WHERE TO GET OUT NOW

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 in San Diego Magazine Outdoors Forum June 2006

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?

These are my top dozen choices, all within a half-hour drive from central San Diego. This was not an easy task, as we’re blessed with many opportunities. They’re listed in priority, based on reward of experience, sampling of a range of diverse environments, and current popularity. Many of these have been Forum past features.

1. It’s definitely beach time. Take your pick of a host of beaches all the way from the border to Camp Pendleton. Some favorites: Coronado, Mission/Pacific Beach, La Jolla Shores, Torrey Pines State Beach. Stroll out on a pier — Imperial Beach, Ocean Beach, Crystal Pier, Oceanside. Climb out on the rocks at Mission Beach jetty. Poke around in tide pools (Tourmaline Park). Enjoy the sunset. Boogie board. Hang out. Have a beach party. Walk the boardwalks.
2. La Jolla Cove and Coastline. When I first hit San Diego 40 years back, the first truly stunning beach for me was the Cove, the second Windansea. Start with Ellen Browning Scripps Park at the Cove, head north to the caves, stroll along the bluff trail. Or from the park walk south along the ocean, observe (with a few others) the sea lions, keep walking south, take in the tide pools (at low tide), keep right on walking over the rocks until Windansea, home of the legends, The Pump House Gang and Hot Curl (ask any old surfer).
3. Torrey Pines State Reserve. Between La Jolla and Del Mar this park sits atop the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Superb views (is that Kauai?), wild flowers, eroded sandstone canyons, many trails, including one that you can walk (carefully) on right down to the beach. Take walking shoes and definitely your camera. Visit the small but interesting museum. I-5 north to Genesee west to Torrey Pines north to entrance. Park at beach or above.
4. San Diego Bay. Many options and many sights. Walk along the Embarcadero, foot of Broadway. Hop on one of the bay cruises, day or night. Take the passenger ferry from here, past the carriers, over to Coronado, pick up the jitney or walk a dozen blocks to downtown and the Hotel del. Drive out to Cabrillo National Monument for the greatest view in town, with the old lighthouse, museum and gift shop. Then stroll down the trails to either the bay or tide pools (and real lighthouse) on the ocean. Drive out onto Shelter Island at Point Loma, park and explore from end to end.
5. Mission Bay (much more than Sea World). Heavily used by locals where you’ll see walkers, joggers, sailors, water-skiers, bikers, skaters. Walk the east side along I-5 north and south of the Hilton. Head on over to Fiesta Island (absolutely avoid weekends in July when the world Championship Over The Line Tourney headquarters there, though if you want a unique adult-oriented experience…). Picnic and swim at Crown Point. Walk along the bay from Crown Point to Mission Beach.
6. Balboa Park. The cultural and fun center of the city. Weekdays are uncrowded. Sunday afternoons are always entertaining. Wander into the canyon trails, take in a museum (some free on Tuesdays). For an distinctly different evening, take in a Starlight Outdoor musical.
7. Mission Trails Regional Park. One of the largest urban parks in the country, with a variety of outdoors options. Start with the much-honored Visitors Center (Highway 52 to Mast to Mission Gorge south to marked entrance at Fr. Junipero Serra) with exhibits inside and out. Walk down to the remnants of the old dam. Lots of shade and trails heading in several directions. For a real workout, hike up hike Cowles or Fortuna Mountains.
8. Old Town State Park/Presidio Park. A popular locale for an amble through our early history –cemetery, casas, wagons – and Latin flavor – shops, restaurants, mariachis. Best way there on weekends is by trolley. Then wander up into Presidio Park to the major landmark seen from I-8 and which looks like a mission but is a historical museum. Walk the trails, have a picnic, get married, enjoy the view from the Mormon Battalion memorial. Alternative is to drive to Presidio, I-8 to Taylor Street, right.
9. South Bay nature preserves, excellent for kids. Just off I-5 at E Street is the Chula Vista Nature Center, with exhibits, simulated tide pool, shore birds, and trails out along the bay. At the San Diego Tijuana Estuary Visitors Center, learn about the maritime environment and stroll the trails with binoculars in hand. (I-5 south to
Coronado Avenue west, becomes Imperial Avenue, left at 3rd to the Center)
10. Lake Hodges/San Dieguito River Park. On the south shore of Lake Hodges in Rancho Bernardo is the Piedras Pintadas Trail, with many educational markers about Native Americans and the natural features of the area. This is one small part of this 55-mile Coast -to Crest park system. I-15 to the West Bernardo turnoff, west, to marked entry and parking lot on the right.
11. Urban canyon parks. We have many of these which provide pleasant breaks from developed city sections. Try Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve which stretches from I-5 to I-15. In summer, opt for the western end as that’s where most of the shade is. Popular with hikers and horses. Walk in halfway to the falls area. (I-15 to Mercy Road, west to entrance.) San Clemente Canyon, definitely a locals’ getaway, is between Clairemont and University City. Hike along trails under oaks and sycamores, with dogs on leash. Highway 52 to either Clairemont Mesa or Genesee to parking areas.
12. Blue Sky Reserve and Lake Poway. Start from the park off Espola Road in Poway, with an easy hike into heavily-wooded terrain. Secluded picnic area and restrooms below the dam. Hike up either side of the dam to the lake and loop all around. Or start at the lake park, hike down to Blue Sky or just fish, picnic or play. I-15 north to Ted Williams Parkway to Twin Peaks right, to Espola Road, left. First is Lake Poway, then Blue Sky.

SO GET OUT AND GO SAN DIEGO!