I went to San Diego last weekend for a bachelorette party. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do any hiking in or near San Diego, although there are many beautiful hiking trails many of which are close to the beach, but I did have plenty of non-hiking adventures that are nearly as interesting!
We kicked off the party with a hot air balloon ride. Compass Balloons, the company that handled our ride, were professional, courteous, accommodating and even offered us snacks! While they were hard at work blowing up the balloon and testing the wind directions, we had champagne and cheese.
If you’ve never taken a ride on a hot air balloon, I highly recommend it. It’s fun to look down from over 3,000 feet. If you do this in San Diego, it’s particularly exciting because you get to see the mountains in the area from above and the sun starting to set over the Pacific Ocean. It’s a different experience from hiking up a mountain and looking down at the valley below and mountain ranges around but a thrilling view nonetheless. Unfortunately, because the balloons have to land before it gets dark, I didn’t get to see the sun set over the ocean.
The last time I felt like I sat among the clouds was during my Appalachian Trail thru hike when I was sitting at 6,289 feet on the summit of Mount Washington. I had a similar feeling on top of the balloon. I was slightly below the clouds but felt like I could almost reach out and touch them.
Our next adventure was a whale watching cruise. It was a 3.5 hrs of sailing around the San Diego Bay and Pacific Ocean. We learned very quickly that even if the water appears calm, the Pacific Ocean can induce motion sickness. By the time we saw our fifth gray whale, most of us were feeling pretty nauseous and ready to sit down. In addition to the gray whales, we also saw dolphins and sea lions as well. Unfortunately, all of these animals were a little too far away and too quick for us to capture them on camera.
Our last adventure was the closest I got to a hike. We went to Sunset Cliffs, a natural park by the beach. The sand cliffs are carved out by the ocean and continues to evolve. Therefore, the cliffs are extremely unstable and there are many warnings to remind you to stay away from the edges. There is a mile long flat trail that takes you to the end of the cliffs but if you want to get closer to the beach and the bottom of the cliffs, you can go to the opposite end and walk along the beach. Regardless of where you are at Sunset Cliffs, you get an incredible view of the ocean.
Since this is a hiking blog, I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention at least a few incredible hikes in and around San Diego! If you are looking for a casual stroll through a well-developed trail, check out Torey Pines State Park. This three mile hike will take you about a 1.5 hours and 350 feet of elevation. You’ll get beautiful vistas of both the water and other landscapes. It’s a short drive outside of San Diego in the Del Mar region.
If you’re looking for something more strenuous but still beautiful and memorable, consider hiking to the summit of Mt. Woodson, also known by its nickname, “the potato chip rock.” This 6.6 mile hike is a medium level hike through a field of boulders and you’ll not only be rewarded by incredible views of San Diego County but also a picture at the iconic potato chip overhang!
Hikers looking for a true challenge can tackle the 11 mile hike to the top of El Cajon Mountain. This steep and roller coaster like trail will have you going up and down to eventually gain 4,000 feet of elevation and your reward will be an incredible panoramic view. Be prepared the return trip will not be an easy stroll downhill. It’ll be another roller coaster of up and down again, so take plenty of water and snacks for this hike!
These are just three hikes that peaked my interest. There’s a range of great trail and mountains to tackle, if you make a hiking trip to San Diego! Next time, I’m here, I’ll definitely explore these hikes and provide better trail reviews but in the meantime hope you enjoy the hot air balloon ride adventure!