San Diego is an idyllic beach city that is sometimes overshadowed by its neighbor, Los Angeles, but it has a personality of its own. Regardless of where you are in San Diego, you will come across people from all walks of life. Many flock to live out here, and for good reason. The weather is always the perfect temperature and you can travel from the mountains to the beach within an hour. Pretty much San Diego has it all.
Currently though, traveling around the city is limited due to COVID-19. It may feel more like a challenge than an adventure. But I have listed below the best socially distanced activities and destinations in San Diego. You may even say the list shows the best outdoor activities and destinations too!
The county offers a wide variety of well-maintained trails. You have the option of hiking through the coast, over the mountains, or across the desert. Either way, being outdoors does the body and mind some good. I am an avid hiker, so hiking is my refuge especially the past year through this pandemic.
Here are some of my favorite hiking trails:
Potato Chip Rock
Distance: 6.6 Miles
Its landmark potato chip rock has made this a popular trail in San Diego. There are a couple of ways to hike it. The most popular option is starting from Lake Poway. This hike is not for the faint of heart. Once you get to the potato chip rock, you may have to wait in line for a photo opportunity so I’d suggest hiking this as early as possible. Many people have tried different poses like pretending to fall off the rock or perform the optical illusion of eating the rock like a potato chip.
Click here for more information about Potato Chip Rock!
Mission Trails Regional Park
Difficulty: Easy to Challenging
If you aren’t looking to travel too far from the city, then Mission Trails is the perfect choice. The park is only 8 miles from downtown and offers 65 miles worth of trails. The most popular trails are the moderate to challenging hikes. One popular hike in particular is Cowles Mountain that boasts views of the downtown skyline.
Click here for more trail information at Mission Trails!
Distance: 2.3 Miles
The Slot is a popular desert hike in San Diego located at Anza Borrego State Park. This short trail is filled with narrow canyons and interesting rock formations. It can get very hot out there so make sure you plan appropriately. Also don’t forget to bring $10 for the entrance fee.
Click here for more information about The Slot!
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
My favorite off-the-coast trails are at the Torrey Pines Natural Reserve. The area preserves the land and various plants, like the torrey pine. The trail has the best ocean views and is very easy to hike. After some hiking, enjoy the rest of your day out by the Torrey Pines State Beach.
Click here for more trail information at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve!
Unplugging from the world is my reason why I love camping. Time stands still and you forget the hectic life of work and responsibilities. This is a time for you to recharge, especially when we are stuck inside most days due to the pandemic. My favorite spot in San Diego to camp is at Anza Borrego State Park!
Anza Borrego State Park
The best time to go to this desert locale is from October to May. Springtime especially is best to visit and see the wildflowers. Depending on the amount of rain from winter, each year’s rainfall can determine how much wildflowers bloom in the spring.
Anza Borrego has unlimited camp spots since they offer free dispersed camping. So you can literally park anywhere off-road and set up camp. Just make sure your car is parked no more than one car length off the road and you are at least 100 yards away from any water source. With dispersed camping, there are no basic amenities available so make sure to bring enough water and pack out all your trash. However, if you want a little more comfort, the park does offer regular and primitive campsites as well.
Other than the flora and their unlimited camp spots, the park also offers some cool natural and man-made attractions. One attraction called Font’s Point is filled with the most breathtaking rock cliffs. At sunset, the view is even more drastic when the rocks glow a hazy purple and orange. Some have even called Font’s Point the “California’s Grand Canyon”.
Another favorite attraction is filled with giant bugs, dinosaurs, dragons, and more! You may think it sounds absurd, but Galleta Meadows scatters intricate metal sculptures over the desert landscape. These giant sculptures are free to visit and are designed by local artist and welder, Ricardo Breceda.
As for transportation, it would be preferred to bring a 4×4 since some off-roading will be involved to visit these sites and to go camping.
San Diego is not limited to being explored only in the city, you can have the same amount of fun going outside for some hiking and camping. You will find the county filled with a vibrant desert life and abundant hiking trails.
To get the location of these San Diego spots, check out my Google map list here!
This pandemic may have some hold on our travel plans, but with social distancing in mind, we can continue our adventures safely!
If you want to find more to-do’s in San Diego, feel free to buy my guide here!
About the Author
Elizabeth is an engineer, a grad student, and an avid hiker. When she isn’t in front of the computer screen working, she is exploring! Find her on Instagram @ohkaaaaaaaaaay (yes there’s 10 a’s in between)!