Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego

This weekend, work took me on a quick trip to San Diego to work with nutrition students at San Diego State University. With Spring winds kicking up in Colorado, you can bet I was packing trail shoes for an opportunity to knock off a few warm weather miles. This ended with me discovering Mission Trails Regional Park and some good dirt tan lines.

I’ve been to San Diego several times for meetings. They have a large convention center, which hosts our Cattle Industry Convention every few years. And really, who is going to complain about warmer weather and tasty fish tacos?

Finding San Diego Trails

There are a ton of things to see in downtown San Diego, including the bay area, Zoo, and Maritime Museum. The area is rich with history that stems back to the first San Diego missions settling in the 1700s. But, if you make a short trek inland, there are some beautiful trails worth packing your shoes.

Just a few miles northeast of SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm) and the SDSU campus lies one of the largest city-owned parks in the country. Mission Trails Regional Park encompasses 7,220 acres and more than 60 miles of mostly dirt and gravel trails.

Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego panorama

Mission Trails Regional Park

I stumbled upon this park and its trails with the Trail Run Project app – a great tool if you’re traveling and looking for local running routes. Mission Trails Regional Park has a few miles of easy trails for the casual walk or easy run. However, much of the park consists of canyons surrounding the San Diego River and steep climbs.

Mission Trails Regional Park is home to several historic sites and some of the first irrigation projects in the area, with Old Mission Dam having provided water to missions and settlers in the late-1700s. The Park would be easy to miss, but once you find it, the steep climbs and the 5 Peaks Challenge offers a good workout for a trail climber between 1,092 and 1,592 feet in elevation.

Mission Trails Regional Park San Diego River

My Run at Mission Trails

My quick work trip didn’t allow a ton of time for exploring or climbing the peaks. I did have a chance to run 11 miles along the lower trails following the San Diego River before the park closed at 7:00 p.m. There was a good mix of dirt single-track and river rock. Many trails are wide gravel paths with easy paved stretches to take in the views.

The trails I found leading up to the peaks were designed more for hikers. Near the visitor center, I didn’t find them very friendly toward running, but I didn’t quite have time to explore from all of the trail heads. I’ll have to save some for future adventures.

Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego trail running

There were a ton of people in the park late afternoon on Saturday. Most of the lower trails were plenty wide to allow for runners passing hikers and families walking their dogs. Be sure to pack plenty of water with you. The desert landscape can heat up quickly and dry you out.

Have you discovered any other trails within a close drive of the San Diego area that are worth checking out?

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