25 Parks To Explore in San Diego

January 23, 2023

25 Parks To Explore in San Diego

Plaza de Panama Fountain

The Plaza de Panama Fountain at Balboa Park
Photo via Michael Beausoleil + SDtoday

Whether you’re looking for a place to play with the kiddos or to decompress with some off-screen time, San Diego County features 340+ parks and recreational spots for you to enjoy.

Ready to plan your trip to the park? Grab your shades and trusty water bottle — here are some of the best in America’s Finest City.

Nature parks

Mission Trails Regional Park

Entering Mission Trails Regional Park.
Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday 

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, 12600 N. Torrey Pines Rd.

Lace up those hiking boots, you’re going to get moving. This coastal gem offers plenty of walking trails and opportunities to observe San Diego’s natural beauty. There are activities for different skill levels and paths that lead to Torrey Pines State Beach.

Mission Trails Regional Park, 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail

With 8,000+ acres of natural and developed areas, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature at this park. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the ~65 miles of trails, access to Lake Murray, and ability to observe wildlife. Plus, there’s a calendar packed with events to take exploration to the next level.

Chula Vista Bayside Park, 999 Bayside Parkway,

Say hello to San Diego Bay — whether you’re looking for a relaxing outing or an active day in the sun. You’ll find trails for waterfront walking, biking, or running that come with views of the San Diego Skyline and the Coronado Bridge. You can also enjoy the water at the sand beach and fishing pier.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, 200 Palm Canyon Dr.

This spot in the East County desert region features trails for biking, walking, and horseback riding, and is often a destination for campers and RVs.

San Dieguito County Park, 1628 Lomas Santa Fe Dr.

Located in Del Mar, this park offers 5 miles of hiking trails with two suspension bridges and nature-themed scavenger hunts along the way. There’s also space for activities including a baseball diamond, basketball courts, playgrounds, and duck ponds — plus scenic areas for special events at its wedding gazebo and dance pavilion.

Double Peak Park, 900 Double Peak Drive

San Marcos (or should we say San Parkos) has an elevated parks game, but the best thing about Double Peak Park extends beyond its borders. It offers an unmatched, panoramic view of San Diego County — though you’ll also find picnic equipment and a small amphitheater. You can hike to the park using Double Peak Trail, or you can drive most of the way (we won’t judge).

Otay Lakes County Park, 2270 Wueste Rd.

Head to the water, but instead of the ocean, enjoy views of Otay Lake. The park in Chula Vista is perfect for nature lovers and features trails, play spaces, and gardens for native plants. It’s also noted as a great spot for birdwatchers to break out their binoculars.

Agua Caliente County Park, 39555, 1849 Great Southern Overland Stage Route of Julian

This park at the mountain base in Julian is recognized for its desert hiking trails and hot springs. Visitors will find three geothermally heated pools, which make the area popular with campers and people looking to warm up in winter months.


Civita Park

A glance at Civita Park.
Image via @rosie619sd 

Family parks

Waterfront Park, 1600 Pacific Highway

Located by the County Administration Center in downtown San Diego, this park gives you a view of San Diego Bay and space for relaxing and activities. It offers play areas, including splash pads for those hot days, and has art scattered throughout — including pieces by Nicki de Saint Phalle.

Harry Griffen Park, 9550 Milden St.

There’s plenty of family fun at this La Mesa park spanning 53 acres. Here, you’ll find walking and jogging paths, picnic spaces, horseshoe pits, and playgrounds. Key features include an outdoor amphitheater that holds 360 people and the Canine Corners off-leash dog park.

Kit Carson Park, 3333 Bear Valley Parkway

Head north to Escondido to find this park that blends history, art, and activities. You’ll find areas for baseball, soccer, disc golf, and tennis — and an amphitheater that can hold 3,000 people. Also, admire “Queen Califia’s Magical Circle,” a sculpture garden by Nicki de Saint Phalle.

Civita Park, 7960 Civita Blvd.

Mission Valley’s 14-acre park is packed with fun for the whole family. You’ll find two shaded playgrounds, a community garden, game areas, walking trails, and separate dog parks for large and small pups. Pro tip: Take a trip on Saturday mornings and catch the Civita Farmers Market.

Ellen Browning Scripps Park, 1100 Coast Blvd.

This photographic gem will give you unforgettable views of La Jolla Cove. You’ll be able to see the Pacific Ocean, feel the breeze, and catch glimpses of seals and sea lions. This grassy area will put you steps away from some of La Jolla’s beaches and the nearby shopping and restaurants.

California Tower SDtoday

The California Tower at Balboa Park
Photo via Michael Beausoleil + SDtoday

Historic parks
Balboa Park, 1549 El Prado

There’s a reason this park is nicknamed the “Jewel of San Diego.” Balboa Park encompasses 1,200 acres filled with gardens, museums, Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, the San Diego Zoo, and more. This space has become intertwined with San Diego’s history and hosts many cultural events and holiday celebrations.

NTC Park in Liberty Station, 2455 Cushing Rd.

This space was once part of the Naval Training Center and is full of local military history and recreation areas. You’ll find walking trails with views of San Diego Bay, playgrounds, and multi-use fields. Getting hungry? This park is a quick walk to Liberty Public Market.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, 4002 Wallace St.

San Diego is often attributed as the birthplace of California, and this is where it all began. This park celebrates the city’s Mexican and early-American history and earns historic recognition for being on land belonging to the Kumeyaay people. Here, you will find museums, historic buildings, restaurants, and shops.

Old Poway Park, 14134 Midland Rd.

Take a trip back in time at this park that celebrates its early twentieth century history. You can take a ride on the Poway-Midland Railroad, visit the Heritage Museum, or look through history at the Nelson House. If you’re feeling sporty or need to relax, head over to the adjacent Aubrey Park for fields, play structures, and picnicking spaces.

Kate Sessions Neighborhood Park, 5115 Soledad Rd.

Located in Pacific Beach, this park pays tribute to Kate Sessions — the famed botanist responsible for much of the city’s plant life. Here, you’ll find 79-acres of space including a playground, fields, and a hill that provides stunning views overlooking San Diego.

Mission Hills Park (aka Pioneer Park), 1521 Washington Place

This park may be best known for what it once was: a cemetery. Only a handful of tombstones remain to remember early pioneers who traveled to San Diego. Since its transformation in the 1970s, the park offers outdoor space with views of the surrounding communities, a small playground, and tennis courts.

Mast Park Slide

Sliding into Mast Park
Photo via Monica Garske + SDtoday

Sports parks

La Mesita Park, 8855 Dallas St.

This 12.85-acre park is perfect for active days. It offers walking paths, courts for tennis and pickleball, a skate park, and playground equipment. Afterwards, you can enjoy some time relaxing in grassy areas or in the picnicking spaces.

Mast Park, 9125 Carlton Hills Blvd.

This Santee park underwent a $10 million renovation a few years ago and today, it features a disc golf course, basketball courts, playgrounds, an off-leash dog park, and access to the Mission Creek and Wintercreek Place trails.

Mission Bay Park, 1590 E. Mission Bay Dr.

Boasting 4,235 acres of space, this area encompasses many smaller parks that house some of San Diego’s best offerings. You’ll find sections dedicated to water activities, rings for bonfires, and many trails for walking and biking. Recently, a $3.8 million play space opened in Tecolote Shores North giving kids 34,000 ft of playground equipment with bay views.

Grape Day Park, 321 North Broadway

Get ready to get moving at this Escondido park noted for “Vinehenge,” its grape-themed playground and walking trail. The park is also part of local history with the “Heritage Trail” paying tribute to Escondido’s early days, and the “Grape Day Park Military Tribute.” Currently, the “2015 Grape Day Park Master Plan” is in the works to renovate play spaces and the aquatics facility.

Olympus Park, 701 Olympus St.

One of the newest parks in the county, Olympus was ready for action in 2021. The 3.1-acre space in Leucadia includes play structures, a small skate park, and courts for pickleball and basketball.

Linda Vista Skateboard Park, 6893 Osler St.

It wouldn’t be SoCal without skateboarding, and this is the largest skatepark in the San Diego Parks and Recreation system. Kick it with 34,000 sqft of ramps, pipes, obstacles and space for spectators. The park is next to Linda Vista Recreation Center and Community Park that offers fields for sports, a gymnasium, an auditorium, and play spaces.

🐾 Want to take the pups along? We’ve got dog parks to explore, too.

Source: SD Today,  Victoria Bardega, Michael Beausoleil


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