You Must Try: Our Favorite Secret Waterfall Hike in San Diego
Content Produced in Partnership with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
There’s a secret hiking spot only the locals seem to know about in San Diego. While they may have been trying to keep it all to themselves, we’re letting the cat out of the bag. It’s called Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve. Located about 20 miles outside San Diego, the 4,000 acre preserve has about 37 miles of trails. It’s a hidden oasis where more than 500 plant species and hundreds of birds, animals, and reptiles take shelter in the tree groves, creek, and pond.
The waterfall hike is easily the most popular hike in the preserve. Easy to do as a family or solo, the trail winds its way through grassy meadows and marshes to a hidden waterfall protected by the canyon. For those willingly to leave the seaside behind for a few hours, Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is a welcome — and much needed — nature trip.
What to Expect:
“Los penasquitos” means “between two hills” and that’s exactly where you’ll find the waterfall. The hike is moderately strenuous. There aren’t many hills, but the Californian heat and distance (about four miles) can take a little bit out of you. Be sure to bring plenty of water and stop for a few breaks in the shade as necessary.
It’s worth noting as well that this is a canyon hike. That means the walk toward the waterfall will be mostly downhill; however, once you turn back around, you’ll spend the majority of the return trip trekking uphill. All that effort is worth though because you’ll feel like the king of the world when you reach the falls and once again when you finish the hike.
When (and How) To Do It:
We recommend taking on this hike late in the afternoon or first thing in the morning. Not only will you be able to avoid the mid-afternoon heat, you’ll also be more likely to catch an amazing sunset and perhaps spot a few animals also enjoying the cooler temps. Visitors report seeing mule deer bedding in the grassy areas, while herons and egrets are more likely to be spotted in the marsh or along the rock faces surrounding the falls. The falls can fluctuate in intensity depending on the time of year and the amount of rainfall. Use that to your advantage too to explore the rocky area and waterways.
Once you’re Done:
Once you’ve worked up a sweat, relax in style at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar because you’ve earned it. Set directly alongside the preserve, its guests rave about the accommodations just as much as the amazing outdoor setting. Want to explore the remaining trails in the Los Penasquitos? The hotel offers horseback riding tours and guided hikes as well.
Other Voices you might like
Solo Travel, Thrill-Seeker, Travel Journalist
Menswear Writer, Coffee Drinker, Outdoor Traveler
Solo Travel, Immersive