Ready to take the kiddos into the fresh air and tire them out? Kick off your flip flops and dust off your walking shoes. We’ve found some awesome walking tours throughout San Diego that will get your kids excited to trek forth, ask questions, and be inspired by the nature and history that surrounds them.
Photo Credit: Cabrillo National Monument Facebook Page
Cabrillo National Monument
If you haven’t visited Cabrillo National Monument in a while, get ready to share one of the most awesome views of San Diego’s skyline with your kids. Enjoy the beauty of our city, explore some its history, and get in touch with the rare habitat that exists here. Volunteers and rangers offer guided walks each Tuesday at 10 a.m. and Friday at 1 p.m. on the paved upper grounds near the monument. Kids will love seeing a real lighthouse and pretending to be an old sea dog overlooking Point Loma. You’ll find some animals along the way. Lizards, rabbits and squirrels call this area home, and it’s a great place to watch for birds. More than 200 species of birds have been spotted here.
Want to explore further? On the west side, you’ll find the Coastal Trail. The 1-mile path with some steep stairs boasts terrific ocean views and leads to the tidepools. This dog-friendly walk is a popular trail for pups and their families.
For more of a challenge,the Bayside Trail Walk is a great bet. Signs along the way will help you spot the rare plant life that lives here and learn that Ballast Point is not only a local brewery, but also the place where Cabrillo landed. History buffs will enjoy seeing a spotlight used during WWI and WWII. If you trek down this 2.5-mile round trip trail, don’t forget it’s all uphill on the way back.
Trekker’s Tip: Depending on staffing, rangers at times give guided walks along the Coastal and Bayside Trails. Call to find out which walk is offered on the day you plan to visit. It can be cooler and windier at Cabrillo Monument than in other parts of San Diego. Bring a sweater.
1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr.
San Diego, Ca 92106
Cost: $5 for parking
Photo Credit: San Elijo Facebook Page
San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy
Need an easy getaway from the city? San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy located between Solana Beach and Encinitas is a beautiful place to enjoy the serenity of nature. Each Saturday from 10-11 a.m. and every 3rd Sunday from 3- 4 p.m., guides lead a family-friendly walk along the Nature Center Loop Trail starting from the Nature Center. The .5-mile loop gives toddlers and preschoolers the chance to get their socks dusty and experience a first hike. The Nature Center is a perfect starting point with bathrooms for a last minute pre-hike potty break and shade to wait in on those hot summer days. Your guide will help you spot and identify the many local birds that hang out in the shrubs and wetlands.
The Conservancy also offers two other guided walks. Older kiddos who long for the freedom to roam will enjoy the Wildlife Walk on the second Saturday of each month from 9-11 a.m. where the experience changes with the seasons. Families along with the general public are also invited to Summer Evening Walks each third Wednesday of summer from 5:30-7 p.m. Enjoy the beauty of a sunset together and see birds at one of their most active times of the day. Check the website to RSVP for these walks.
Trekker’s Tip: If you love your experience here, check out the Nature Center’s Family Fun Days held the first Sunday of each month from 11:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m. Enjoy a nature themed, hands-on activity or craft, then walk the loop trail to earn prizes.
2710 Manchester Ave.
Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Ca 92007
Cost: Free (RSVP online for Wildlife and Sunset Walks)
Photo Credit: Holly C. via Yelp
Full Moon Pier Walks
Give Shark Week enthusiasts what they want. Geared toward older kids (9+) who are inquiring future scientists, the Full Moon Pier Walks offered through Birch Aquarium begin with a brief talk and video from local scientists. Usually only open to researchers, the full moon walk opens up a rare opportunity. Learn about current research and local marine life like leopard sharks that frequent La Jolla in summertime (not so scary after all). Continue your 90-minute walk along Scripps Memorial Pier where the view of the sunset is spectacular and the hands-on science begins. Marine biologists help guests pull up plankton samples from beneath the pier. You may even participate in a squid dissection or get some hands-on time with mussels or crabs.
Trekker’s Tip: Check the website for upcoming full moon dates.
2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, Ca 92037
Cost: $25/person; $22/Birch Aquarium members. Reserve online or by phone.
Photo Credit: Mission Trails Facebook Page
Family Discovery Walks at Mission Trails Regional Park
These outtings are a perfect way to get the whole family — including the littlest hikers — out into nature in a low key way. Held every fourth Sunday at 3 p.m. and led by trained volunteers, this walk is less than one mile and last about 90 minutes. You’ll start at the beautiful Visitor’s Center and begin a loop trail that will take you along the San Diego River to a historic grinding rock site used by Kumeyaay Indian tribe. The trail is mostly flat, but does include some stairs. Guides help kids look for tracks, flowers in bloom, and evidence of the changing of seasons. They are ready to answer your kids’ questions and try to focus on their interests as you walk.
The most frequently offered walks are the Guided Nature Walks offered to the general public each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Like the Family Walk, trekkers begin at the Visitor Center and walk about one mile. Your hike will lead to either wooded oak areas, chaparral and sage habitat, or to the historic grinding rocks.
Special summer twilight walks allow visitors to explore the park as sunset approaches and the cool of the evening brings out nocturnal life. Offered the third Saturday each month of summer, mark your calendar for the next one on Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. Don’t forget a flashlight and a sweater for your evening hike.
Trekker’s Tip: If possible, arrive about 30 minutes early to explore the Visitor’s Center, which provides many kid-friendly, hands-on activities that introduce them to the history, animals, and natural surroundings of the park.
1 Father Junipero Serra Trail
San Diego, Ca 92119
Old Town San Diego
For a tour that focuses more on history, try the walks in Old Town led by guides dressed in period attire. These walks start at the Robinson-Rose Visitor Information Center twice each day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and last about one hour. Just show up and you’ll be led back in time to Old San Diego. Each guide adds their own flavor and perspective. Many guides are former teachers and have lots of experience engaging kids. Peruse the native plant garden, say hello to the donkeys, and see kids’ faces light up as blacksmiths actually bend red hot metal. Guides encourage visitors to ask questions, and adapt their tours based on the tour group’s ages and interests.
4002 Wallace St.
San Diego, Ca 92110
Tips for Walkers:
- Wear closed toe shoes.
- Bring a hat and wear sunscreen.
- Don’t forget your water bottle.
- Wear layers and bring a sweater if walking in the evening or at Cabrillo.
- Don’t forget a flashlight on evening walks.
Where does your family go to stroll in San Diego? Tell us what we should make sure to know!
— Cherie Gough