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San Diegos Best Runs

I'm always amazed at the number of local San Diegan runners who have never heard of or experienced some of San Diego's best run routes. For example, my good friend David Smotrich, M.D., logs hundreds of miles each year in prep for the New York Marathon and yet he still hasn't trained once on the Lake Hodges Trail--San Diego County's best jogging trail in my opinion. I like variety in my training and have run throughout the county. Here are my picks for San Diego's Best Runs:

Lake Hodges Trail San Diego

1) Lake Hodges Trail West - Just off I-15 in Escondido (Via Rancho Pkwy Exit), head east from I-15 and park at the trailhead (end of Sunset Rd.). Choose the trail that heads west from the parking lot. The first half-mile is sidewalk (heads south), then the trail curves under I-15 and becomes a wide, dirt single-track with a creek crossing and rolling hills. Why is this my favorite run route? It's challenging, it's scenic, it's serene and it's hard-packed dirt (easy on the knees). You can accrue up to 6-7 miles in one direction, going all the way to the Lake Hodges Dam if you choose. Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes crossing the path -- in 7 years running here i've seen one once (waited for it to cross the path and continued).

2) Miramar Reservoir - Exit Mira Mesa Blvd. and head west, turn right at Scripps Ranch Blvd., then left at Scripps Lake Drive, then left again into the parking lot. Paved path meanders around the waterline. Every half-mile is marked for those keeping time. And, the route is rolling which adds some difficulty. Not as hilly as Lake Hodges, but certainly not flat like Mission Bay or the downtown Embarcadero. Path doesn't complete a full-loop so an out/back run is necessary. Approximately 7+ miles round trip (to the end and back to the parking lot).

3) Coronado Bike Path - parallels east side of Silver Strand Highway in Coronado. Yes, the paved path is as "flat as a pancake", but there are not many places in San Diego County where you can run with your headphones on and zone out for 10+ miles in one direction (20 miles out/back). You'll see highway traffic on one side throughout, but the lagoons on the east side provide some scenic distractions. Miles are marked, but some painted numbers are more noticeable than others.

4) Lake Murray Activity Path - Exit I-8 at Lake Murray Blvd. and head north, turn left at Kiowa Drive and park in free lot. Another body of water with a paved path around its perimeter, the Lake Murray venue is somewhat more crowded than Miramar, but still peaceful and motivating. A few ups/downs around the 3+ mile route, but a full loop isn't possible so you must out/back. Quarter-miles are marked on the path. You may see a cyclist or two here, but we don't recommend it for bikes--to winding and short. Bring water, especially in the summer, as it can get hot.

5) Torrey Pines State Beach to 15th Street Beach in Del Mar - Exit I-5 on Carmel Valley Rd. heading west. Park on Carmel Valley Rd. as close as possible to Del Mar Scenic Parkway (or you may turn left onto McGonigle and pay to park in the parking lot). This is my favorite beach run because the sand is firm and the beach itself is fairly level. Not to mention the views of the bluffs incredible. Stay along the waterline and run north as far as your legs/heart desire. If you want to return on a paved surface, head up the 15th Street steep hill through Del Mar and turn right on Camino Del Mar (PCH). Run opposite traffic flow in the bike lane.

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