My First Trail Run In Balboa Park San Diego

Last week a business trip took me to San Diego, California, where the weather is always perfect for running. On my first morning I met a friend for a 5 mile run along the bay. It was lovely, but I wanted to see more of San Diego, so on my second morning I convinced another friend to go for a run in Balboa Park.

We ran from our hotel to the park, and then studied the map at the park entrance to figure out a route. It was about 2 miles from our hotel to the park, we had plenty of time, and we both were up for about 7 miles, so we decided to try one of the longer routes.

We followed the sidewalk around the Naval Medical Center, picked up the path through the Rose Garden, and started down the trail thought the Cactus Garden (pictured above). When we got to the bottom of the hill, we weren’t sure where or how to pick up the trail on the other side of the road. We had seen other trails at the top of the Cactus Garden, so we ran back up the Cactus Garden switchbacks. We still weren’t sure where we were going, so we stopped a friendly-looking runner who told us that we should have kept going at the bottom of the hill.

So, back down we went to cross the road and run up the hill on the other side.

There were lots of trails and none seemed to be marked, so we followed another runner until we realized that she probably wasn’t going where we wanted to end up. We picked up another trail and ended up near the top of the park at the Morley Field Sports Complex. (It was an open area, so we could see all the options and used the Medical Center as a landmark for reference.)

Balboa Park Garmin

Balboa Park Trail Run Garmin Map

 I guess those dark green lines are the trails we should have been on!

There was another map near the sports complex, so we stopped to plot our route back. After debating the certainty of following a road versus the adventure of trying to find another trail, we opted for the trail.

This trail (green #12 down the center) was much more well-marked, but ended at the bottom of the Cactus Garden, which means we had to run up those switchbacks again! By this time I was torn between not thinking about food (because I was getting hungry) and thinking about the bacon I would have when I got back to the hotel.


By the time we got back, we had run 10 miles. We had dust on our shoes, smiles on our faces, and were in desperate need of coffee, showers, and bacon. Maybe my first trail run should have been better-planned, better-fueled, and shorter than 10 miles, but it certainly was fun!

Have you been on a trail run?

Have you ever gotten lost?

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18 Responses to My First Trail Run In Balboa Park San Diego

  1. Glad you had company! I haven’t done much trail running, but would like to get a few runs in this summer.
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted…At the moment….My Profile

  2. Sounds like a fun adventure. At least you were in a pretty spot. Your breakfast looks awesome. Glad you had a friend.
    carrie@familyfitnessfood recently posted…How blogging may have just saved my life…My Profile

  3. I love getting to run in new places when traveling! What an adventure.
    EB @ Running on E recently posted…50k Training Week 7: 6/23-6/29My Profile

  4. what a fun run — it’s kinda fun to do runs like that with a friend! and yum, bacon 🙂
    Courtney @ Eat Pray Run, DC recently posted…Navy Air Force Half Training, Week OneMy Profile

  5. I’ve gotten lost a few times while traveling too! Looks like you had a fun time anyway you’re smiling!
    Deborah@confessions of a mother runner recently posted…Tempeh Edamame Rice Noodle salad & June Foodie Pen PalsMy Profile

  6. Gorgeous pic! I am glad you were able to run with a friend and the post run food looked amazing!
    Jennifer Yuen recently posted…NYC Marathon Training 6/23-6/29 – Week 2My Profile

  7. Beautiful park, wish it was laid out and marked better.
    Abby @ BackAtSquareZero recently posted…Almost FreeMy Profile

  8. Kim says:

    Sounds like a super fun way to start the day!!
    Kim recently posted…3 Recent ScaresMy Profile

  9. So great that you got to go on this run! Hmmm, everyone’s talking about trail running lately and I really wish that there were trails nearby! Running is such a great way to get to see a new place, even if you get lost a little bit 🙂
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted…38 Lessons in 38 YearsMy Profile

  10. Love running on trails when I actually get to run on them. I love Balboa park. My hubby is from San Diego so we have been there many times, although, I’ve never been on a run there!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Will.Run.For.FoodMy Profile

  11. Dagmara says:

    While I try to run almost every day I am not at a 10 miles run market yet. But I totally understand your excitement to find new places and explore new areas to run. What a great way to learn about a new area. Thank you for sharing.
    Dagmara recently posted…Meet my furry friend tag: Mr. PicklesMy Profile

  12. Momshomerun says:

    I get lost all the time. Sometimes I’ve even been a bit scared. Especially in wooded areas. I’ve decided not to run there alone anymore. It’s just not a smart thing to do.

    But I do miss exploring new and strange worlds where no man has gone before!
    Momshomerun recently posted…5 scary traffic participants!My Profile

  13. jill conyers says:

    You know I love this! When I lived in CA I lived about 20 minutes from Balboa. One of many favorite places to run!
    jill conyers recently posted…Finding Joy In the NowMy Profile

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