A quick alert to be careful about heading out on our trails as it’s not  like walking around the block. Wear good walking shoes for good grip, be careful to not stumble (a walking stick is often a good aid, especially when up and down hill hikes), be  prepared for the heat, and go with knowledgeable leaders in the back country. Finally, understand that Tom Leech has no liability for troubles on the trails.

School’s Out, Get ‘em Out…More…by the Shore

Originally appeared in San Diego Magazine Outdoors Forum 8/03

It’s summertime in San Diego. And for most kids, the beach is a primary attraction. And a good one. Yet we have many other opportunities for the whole family to spend some enjoyable time together. Here are a few you and the kids will enjoy getting acquainted with, not so much at the beach, but definitely part of the ocean-connected world. But first, the Forum Quiz. Where can you enjoy great ocean views and watch gliders sail above you?



I must go down to the sea again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.
John Masefield, Sea Fever

And here are some calls that you and the kids are likely to find immensely pleasurable.

From border to border.
•    For an experience that combines history, bi-cultural, ocean strolls and coastal wildlife, stop in at Border Field State Park. Have a picnic at one of the tables on the bluff overlooking the ocean. Add some smarts about wildlife with help from a series of descriptive kiosks. I-5 south to Coronado exit, cross to Hollister and follow signs to park.
•    Then to experience our northern border, take the family camping at San Mateo State Campground, part of San Onofre State Beach. Just across the road at the camp entrance is Orange County, and all around you is Camp Pendleton. This is a first-rate campground, from which you can all stroll a half-mile along the creek down to the ocean.(You’ll find it hard to believe they want to run a major tool road right along here.) I-5 north to Basilone Road west.

•    At the Tijuana Estuary, excellent hands-on exhibits add to the enthusiasm (and they’re learning something besides). Well-marked trails head out into the estuary area. I-5 south to Coronado Ave. exit west, becomes Imperial Ave, left at 3rd.
•    Just south of Del Mar and at the western end of Carmel Valley Road, you’ll find lots of kids splashing around at the Los Penasquitos Estuary. This is the westernmost end of the six mile long Los Penasquitos County Park, which follows Penasquitos Creek over from I-15.

Bayside enrichment.
•    Lots of hands-on water-related activities at the Chula Vista Nature Center. With its many exhibits inside and out, plus a marked trail along the bay, kids can have a rich experience here. There’s even a petting pool, so go ahead and scratch the back of that sting ray or shark swimming by. I-5 south to E St. Exit, west into Nature Center Parking lot for shuttle.
•    Under, rather than on, the Coronado Bridge is Chicano Park, not quite on the water but close. With a rich array of murals about the Latino experience on the bridge supports. .I-5 to Crosby St. West, left on Logan.
•    Take a walk out on Shelter Island and mull over the James Hubbell and team’s creation at the far end.
•    Try kayaking in Mission Bay, with one place at the Hilton right across from the Boy Scout camp on Fiesta Island.

Pier and jetty strolls.
•    Take a walk out on any of our piers: Imperial Beach, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach’s Crystal Pier, Oceanside. These are great places for the adults to experience some major stress relief. How aggravated mentally can you stay when you’re enjoying the incredible scenery around, below and beside you? Then relax with a cool drink and some delicious fish and chips – let the rest of those Type A’s fight those traffic jams.
•    South Mission Jetty is a jem, as long as you can clamber over rocks and avoid crashing waves. Watch the boats go in and out of Mission Bay entry. Best way is ride your bike. Otherwise I-8 to W. Mission Bay drive, right and loop around onto Mission Bay Drive to Mission Blvd. Left to lots at end (if you’re lucky).

Topside views.
•    A must-visit for locals and tourists is Cabrillo National Monument, at the tip of Point Loma. Multi-sensory experience here, with enlightening films, great views, scoping the navy at work, a climb up the old lighthouse, gazing around in all directions for great ocean and bay views. See if you can see any passing whales (you won’t, unless it’s January). Check out the old WW2 armaments. Stroll down the Bayside Trail right to the water’s edge and watch the sailboats and occasional Navy vessel. I-8 west to end, over to Nimitz, to Catalina exit, right and on up all the way.
•    Head up past La Jolla to Torrey Pines State Reserve. Stop in at the visitors center, either at the start of end of your hiking; lots of exhibits to identify various flora and fauna. Amble out along one of several trails and hear the kids ooh and aah at the ocean views from above. Photo ops galore. Can’t take that fun trail down to the ocean as it’s undergoing repair. Head over across the lagoon and enjoy some more fabulous views from the Reserve Extension. I-5 to Carmel Valley Rd. west to end and left at PCH.
•    For a wild and crazy scene, pop into the cliffs above Black’s Beach to the Gliderport. You’re right there where the hang gliders head out, where the radio controlled model planes soar around, and nature abounds on the beach below.. Have a snack and visit the store. I-5 to Genesee west to Torrey Pines South to Salk Institute and west.

Tidepools, and even a cave.
•    Just get the kids out there and let ‘em poke around. Again the setting is superb and the pace is slow. Drive out along Sunset Cliffs with more super views over to the park below Point Loma Nazarene College. I-8 west to end and left onto Sunset Cliffs Blvd, to end.
•    Drive into PB’s Tourmaline Surfing Park and explore the tide pool to the north (obey the signs and don’t hang around near the cliffs). Grand or Garnet west to Mission Blvd, north to Tourmaline left.
•    For a multi-facet experience take in the tide pools along Coast Blvd. In La Jolla, and observe the sea lions at Children’s Cove. Just north of La Jolla Cove is the store an the entrance to the cave that takes you right to the water. Come back up and stroll along the cliffs; watch the cormorants make their homes along the cliffs. I-5 to La Jolla Parkway west to Torrey Pines Rd left, then right at Prospect and right where it heads down toward ocean.
•    In North County is Table Top. I-5 north to Lomas Santa Fe west to PHC, right to Cardiff State Beach, park and walk south.

Sleepy Lagoons.
•    We’re most fortunate that we have several lagoons, providing us with some pleasant and valuable breaks from developed civilization. Located between Del Mar and Solana Beach is San Dieguito Lagoon, the western end of the San Dieguito River Park, a major project stretching 55 miles from “Coast to Crest.”Drive east from I-5 on Villa de la Valle to the Strawberry Stand educational exhibit.
•    San Elijo Lagoon’s a dandy, with a new visitor center located west of I-5 along Manchester Avenue. Or you can park at several places and amble around, peering at the ample birds that make this home, or a place to come back to from time to time. For south edge I-5 to Lomas Santa Fe east, quick left onto Santa Helena/Marine View, left at Santa Victoria and left at Santa Carina to end.
•    Further north, between Encinitas and Carlsbad, Bataquitos Lagoon’s north side is another relaxing stroll. Start with the visitor’s center there and walk along the shore a mile or so to the east. You’ll be communing with nature here.
So there you are, a few of our many enjoyable options for exploring the coastal areas with the chillun. Sure beats mowin’ the lawn or watchin’ TV, don’t it?

For the full story about this topic and many more for the whole county, pick up a copy of Outdoors San Diego: Hiking, Biking & Camping by Tom Leech & Jack Farnan at: With a special section about places to take the kids.