The rusty color shaded leaves fluttering in the wind, birds singing as they fly above, the smell of eucalyptus in the air, and the crunching of the leaves below your feet. This is how California hiking can be described. I share with you some of the most diverse, unique, and spectacular hiking trails in or around the San Diego area. But some of these trails are not your average peaceful quiet hiking paths. They are extra special with scary features and haunting myths about them. Explore these beautiful California hiking trails filled with smells of autumn, amazing adventure, and spooky features!
Hiking is one of my favorite things to do. And there is no better place to enjoy an outdoor hiking adventure than in the state of California. You may also notice some of the waterfall trails may be dry during certain times of the year. These trails usually have more water flowing in the falls during the winter and springtime. No matter what time of year however, the climate in southern California is perfect for all types of outdoor adventures.
Beautiful Hiking San Diego County
Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is an interestingly diverse little trail. At first it gives the impression that there is not much to it, but as you proceed on the changing trail ways from dirt and mud to gravel then climbing up large boulders, you will think again. As you proceed along the trail in this preserve, there is a burial spot of a Prince; John Joseph Eichar. Although several folks lived in this canyon at one time, he is the only known person to have been buried and lived here in the canyon. Distance is 6.8 miles round trip, mostly flat route. Once you make it to the top, you will see small waterfalls and very large boulders protruding from the earth. It is quite beautiful!
Annie’s Canyon is a very short hike; however, it has some gorgeous and unique steep slot canyons. They are so narrow, you must go through them only one way because there is no room to pass another person in the slots. There is an area where a steel ladder is installed and you’ll need to pull yourself up. Once at the top, enjoy the pretty views. Distance is 2.2 miles and heavily trafficked.
Seasonal Themed Trails
Balboa Park Haunted Trail consists of a couple components. The eXperiment Maze is what you will encounter prior to reaching the main trail. This scary section consists of a dark winding maze with flashing probes and themed sections where you may encounter Jason Vorhees, Mike Myers, Freddie Krueger, and even Jack Torrence from The Shining.
The Haunted Trail has been a San Diego Halloween tradition for several years now. Along the trail you will encounter several themed spooky spaces to experience while you wander through it. Each year there may be something different added to the themes. The intense scenes from The Exorcist and several other scary sets that will have you jumping out of your shoes! Creepy clowns are roaming everywhere making it difficult to stay silent! *Covid Update: There is no requirement for masks here, this event is completely outdoors.
North County San Diego Hiking Trails
Boucher Hill Summit trail is a sensational outdoor path to see the best of fall colors. Located at Palomar Mountain State Park, you will find the smell of autumn, colorful leaves and shrubs, and a little similarity to the Sierra Nevada landscapes.
Potato Chip Rock hiking trail at Mt. Woodson will get your heart pumping. This trail has a couple different starting points, one is longer and the other is shorter but steeper. A popular spot on the trail is at a thin rock layer that looks like a potato chip. Distance at highway 67 trail head is 4.1 miles; the other trail head at Lake Poway is 7.3 miles round trip.
Iron Mountain can be enjoyed both during the day hours as well as the night. This trail can be awesome to hike in the evening! We enjoyed a moonlight hike one evening as we climbed our way up the trail with the help from the moon light and our head lamps. Iron Mountain is just down the road from Potato Chip Rock trail and has some elevation climbs as well as some switchbacks. You will enjoy lovely views from the top as the distance on this trail is approximately 5.2 miles and 1102 elevation gain.
Three Sisters Falls Trail consists of a beautiful trek with lots of trail variation and lovely rolling hills as you make your way to the triple waterfalls. You will find this trail in the eastern area of San Diego County, in the Cleveland National Forest in California, Pine Valley. In my opinion, this is one of the best hikes in San Diego. Now, you must realize that the entire trail takes you down hill, and that you will have incline hiking to return back up to the trail head. The drive out here is about 2 hours from San Diego and be prepared to drive on a very bumpy dirt road towards to trail head. There are portable potties but no other facilities. Please make sure to bring plenty of water, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Distance of this trail is approximately 4.2 miles round trip.
Helpful Tip: You may want to travel in a 4×4 vehicle, jeep, or truck that sits a little higher to drive on some of these very bumpy dirt roads prior to reaching this trail head.
Bernardo Mountain Summit Trail makes for great nature settings, defined trail paths, and a picnic area to enjoy lunch. On this trail you must always be listening and watching for bikers. When you reach the summit, you will enjoy pretty views of Lake Hodges. Be aware there are some residential homes along some parts of the trail. The trail distance here is 7.2 miles round trip.
Spooky Outdoor Tales in North County San Diego
Elfin Forest Recreational Area is located nearby the large community of San Elijo Hills in North County nearby Escondido. This trail can get quite busy certain days of the week, so be sure to take caution. You might find bicycles using this trail as well. There are several large rocks and uneven pathways here so you should always be watching where you step. You will enjoy pretty views of Lake Hodges and flying wildlife above on this 4.7 mile trail.
Haunted places in San Diego
Spooky legends in North County.This area among the rolling hills of San Marcos and Escondido are known to have ghostly myths told about it. Historical legends bring to light about this area being one of the most haunted regions in California. It is known to have paranormal influences occurring in the forests. However, according to Nicole Strickland from the San Diego Paranormal Society, reveals that she has not seen or felt any type of abnormality in this particular area. She also mentions that people have said they feel a sense of looming doom while driving through this area at night.
Strickland performs dozens of research and observations of suspicious paranormal happenings around several regions of San Diego. Apparently, San Diego is one of the hot spots for this spirit spooky activity.
Mythical stories include spiritual presences, noises, and suspicious conversations in several spots and locations in the northern San Diego region. According to an article published in The San Diego Union Tribune, these places include Rancho Bueno Vista Adobe and the Avo Playhouse, Escondido Public Library, San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park, Julian Goldrush Hotel, Julian Pioneer Cemetery, and many others.
Hiking Trails in Joshua Tree National Park
Ryan Mountain Trail at Joshua Tree National Park is a beautiful yet somewhat moderately challenging hiking trail. Although it is only 3 miles round trip and 1,050 feet of elevation, I found myself huffing and puffing at certain times. It is one of the highest peaks in the park. Ryan Mountain trail includes a vast diversity of foliage and desert shrubs that accompany you while enjoying the desert views. You will have to make about a 2.5 hour drive east of San Diego to Joshua Tree National Park.
Skull Rock Trail is another fun short beautiful walking trail to enjoy while visiting Joshua Tree National Park. You can scramble around and wander through the large boulder that is the shape of a skull.
Fun Tip: While enjoying a day of hiking at the park, you can return to the Palm Springs area and enjoy some delicious dining at Maracas Cantina! They have two locations in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage and you will thank me later!
California offers such an amazing geographical location that makes it simply spectacular for all outdoor adventures. The weather, landscapes, and nature in the state offers such extraordinary outdoor activity opportunities. Hiking in the fall and anytime of the year can be exciting and exhilarating especially if you go wandering at night and do moonlight hikes! If you are one to go thrill seeking for mystical outdoor adventures with a twist of eerie and the supernatural, then you will be captivated by these hiking adventures throughout the San Diego area!
Joshua Tree Park is on my bucket list of parks in the States! Love the landscape of cactus and those pretty flowers they grow.
Yes, JT is another one of our favorite parks. It is quite spread out, and so diverse. From the Cactus garden to Ryan Mountain,.. it is a desert wonderland indeed! Hope you make it to Joshua Tree!