Headed to San Diego for work, pleasure, sun...all of the above? Lily Trotters Ambassador Jenn Gill shares her favorite spots in San Diego.
I first moved to San Diego from the east coast in the summer of 2011. We moved here for my husband’s job and as a mom to a then 5-year old and newborn twins (yes, we moved across the country right after they were born!), I wasn’t sure what to expect. Sure, we had visited San Diego before, while I was a college student in Arizona or for a work conference, but never did we expect to live here. But with the sun, sand and outdoor playgrounds, I knew it was going to be amazing.
Once we were settled and my body was ready to take on the streets of San Diego, I quickly explored my new hometown. There really is so much here from new runners, weekend warriors and professional athletes alike. In fact, the marathoning legend himself, Meb Keflezighi, calls San Diego home!
Here are the best places to run, eat, get your gear, and more in sunny San Diego!
The Top Three Best Places to Run in San Diego
If you’re looking for a flat, fast and easy run, Mission Bay and Fiesta Island are the places to be. Mission Bay forms south of Mission Beach (just west of downtown San Diego) and is basically the birthplace of Triathlon. It's flat and has beautiful views the bay and San Diego's skyline in the distance. You're also sure to catch crew teams rowing in the bay, which is always inspiring. Several races take place within Mission Bay, so training along the race course is very doable. In fact, Mission Bay is a favorite running route for many San Diego elite runners, including Meb. I've "run" into Meb several times and he's always gracious enough to stop for a photo.
When you’re looking to hit the trails but stay within the city, Balboa Park trails are the place to be. In the heart of downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is best known as the home of several museums, the Japanese Friendship Garden, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. But it is also home to miles and miles of trails, from easy paved trails to challenging dirt trails going up, down and through several canyons. The trails are well marked and easy to find with large signs at each of the 5 trailheads.
When you’re ready to head out of the city to more challenging terrain, Mission Trails Regional Park is where you want to go. From the beginning hiker to the experienced trail runner, Mission Trails is one of the best places for trail running in San Diego. It’s located just north of downtown San Diego but you feel like you're out in the middle of nowhere. There are miles and miles of trails and anyone of any fitness level can find the trail that suits their needs. There are 5 main peaks within the park, each well over 1000 feet in elevation and each one offers spectacular views of San Diego County. The park recently organized a self-supported 5-Peak Challenge in which you hike or run each of the 5 peaks in your own time frame and you can receive a certificate of completion and pin. The park does get really hot in the summer months, so try to hit the trails in the early hours of the day!
Best Running Store
Movin Shoes. Movin Shoes has been a San Diego running institution for decades. There are two locations in Encinitas and Pacific Beach and they cater to runners and walkers of all levels. They carry the latest merchandise, sponsor several local races and offer tons of events for locals from weekly group runs to seminars on running form and nutrition. They are devoted to building the running community and do their best to help everyone reach their goals.
The Best Running Groups and Places to Cross Train
As you can imagine, there are several running groups to choose from in San Diego. Head on over to https://www.meetup.com and search for San Diego running groups and there are a million to choose from.
If you’re looking for a trail running group, I love joining the Dirt Devils. They have several mid-week runs around some local trails and then on the weekend, they organize a larger, longer run on some of the more challenging trails further out from downtown San Diego.
If you’re looking for track workouts, you can’t beat those organized by the San Diego Track Club. They also have hill workouts, longer organized runs and easy mid-week runs.
When you’re ready to relax, I’m all for a calming yoga class. Yoga studios are everywhere in San Diego and you really can’t go wrong with any of them. I prefer smaller, quiet studios and the Pura Vida Yoga studio in the Gaslamp district of San Diego is just that. It’s quiet and calming and while the studio is large and can hold a big class, you never feel like a sardine. The staff is super friendly and welcoming, there are changing rooms and you can rent mats and towels if you’re visiting from out of town and don’t have them.
Favorite Post-Run Food Spot
The Mission in Mission Beach and North Park and East Village neighborhoods in downtown San Diego. There can be a bit of a wait for breakfast but it is well worth it. This laid back place serves breakfast and lunch and has something for everyone. They’re known for their awesome pancakes dishes (there are nine different varieties on the menu), and while I love them, I'm a fan of the Chicken Apple Sausage with Eggs and Rosemary Potatoes. Everything is so flavorful and perfect after a long run.
Snooze, the only place worth waiting for more so than The Mission. There are several locations in San Diego city limits and then around San Diego County. In addition to their enormous menu filled with classic breakfast dishes such as pancakes, omelets and French Toast, they have six different Eggs Benedict dishes, all with different takes on the classic dish. So good! And if you enjoy a breakfast cocktail post run, Snooze is the place for you. And there’s no judgement here! What happens at Snooze, stays at Snooze!
Run San Diego!
I absolutely love running in San Diego. In no other place, can you run pretty much every day of the year. The weather is always runnable, even in the heat of the summer (which lasts through November!). You can run in the mountains of east San Diego County in the morning and after a 2-hour drive, be running along the coast at lunchtime. From mountains to beaches, trails to roads, there is something for every runner here. There is a race of any distance, terrain or discipline (triathlons, duathlons, mountain bike races, etc.) almost every weekend. After living here for almost 6 years, there are still so many places to explore and discover. Lucky me...It truly is a runner's paradise!