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Walk, Run, or Hike the Balboa Park Trails

Florida Canyon trail in Balboa Park
Florida Canyon trail in Balboa Park
Photo by Richard Benton



With San Diego’s near-perfect climate and a convenient location for residents of Banker’s Hill, Downtown, South Park, and other surrounding neighborhoods, Balboa Park is a natural place for walking and jogging. Recognizing the Park’s beauty, size and biodiversity, a small but dedicated group of Park Rangers and volunteers has been working to create a park-wide trails system. In fewer than three years, the Balboa Park Trails Committee has designed 19 trails leading from five gateways in the Park.

Senior Park Ranger Casey Smith makes it clear that much of this project’s success is due to the knowledge and energy of community volunteers. David Contois, one of the first champions of the project, helped to secure funding and recruit other volunteers who could assist with trail identification and mapping. Lonnie Brunini was one of those early recruits; he joined after David spoke to his running club.

I met with Lonnie to ask him about his involvement with the group.

“I thought it would be one meeting, but it’s been almost three years,” he says, smiling. “It just grew and grew and grew.” In addition to participating in the committee meetings, Lonnie visits the Park at least twice a week to exercise and check the trail signs for vandalism.

“It’s just one of the many things you can do in Balboa Park for free. How many cities have a park like this, right in the middle of the city? It’s a jewel.”

His favorite trail is the Sixth & Upas Gateway trail #5, a route that he helped design about two years ago. This trail, along with three others that go through the center of the Balboa Park campus, are good for more than burning calories—they also provide visitors with a look at everything else there is to do in the 1,200 park.

“When you do the trails, you go past the cultural institutions and you want to check them out. You go past the Museum of Man and the Japanese Friendship Garden. It’s a great way to experience all aspects of the Park.”