San Diego has a lot of opportunities for trail running – way more than most people even realize. There are trails sprinkled all over San Diego, with the heaviest trafficked in the east (things like Mt. Woodson aka “Potato Chip Rock” and Iron Mountains) and the the famous Torrey Pines. I’ll be excluding those popular hikes from the list – instead, I want to focus on trail runs that you may not have even realized are in your own back yard – or, if you visit San Diego, you might want to seek out these gems. I’ll be moving from north to south on my list, starting in Carlsbad and working my way into Del Mar.
Trail Running Routes in North County Coastal San Diego:
- Batiquitos Lagoon The Batiquitos Lagoon in South Carlsbad is a nice, short trail run option with views of the lagoon and in the distance, the ocean as well. It’s also very flat. There are six trailheads but the one that’ll get you the longest run is off of Gabbiano Lane, just east of the 5 Freeway. Starting here, you can get in a nice 4 mile out and back run. I’ve even run here with the stroller!
- Encinitas Ranch
The Encinitas Ranch trail system has quite a few options, totaling 9.5 miles, but you could make it even longer by looping and taking different routes. The trails have quite a few hills, depending on where you end up. There is a nice 3 mile loop around the golf course which can be accessed via a steep path off of Garden View or by parking on Paseo De Las Verdes. You can also explore deeper into practically untouched trails by heading north on Quail Gardens Road and taking the steep trail east just before you hit Ranch Road. Expect A LOT of hills if you go this route!
- San Elijo Lagoon
This is one of the most well known North County trail runs. Unfortunately right now it’s under construction so you actually can’t run the entire lagoon without leaving the lagoon and re-entering. There are actually 10 separate trails (you can read about them on the website). The two best places to begin your run would be by parking on N. Rios Road in Solana Beach or by parking at the small lot at the La Orilla trailhead (El Camino Real and La Orilla) in Rancho Santa Fe. Parking at N Rios will get you access to the west, more popular, portion of the trails and La Orilla the East, less crowded portion. At some point these two will connect again, but that is TBD!
- Coast to Crest Trail at San Dieguito Lagoon
This is a beautiful, mostly flat trail near the coast in Del Mar. I had NO idea this trail existed until I joined my running group and I am still shocked that I didn’t realize it was there! You can actually access the trail from the 101 in Del Mar near the fairgrounds, or park at the trailhead off Via De La Valle behind the Gelson’s shopping center. The trail heads east and continues on rolling hills past horse stables and the lagoon.
- Crest Canyon Trail
Crest Canyon is actually a great add on to the Coast to Crest Trail and is also an option if you want to do a longer run through Torrey Pines and add on some much more secluded trails before heading into the crowded Torrey Pines reserve. This trail has a lot of steep, winding hills and will definitely keep you on your toes!
Have you run any of these trails? Even if you aren’t from San Diego, tell me your favorite trail!
I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego 5K and Half Marathon last year and I really enjoyed it. San Diego is such a beautiful city and I really cant wait to visit again, and hopefully run on one of the trails you recommended!
Yes! Rock n Roll half marathon course does nothing to showcase how beautiful San Diego is either – although I do love that race! Come back and let’s run!
My sister used to live in San Diego, but I only visited her once while she was there. No time for running, but we did a whirlwind day of exploring and sight-seeing. I’d love to go back!
Deborah @ Confessions of a mother runner
you do make trail running sound very appealing! I sprained my ankle on a trail race a few years back and now I am scared to try again.
Oh no! Most of the trails I run are pretty non-technical which makes it nice – really easy on your body yet not scary. I actually sprained my ankle just running on the pavement!! It was at night though, so I blame that, not my clumsiness!
My bestie from kindergarten lives in SD. I need to make a trip out there. Maybe I can convince her to run some of those trails with me!
Yes! You’d love it! So many amazing places to run here, I feel super lucky!
Absolutely gorgeous! I would love to run in San Diego – heck, I would love to visit San Diego – and check out some of these trails. It’s been a long time since I’ve made it to the west coast.
Kathryn @ Dancing to Running
Wow, there are are absolutely beautiful areas to run in San Diego. I would love to enjoy the scenery on any of those routes!