Top 12 Shaded San Diego Hikes

Top 12 Shaded San Diego Hikes

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Although San Diego is known for having some of the best weather around, those of us who live here, especially anyone who lives inland, knows it still gets incredibly HOT in the summer!  Still, many people wish to enjoy nature and hike year round.  Early mornings and evenings will always be best advised, but if it’s shade you’re looking for, we’ve got a great list for you! Here is our list of the top shaded San Diego hikes!

TIP: After this article, make sure to check out our guide to the Best Coastal Hikes in San Diego!

Dinwiddie Preserve

This trail is right across from one of the oldest homes in Fallbrook, the Palomares House. Make sure to check it out if you head out here. We explored this area in summer. Despite it being one of the driest times of the year, this area still thrived with greenery, magic and beauty. Although a small hike, it is packed with beauty.

This is a rather brief hike, with no incline. I would love to see it on a foggy morning. It seemed like the perfect setting to see wild horses running freely, if only that were possible here in San Diego!

Top Shaded San Diego Hikes

Bridle Trail

The Bridle Trail really comes as a surprise if you happen to stumble upon it. Basically being located in the heart of the city, one would not expect to stumble upon a grove of redwood trees! These trees are said to have been planted during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. I love this trail for so many reasons: the tranquility, unique beauty to San Diego, the flower fields in the springtime, fresh air. It all evokes clarity and peace of mind. Although many of the redwood trees have died over the past decade, it is still shades overall and very beautiful.

Camino Ruiz Trail:

The Camino Ruiz Trail is a truly beautiful hike. The whole hike down the hill is canopied with trees keeping the heat out and giving a nice, surreal touch to this shaded hike. I haven’t seen any other hikes quite like this one. The one downside is the canopy seemed to keep fresh air out, making it quite dusty. It affected me and I woke up sick the next day. Anyway, below is the Rancho Penasquitos Preserve where you can find all types of fun things to explore such as the Rancho Penasquitos Waterfall, the Rancho Adobe HouseEichars Grave and other suspicious ruins we have yet to identify.

Crestridge Ecological Reserve

Crestridge Ecological Reserve contains 2600 acres of riding trails, unique architecture by the famed James Hubbell, ancient history dating back thousands of years and many fun, tiny details scattered throughout. Keep your eyes peeled!

Doane Valley


The trail is fairly level, with only a 100 ft elevation gain/loss, and follows along doane creek underneath forest growth before it opens out into views of the lower doane meadow and continues to the Weir historic site.

Felicita Park: 

Felicita Park is the site of one of the largest and oldest Indigenous villages in the county. To this day, grinding holes and other artifacts reveal evidence of the centuries-old community of the Northern Kumeyaay. Felicita Park has always been one of my favorite parks. Perhaps because it is not your traditional park (in my opinion). There are is much grounds to wander around and just get lost in. It’s always had a bit of a magical feel to it and one of my favorite shaded hikes.

Hoyt Park


This is a pretty, little forest and if you go in winter-late spring, there should be nice greenery. This is a nice hike for families and dog walks. Nothing crazy about it, just a leisurely walk.

Marian Bear Park


We walked several miles and could have gone much further.  Not only that but there are trail entrances from both sides of the parking lot.  We took the trail that headed west.  We found a lot of magic and beauty during our hike but I would recommend hiking in the cooler months if you want to replicate a trip like ours below.

Questhaven Rd.


Questhaven Rd., which is neighbors to the Elfin Forest and Harmony Grove, is filled with haunted rumors. Whether or not there is any truth to these rumors will remain a mystery. What is undeniable about this place is the spooky feeling that it gives you when you drive on the windy, woodsy road.

Cottonwood Grove Park


The trail is scattered with some beautiful details.  We spotted a huge heart made out of rocks, cute benches to sit on in the thick of the greenery and several beautiful murals painted along the bike trail. You will eventually connect with the bike trail which leads all the way to Ocean Beach.  We did not hike to OB though.

Santa Margarita River Trail: 


The Santa Margarita River Trail is home to many animal and bird species that rely on the river as a water source. The Santa Margarita River cuts through the preserve on its way from its Temecula source to the Pacific Ocean and is home to a number of species of fish including rainbow trout and striped mullet. Be advised that fishing is currently prohibited in the preserve.

Palomar College Arboretum


The arboretum was established in 1973, with 5 acres being set aside for the arboretum. Plants from around the world were planted here making it a fabulous spot to help educate yourself further on botany or a peaceful place to relax in between classes.

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