San Diego Outdoor Adventures

La Jolla Zip Zoom in Pauma Valley

Explore San Diego’s Diverse Terrain with these Scenic Excursions

From leisurely scenic strolls to flying high over our postcard-worthy landscape, San Diego’s great outdoors are beckoning. Admittedly, I am a big kid who loves to play in my own backyard, and I invite you to do the same. Here are a few of my favorite reasons to step outside (keeping safety and social distancing in mind, of course). Adventure awaits …

Get your heart pounding with a one-of-a-kind zip line experience at La Jolla Zip Zoom. The adventure takes guests down four zip lines that, totaled together, are more than 6,000 feet long—making it the longest zip line in California. Located on the La Jolla Indian Reservation, the zip line offers scenic views of Palomar Mountain and Pauma Valley—while reaching speeds of 55 miles per hour. Later, if it’s warm enough, rent some rubber tires at the nearby La Jolla Indian Campground and cool off by rafting in the San Luis Rey River. 22000 CA-76, Pauma Valley, 760.742.3776.

Paragliding over the Pacific

Glide like a bird above the majestic bluffs overlooking Torrey Pines State Beach aboard a hang glider or parasail glider. The Torrey Pines Gliderport offers tandem rides by experienced instructors about 300 days a year. The 20- to 25-minute flights show off the coastal cliffs, the Torrey Pines Golf Course and some of the region’s priciest real estate. Usually, you’re lucky enough to land right where you started. Occasionally, light winds mean you land below at Black’s Beach, where clothing is, uh, optional (though not officially sanctioned). Just a warning. 2800 Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, La Jolla, 858.452.9858.

Hiking along Lake Hodges

Take in the diverse landscapes of San Dieguito River Park—which includes Lake Hodges and Bernardo Mountain—with a hike along 45 miles of a 70-mile trail known as the Coast to Crest Trail. The trail (also popular with equestrians and mountain bikers) starts in Del Mar (the coast) and reaches the summit of Volcan Mountain (the crest), north of Julian. Accessible trailheads located in in Del Mar, the Del Dios Gorge, at Lake Hodges, and in San Pasqual Valley. Hikes range in difficulty and terrain, as does the landscape, which becomes more rugged and remote as you head east. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen. |

Located in Mission Trails Regional Park, the Old Mission Dam is an unsung local gem to visit. It dates back to the early 1800s and was one of the first dams built on the West Coast. Built out of stone and cement by Spanish missionaries and Kumeyaay natives indigenous to the area, it’s now an idyllic place for a picnic, a hike or just a calm place for meditation and to enjoy nature. 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, Mission Gorge.

Giraffe cuteness overload at the San Diego Zoo

It’s all about animal attraction at the San Diego Zoo, which remains open but is operating at less than half of normal capacity and with strict safety guidelines (see website). My suggestion: Go for an upgraded experience by booking a private “Inside Look” tour for up to six household members. Offered daily (including early-morning tours before the zoo opens!), the two-hour experience lets you see the animals up close and learn more about their care and conservation. The zoo (home to 3,500-plus animals) promises a surprise thrill or two along the way. 2920 Zoo Drive, Balboa Park, 619.718.3000.

Another scenic must-visit: the Sunset Cliffs Trail Walk. This 3.7-mile hike is a twisting, turning jaunt that takes you directly along the coast down to Sunset Cliffs Natural Park near Point Loma Nazarene University. Because the coastline is mostly sandstone, erosion is common and some of the pathways can deteriorate after a big rainstorm. Still, the contrast between the beige, craggy cliffs and crystal-blue water is top-notch and, depending on the tides, there can be lots of fun caves to explore. Start at Ocean Beach Pier at 1950 Abbott St. and walk south.

Photo credits from top: courtesy La Jolla Zip Zoom; Susanne Neal; Jim Coffee; courtesy San Diego Zoo.


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