Hiking In San Diego: Awesome Hikes, Amazing Health Benefits, and More

Have you been feeling stuck inside recently? 

If so, you’re not alone. Between business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, a pretty big chunk of the world is feeling the heat of cabin fever right now!

But hiking might be part of the solution. Think about it — could there be any better time to make a return to nature? In this article we’ll be looking at the best nature hikes that San Diego County has to offer. We’ll also be diving deep into hiking’s best health benefits. Here’s an outline: 

Must try: 5 unique San Diego hikes

  1. Sunset Cliffs Trail 
  2. Torrey Pines State Beach and Broken Hill Trail Loop
  3. Annie's Canyon Trail 
  4. Seven Bridge Walk
  5. Los Penasquitos Creek Trail 

Must have: 5 of hiking’s top health benefits

  1. Healthier mitochondria
  2. Faster metabolism
  3. Better body composition
  4. Less stress
  5. Improved mood + productivity

Last — but definitely not least — we’ll be taking a quick look at how CBD can help you recover from your next hike. 

Must try: 5 unique San Diego hikes

San Diego County is absolutely full of hidden gems and nature hikes, so the following list is really just a distillation of *some* of our favorites. Much of its info comes to us courtesy of Jessica Johnson from Hidden San Diego. (Check out her site if you haven’t already; its super-practical outdoor guides have made it a huge hit!) 

1. Sunset Cliffs Trail [link]

This trail is a fan favorite for several reasons. A 2.4 mile out-and-backer with little elevation gain and lots of scenic views, Sunset Cliffs is a great hike for the whole family. As you might expect, it’s also a great place to watch the sunset! The location is convenient, too; Sunset Cliffs is located right near downtown in Point Loma. Feel free to bring along your kids, your leashed pets, your mountain bike, and whatever else suits your fancy.

2. Torrey Pines State Beach and Broken Hill Trail Loop [link]

This 3.3-mile hiking loop is among San Diego’s most popular. The reason? There are actually several — it offers gorgeous views, easy beach access, and what many people consider just the right amount of exercise. If you want a little more of a challenge, you can park on the roadside and hike up to the hiking loop itself. 

3. Annie's Canyon Trail  [link]

If you’re looking for a trail hike that offers tons of natural beauty in as little time as possible, Annie’s Canyon certainly fits the bill. This 2.2-mile “lollipop” trail tracks through narrow canyons and around a small lake...and it’s beloved by San Diego hikers of all skill levels. Some hikers say it’s too crowded, so hike during off-hours if you need to. 

4. Seven Bridge Walk  [link]

Think of this 6-mile hike as the perfect urban tour. It may be on the longer side, but novice hikers shouldn’t worry — the Seven Bridges Walk lacks the rugged nature of some of our other favorite trails. Check out bridge #5 for inspirational sayings and Sunnyboy Biscuit Co for a timely trailside snack. And maybe it goes without saying, but also be sure to check out the city! 

5. Los Penasquitos Creek Trail [link]

This 6.4-mile-long, out and back loop is another local favorite. Sheltered by canopies of trees and curving along a creekside, Los Penasquitos Creek Trail is quiet enough to make you forget that you’re in the middle of a major metropolis. Bring a picnic along, and be sure to stop and look at the trail’s little waterfall. 

Must have: 5 of hiking’s top health benefits

Hiking isn’t just a fun way to get out of the house and kill some free time. It’s also impressively healthy! Here are some of the activity’s top physical — and mental —  benefits.  

1. Healthier mitochondria

Many of the health benefits we associate with hiking actually stem from one thing: healthier mitochondria. The mitochondria are what power each and every cell in our bodies; they’re basically little nuclear reactors that give us the energy we need to get through the day. Endurance exercises like hiking have been shown to improve the number and the vitality of your mitochondria. In other words, hiking may improve your health from the inside out. 

2. Faster metabolism

It’s been said that an object in motion stays in motion, and when it comes to burning calories, that’s certainly true: your body burns more calories than usual both during and after a challenging hike. How many calories, you ask? Approximately 500 per hour. Hike an hour a day and you can expect to lose at least a pound a week.

3. Better body composition

And hiking is good for more than just weight loss. It can also help you build muscle! Hike frequently enough and you’ll probably notice that your quads and hamstrings begin to pop. 

Hiking is also great for developing the many ligaments and tendons that provide support to your legs. All while sparing your joints — compared to running, hiking is considerably easier on your knees. 

4. Less stress

Physical benefits aside, hiking is also immensely good for mental health. Many hikers experience a mental boost every time they lace up and hit the trails. 

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order, ” naturalist John Burroughs said long ago, and today modern research is confirming what hiking enthusiasts have known for decades: that getting out in nature really works. 

It’s true. A 2015 study found that 90 minutes of nature walking reduced mental stress (i.e, being stuck in negative emotions) by decreasing the activity of the brain’s subgenual prefrontal cortex. The study’s authors concluded by describing nature as urban stress’s potential remedy, citing a” causal link between increasing urbanization and increased rates of mental illness.” 

According to lead author Gregory Bratman, his study “demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation — something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better.”

5. Improved creativity + productivity

With better emotional regulation comes all sorts of other mental benefits. Additional research has shown that getting out in the great outdoors can boost one’s problem-solving skills by as much as 50%. The next time you’re in a creative slump, try getting outside and letting your mind wander. This is exactly what many of history’s greatest thinkers have done. 

As the study’s authors put it, “there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. Even the act of walking may be good for productivity. “Many people anecdotally claim that they do their best thinking when walking,” said the above study’s authors. “We finally may be taking a step, or two, towards discovering why.”

How CBD can help you recover from your next hike

Long story short, hiking is a fun, fulfilling, and incredibly healthy activity. It’s still possible to do too much, however, if you don’t let your body recover between hikes. It’s during times of rest that your body bounces back and becomes stronger! 

And CBD might be the perfect catalyst for this recovery process. Take it from ultrarunner Caleb Simpson: “As an athlete myself, I can attest to the amazing benefits of CBD oil and its amazing anti-inflammatory and stress-relieving properties,” he tells Explore Inspired. By reducing inflammation and muscle soreness, CBD may hold the key to making even your most challenging hikes more enjoyable. 

If you’re battling against lingering muscle soreness, for example, just a little bit of our lavender + eucalyptus CBD salve may be able to help. (Topical CBD has the added benefit of being great for your skin.) 

And while the euphoria of runner’s high (hiker’s high?) can be great and all, if it’s eating into your sleep you may want to try our CBD oil tincture. Customers say it’s helped bring them back down to that calm-and-collected baseline. Click here to learn more about the many ways to add CBD to your daily wellness routine, and, in the meantime…

...Happy hiking!

Francesca is a Co-Founder of Organico Wellness and the Director of Communications. She has a passion for providing CBD education in a comprehensive, clear, and concise way. Francesca is also a dedicated mother of 2 and enjoys going on hikes with them during her free time.

Shop now