This forest escape is something out of a travel book. If you're looking for some of the best hikes in southern California, Mission Trails Regional Park offers the most incredible nature views!

While it’s easy to picture sandy beaches and the Hollywood sign when it comes to California, the Golden State has so much more to offer. In just only two hours from SoCal, you can drive to the desert or the mountains. 

This massive park spans nearly 65 miles and there are over 50 different hikes to choose from. Depending on which trail you take, you can see everything from river streams and a lake to beautiful wildflowers, rich red sand, and amazing cliff-top views. 

The rugged hills towering over wide-open valleys make for the perfect backcountry escape. One of the best hikes in the park is Big Rock Trail. It’s the highest point in San Diego!

To get to the bird’s eye viewpoint, you’ll have to hike the 4.8-mile trail. There’s plenty of parking in the designated lot.

The first part of the hike is shady and easy. The second half gets a little harder. Make sure to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and bring plenty of snacks and water with you. Take extra water if you plan on bringing your doggo. Check ahead to see which trails allow dogs.

Big Rock Trail offers a number of different activity options and is open year-round. You can even bring your furry friend with you if you keep them on a leash. We recommend going in the spring or fall when the weather has cooled down a bit.

Plus, there will be less creepy crawlies this time, since the park has more rattlesnakes and tarantulas in the summer. Make sure to watch your step and respect the environment as you adventure.

If you want to stay a little longer, Mission Trails Regional Park also has camping options by the lake. Kumeyaay Lake Campground is open for camping on Friday and Saturday nights for $24 a night.

The 46 open camping spots are available by reservation on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re interested in booking a spot, you can do so here.

For those seeking an off-the-grid adventure, Mission Trails Regional Park is the place to be. Remember to take plenty of pics and stay cool. Have fun out there!

Mission Trails Regional Park

Location: 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119

Hours: 7 days a week, 9 am to 5 pm

Contact: (619) 668-3281

Price: Free for hiking.

Why you should go: This gorgeous regional park offers stunning views of San Diego that you wouldn’t expect to find in SoCal.


Editor’s note: We recommend going in cooler weather like the spring and fall. If you plan on bringing your pet, make sure to bring plenty of water for you both. Keep an eye on the ground for rattlesnakes and tarantulas. It’s important to respect the wildlife, environment, and use common sense while exploring.

We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.

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