Out of all the continental United States, Southern California offers some of the greatest variety in terrain. What it does not offer on occasion on certain trails is serenity, and solitude. While popular trails face heavy traffic nation-wide, popular trails in Southern California sometimes resemble a human version of the region’s congested roadways. Despite these problems, hikers of all skill levels in the region – especially in 2016 – know where to go and when to go to avoid crowds, thanks in part to the internet, and thanks in part to a greater interest in hiking generally. One of the routes in the region that has always been popular has been the Aerial Tramway to San Jacinto summit, due in part to the moderate distance (11.5 miles roundtrip), moderate elevation gain (2,190 feet), unique aerial tram ride experience, and possibility of summitting one of Southern California’s highest mountains (unofficially now known as the “Six Pack of Peaks”).
Although it is hard to pick the absolute best thing about Torrey Pines State Reserve, one of the top things about the park is its fantastic views. While it is nearly impossible to find a bad view in the park, one of the best views to be found is from the High Point Overlook, which is located near the center of the park. The High Point Overlook is located at the end of the park’s shortest trail (the High Point Trail), and is also the tallest point in the reserve.
San Diego is a hiker’s mecca. From the trails at Torrey Pines State Reserve on the Coast, to the city’s highest point at Cowles Mountain, and through the East County trails of Iron Mountain and El Cajon Mountain, there is literally a hike for every person, and for every skill level. In addition to all of these trails, and the thousands more I didn’t mention, San Diego is also a great location for overnight camping, from backpacking to car-camping and everything in between. Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve been lucky enough to explore much of San Diego’s backcountry in a number of ways, and am thrilled to be working with Expedia.com on this article to recommend some of the best overnight wilderness hiking areas. While overnight wilderness activities have innumerable perks, the locations within the confines of San Diego allow visitors the added benefit of a little extra wilderness solitude to recover from the hustle and bustle of everyday Southern California life. The locations listed below provide a great starting point for overnight wilderness activities in the County, and hopefully provide inspiration for many nights in some of the most pristine backcountry that can be found in Southern California.
One of the most popular parks in San Diego is Torrey Pines State Reserve. The park is home to the rarest pine tree in North America, the Torrey Pine; and also has a fantastic beach that stretches from La Jolla to the boundary of Del Mar. The reserve portion of the park also features a number of short hiking trails that travel through some of the park’s pine groves, and down to the beach. While all of these things and more make Torrey Pines State Reserve a great park and place to visit, the park is actually much larger than most visitors realize. As a matter of fact, the park encompasses the Reserve, the beach (Torrey Pines State Beach), the Los Penasquitos Lagoon, and the Torrey Pines Extension. Out of these four components, the most unknown area to most visitors and hikers is the Extension.
One of the drawbacks to living in Southern California is that there are almost too many places to explore. This means that while I have certain favorite locations, it may be months - or years before I get the chance to hike them again. When I do get back to a favorite spot, I'm always interested to see how the trail and area has changed for the better, or for the worse. This last weekend, I had the opportunity to make it back to Harper's Creek in Cuyamaca State Park. Harper's Creek is off of the East Side Trail in Green Valley, and is a great canyon with a seasonal flow of water.