16 Best Scenic Views in San Diego
San Diego has some amazing lookout spots with stunning views of the land below. Many of these views require hiking great elevations to appreciate them which is wonderful! But sometimes you don't have the time or ability to do a hike yet still want to appreciate some beautiful views. Thankfully we have compiled a great list of the Best Scenic Views in San Diego which require no hiking! Check it out!
Inaja Memorial Park
Inaja Memorial Park is a beautiful lookout point and picnic area in Santa Ysabel. We love stopping by here on our way back down the hill from Julian, oftentimes to appreciate the sunset. There is a nice loop trail you can take giving you beautiful scenic views. This site memorializes 11 firefighters who lost their lives in the 1956 Inaja Fire which consumed 60,000 acres. The 3440 elevation offers an excellent variety of scenery with clear views down to the San Diego River canyon and scenic vistas of the Palomar and Volcan Mountains.
Mount Soledad National Veterans Memorial
Wow, talk about a view! Mt. Soledad offers a stunning panoramic glimpse of San Diego. Come here to catch the sunset and be sure to bring your camera! Just note that this is a very popular viewpoint and there are almost always a ton of people with limited parking spots.
Mt. Helix Park
The park, which consists of a huge outdoor amphitheater and 35' tall cross, was originally built as a memorial to an early pioneer and owner of the mountain, Mary Yawkey. Later, Easter sunrise services began to be held there, which the tradition has continued ever since. It is considered the second oldest continuous Easter sunrise service in the country, the oldest being Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside County. Today it is a beautiful park (with horrible parking) offering great panoramic views. Regardless of the parking issues, it's still definitely worth a visit and has some of the best scenic views!
La Jolla's Secret Swings
The Secret Swings were originally put up by UCSD students. That does not surprise me as UCSD is filled with arty, hidden gems! Unfortunately the swings are at a constant battle with the city. The city tears them down, the people put them back up. For this reason, do not be surprised if the swings have been torn down if you visit. Give it another shot another day and they might already be back up! This has some of the best scenic views of the La Jolla coast around!
Nate Harrison Grade
For those whose cars are equipped for this type of expedition, there is an alternate route to Palomar Mountain that is just as gorgeous, if not more stunning than the traditional drive. Definitely some of the best scenic views around! Nate Harrison grade, also known as the "highway to the stars," is promised to take you back in time.
The windy, dirt road is filled with views that are hard to compete with. Over 100 years ago, horse-drawn wagons would make the treacherous climb up this steep mountain to the few homesteads atop. The Nate Harrison Grade was named after Nathaniel Harrison, a freed slave and, as legend goes, the first African-American to live in San Diego. Nate had a small cabin halfway up the grade and was known for providing food, fresh water from his spring and a place to stay for tired travelers.
There are a lot of grounds to cover around here so bring your hiking shoes! Explore the mission, canyon, hiking trails, ruins, statues and more! This is a very interesting area with a lot of San Diego history. Soak it up! The prettiest time to come is in the spring when everything is green and in bloom! This is one of the best scenic views to watch the firework shows during the 4th of July and Seaworld shoots them off nightly over the summer.
Here at Hidden San Diego, we love to explore ruins and delve into the past of what once was, and we recently discovered something that raised everyone's curiosity. After researching further, we did not find ruins... we found beginnings. Perched atop a hillside are the beginnings of what was to be an elaborate castle of sorts, constructed from rock that was quarried on-site.
On the 3-acre parcel overlooking a beautiful lake, owner Earl cleared a homesite and started building... from scratch. The stone was quarried on-site to build retaining walls and steps, but construction was abruptly halted when his wife, Ava, became suspicious of Earl's long absences and accused him of infidelity. Ava and Earl had no children, but there is one very strong statement of their love for each other still visible - his-and-her seats carved into boulders with a perfect view of the sunset over the lake.
The Palomar Observatory, located atop Palomar Mountain, is a center of astronomical research owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). The Observatory is home to three active research telescopes: the 200-inch Hale Telescope, the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope, and the 60-inch telescope.
Lucy Evans Lauren Memorial Garden
The scenic Lucy Evans Lauren Memorial Garden is a public garden located in Point Loma. This garden was a sweet testimonial from a loving husband to his late wife. The views are some of the best around! This is a short but sweet trip with many beautiful plants, pathways, benches and even a gazebo to sit in and reflect. For those that enjoy pretty gardens, you should definitely add this one to your list!
Lake Henshaw is one of those lakes that you can visit and actually still get a feel for what the surrounding area looked like hundreds or even thousands of years ago. That is because 43,000 acres of land are protected. There is a great lookout deck to observe the lake and land below.
La Jolla Natural Park
The hills of Mt. Soledad have proven to hold countless hidden gems. Beyond the massive homes of some of the city's wealthiest people, troll bridges and even a munchkin house, one of the greatest reasons to visit Mt. Soledad is for the views.
What many don't realize though, is there is a special preserve here that not only offers some of the best coastal views around, but also boasts 42 acres of hiking trails!
At an elevation of 6,000 feet, this spot offers one of the most stunning, if not the most stunning view in San Diego. This is an ideal spot to get away and clear your mind. There is a small .5 mile hike which features live oaks, black oaks and Jeffrey Pines. This short hike is actually part of the Pacific Crest Trail that actually was once an old roadbed that was chiseled into the cliff. This was once a very narrow and dangerous drive with a steep drop directly below you.
Kate Sessions Park
Kate Sessions Park is named after the highly influential horticulturist, Kate Sessions. Kate Sessions was dubbed the ‘Mother of Balboa Park‘ and is responsible for planting hundreds of exotic plants throughout San Diego. After her urging for a park on Mt Soledad, the city finally put aside land for a park. Originally named the Soledad Terrace Park, it was renamed in 1957 after her on her 100th birthday.
Kate Sessions Park boasts some of the most beautiful views of Mission Bay, the ocean and the city below. This is a wonderful location to have a picnic, play with your dog, bbq, or just enjoy the serenity. There are several hiking trails on site featuring natural habitat and a small creek below during winter.
Double Peak Park
Double Peak Park is quite possibly the best panoramic view in San Diego. It is breath-taking! I can imagine you can capture killer sunsets here. I began doing one of the hikes but quickly realized it was not worth it because it was almost sunset and that is when the park closes. So if you want to hike AND experience the sunset, make it a day! Would be a lovely picnic spot.
Desert View Tower
We went in February when the breeze was cool and truly perfect outside. Basically, if you're planning this trip check the weather first so you have an enjoyable experience! On this road alone you will find this tower, a boulder park with carved animals, a UFO repair stop, hot springs and endless abandoned homes/buildings. It is a truly unique experience. The desert tower exceeded all of my expectations. Inside is like an oddities shop.
You will want to spend a decent amount of time here so plan your day accordingly. Pay the $2 so you can walk the 4 or 5 stories to the top (this also gets you access to Boulder Park). It's completely worth it. Each floor has more oddities and unique artwork. There's something about this area that gives me a little more hope with San Diego. Living in the city, where there is so much congestion, constant construction & pollution, it's sooooooo refreshing to see nothing but pure, open land for as far as the eye can see.
To get to this spot it is recommend to have 4-wheel drive. If you choose to hike or mountain bike, allow yourself a full day for this trip. Regular vehicles could easily get stuck so make sure you're in a high-clearance vehicle.
The views are stunning and the bunkers are curious. Some of them look like jail cells to me. Could it be possible there was an anticipation of capturing enemies and imprisoning them inside the cells? These are some of the best scenic views around and the entire climb is enjoyable.