10 Easy Family Friendly Hikes

By Natalie Kaufman May 30, 2017

Whether you are looking for that perfect scenic stroll, a little extra family fitness or a park alternative to run around in the outdoors and tire out the little ones, North County San Diego has some awesome outdoor spots. Here is a list of some of our favorites:

Coastal Rail Trail
The north part of the Coastal Rail Train is 0.7-mile trail and runs along the railroad in Carlsbad (it spans between Oak Street and Tamarack Avenue). That section represents the first part of San Diego County's Coastal Rail Trail. Plans lans are underway to extend the trail south of Tamarack. Parking is available in Carlsbad Village. The trail picks up again in Solana Beach, and goes between Highway 101 and the Coaster line (from Ocean Street in the north to Via de la Valle in the south). The trail there goes through landscaped area and leads directly to the Solana Beach Transit Center and many of the shops and restaurants in town as well as the beach. And what kid doesn’t love seeing the occasional train coming by? (Just cover your ears!)

Wetland Habitats
Interested in a flat walk to see some insects, birds, mud creatures, wetland habitats and more? Check out the lagoon trail walk at the Batiquitos Lagoon. It is located just north of Encinitas and can be enjoyed on a nature trail on the north side of the lagoon. The trail runs about two miles long and starts just east of the 5 freeway at the end of Gabbiano Lane. The other side of it (to the east) exits near El Camino. There are five public parking lots that provide access to the area, one of which is by a Nature Center and four that are on Batiquitos Drive.

Encinitas Ranch Golf Course Trail
Encinitas Ranch Golf Course isn’t just a place to play golf. It also has a 1.1-mile loop located near Encinitas. What is exciting about it is that you can enjoy wild flowers, it isn’t usually as busy as some nearby trails and is good for most skill levels. It also offers some wonderful views. Dogs can also enjoy the trail if they are kept on the leash.

A Precious Natural Resource
One of San Diego County’s most precious natural resources is said to be the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (just northeast of Encinitas & East of Carlsbad). It offers approximately 11 miles of hiking, horse trails, mountain biking, and some picnic areas. I remember the trail being seriously steep with some amazing mountain views. But if you have younger kiddos, there is still plenty to see here. The Tykes Hike Trail, for example, is only .23 miles. There is also a Creek Viewing area, a .22-mile creek trail, and a botanical trail that is approximately .64 miles, according to the website. You can top off your visit (depending on the time) by visiting the interpretive educational center.

Another Lagoon Walk…
While not technically an official “hike” when you think of the word, Hubbs Trail sits on the Carlsbad Lagoon. This lagoon is mainly known for its fishing and water sports with boat rents and paddleboarding nearby, but it also offers a nice flat trail (probably spans about half a mile) just west of the freeway in Carlsbad. With beach views, you can often find some pelicans, shorebirds, and see what the local fisherman are catching. My little ones like to sit on the bench there, have breakfast and try to skip some rocks. Parking and entrance to this area of the lagoon is at the end of Garfield Street, just off Tamarack.

Kelly Trail
While dropping my daughter off at Kelly School (Carlsbad), I have always noticed a small trail when turning around in the roundabout. I finally decided to take a look and realized it is the most peaceful and quite trail (which can actually be somewhat scary if you are by yourself). Officially called Kelly Trail, it is about a 1 mile trail and runs along the upland wildlife preserve. And a perfect way to finish up the hike is to have a picnic or some play time across the street at the Laguna Riviera Park.

Bressi Trail
Just east of El Camino Real, in the Bressi Ranch community, is an unpaved trail. It sits along the east side of El Fuerte Street. The trail is said to be an off-shoot of a longer trail along Poinsettia Lane. It is said that many people who live in the area use the trails as a non-motorized option to get to and from local schools and the Bressi Village Shopping Center. I have also heard that it is a pretty good spot for learning to ride a bicycle. And why not end the visit by enjoying a kid-friendly lunch at the Bressi Village Pizza Port and watch the fish swim in the coolest fish tank I have ever seen.

Hidden Canyon
Connected to one of my FAVORITE parks is the Hidden Canyon trail. It is unpaved and only runs about .25 miles. It connects the dog park (along Carlsbad Village Drive) with Hidden Canyon Community Park and gives a beautiful breeze on a hot day. The park, by the way, offers several picnic areas and large expanses of lawn. (Another great place to learn to ride a bike by the way).

Discovery Center Trail
Nothing is better than a two-for-one. If you visit the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Discovery Center, you will get just that (maybe a three-for-one). The Center, just off Cannon Road in Carlsbad, is dedicated to environmental education and outreach. The building has exhibits, hands on displays which pertain to historical and environmental aspects of the lagoon, and you can even talk to the Parrot or hold a reptile if you are lucky. But just outside the Discovery Center, facing the lagoon, is a small hiking trail that is also perfect for your little ones. Although it has a slight decline/incline, with a little hand holding, the view and experience here is well worth it.

Canyon Trail
A little further south in Solana Beach, CA, is a much tougher one. Annie’s Canyon trail, which is one of the more wider stretches of the San Elijo Lagoon Econlogical Reserve. It includes switchbacks, and is accessible from Solana Hills trail and the Rios Avenue trail. With naturally eroding sandstone walls, great views, it is definitely worth seeing. While this one might be a bit more difficult for the tinier tots, it is one you can work up to, bring your older ones, or perhaps wear the younger ones in a backpack?