of the ocean, the world famous golf course of the same name and gives you that refreshing feeling of being in a forest, despite being in the middle of a major city. The Torrey Pines Natural Reserve is home to many wonderful, short hikes your family will enjoy.
You’ll want your baby in a carrier for these hikes. We brought an extra structured carrier in case we had to carry our toddler and were glad we did!
We paired up the Razor Point Trail with the Guy Fleming Trail. The Razor Point Trail is approximately 1.3 miles return and descends to a lookout over the Pacific Ocean. It’s not overly steep, but you might end up carrying your kids on the way back up.
The Guy Fleming Trail is approximately a 0.7 mile loop has two scenic lookouts with amazing views. This easy and level trail is well worth it.
- You’ll find portable toilets up near the visitor centre, which is also where the Razor Point Trail starts.
- No food is allowed on the trails, but there are benches to stop and have a snack near the Razor Point trailhead.
LA JOLLA COVE
Centrally located and ocean-side, La Jolla Cove deserves its reputation as one of San Diego’s top neighborhoods to visit. In addition to the great shopping and good selection of restaurants, your family will enjoy the pleasant and easy walk along the oceanfront. Your kids will love looking for seals basking on the rocks near the shore and along the Children’s Pool beach.
TIP: You will find portable toilets near the start of the walkway along the sea wall at the Children’s Pool. Great for those mornings where you had too much coffee!
MISSION BEACH BOARDWALK
This is a great place for a family walk. The stroller-friendly, paved boardwalk stretches for 3.5 miles along the sandy shores of Mission Beach and offers limitless people watching opportunities for baby and parents alike.
We stumbled across a Dreyer’s Ice Cream shop near Belmont Park, which had some of the best ice cream we’ve ever had. Perhaps it was the mixture of the warm California sun and the beach which made it so good? You’ll have to go and find out for yourself!
The Mission Beach Boardwalk is great for people watching, but it can get very crowded with bikes, rollerbladers and skateboarders. If you want a more relaxing outing, walk a few blocks over to the bay side where you will find 12 miles of bike paths. Though you still need to be on the lookout for bikes, it’s much quieter and you can take a break in the sand to let your kids play. As a bonus, because the water is not exposed to the open ocean, there are no waves to worry about.
Balboa Park really has it all. From 15 major museums to playgrounds to hiking trails, there is an activity for everyone here. You won’t see it all in one day, that’s for sure. Based on our planned itinerary, besides one day at the San Diego Zoo (also housed in Balboa Park), we had planned to spend an additional day exploring Balboa Park.
We did a modified version of the red trail on this trail map, which took us around the museums and gardens to the Spanish Village Art Center. Our intention was to also stop by the miniature railroad, but it was closed. This loop was a good fit for us because it allowed us to stop at the 6th Avenue Playground before and after our walk, which made both our baby and toddler happy.
For a bonus activity, stop at the corner of Front Street and Spruce Street before you go to Balboa Park and walk across the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge.
- The Balboa Park Miniature Railroad is only open on holidays and weekends, so confirm the schedule before planning to visit.
- 2.5 hour family friendly walking tours of Balboa Park are available.
BONUS: SAN DIEGO ZOO & SAFARI PARK
Either the zoo or the safari park will make an excellent family walk. It’s a great way to get outside and give your kids a safe and interesting area to explore. Having the animals to look at will keep your kids engaged and wanting to continue the walk. We find on hikes that we have to do some coaxing or play games to keep our toddler moving. At the zoo, she will gladly run up ahead to look at the next animal.
It was also a great place to get our baby to nap on-the-go in the baby carrier.
The zoo and safari park are both VERY large attractions. You can maximize your time at each by having your tickets for the zoo and/or safari park delivered right to your phone. If you are going to visit a few attractions in San Diego, we recommend buying one of the discount cards available. You can still skip the line, but by bundling your purchases, you can save 20-50%, depending on the card. With zoo and safari park tickets at $54 each, the savings can add up quickly.
We only write about destinations we have personally visited with our family. This post contains compensated links.