Nighttime hiking in San Diego: Safety Tips & Locations

Nighttime hiking in San Diego? Sign me up! Hiking at night can be absolutely magical, however, safety is always most important. I have put together night hiking safety tips along with the best locations in San Diego for nighttime hiking.

If you have never been hiking before then make sure to check out my beginner’s guide to hiking as well!

Nighttime hiking in San Diego

Nighttime hiking Safety Tips

Hiking is one of my favorite ways to explore, but being safe is the top priority. Here are a few tips on night hiking safety to make sure you stay safe on the trails:

1. Choose a familiar location

I would highly recommend hiking to a location that you are familiar with and have already hiked during daylight. At night, it is much easier to get lost because our sense of direction isn’t as strong. Taking a map and a compass also is a good idea, especially for heavily wooded areas. Pay attention to landmarks like large boulders, large clearings, etc.

2. Go nighttime hiking with friends

Take a buddy! Going hiking with friends is so much fun, but also makes adventuring a lot safer. If you hike with a friend bringing walkie-talkies is something to think about in case you get separated for some reason.

3. Let the moon guide you

The moon is a wonderful source of natural light, especially when you are hiking during a new or full moon. If you start your hike at or around sunset, your eyes will have time to adjust to the gradual darkness. 

4. Supplies 

When hiking at night it is important to make sure and pack the right supplies to help you stay safe and prepared if anything happens. Make sure to bring extra water, high-protein snacks, navigational tools, walkie-talkies, flashlights with backup batteries, and a first aid kit. 

You might also consider taking a flashlight that has different light color capabilities. Red or green lights are easier on your eyes at night. 

5. Watch for Wildlife

One great thing about night hikes is that you have a unique opportunity to see wildlife that you typically wouldn’t see during a daytime hike. That being said, it is important to be watchful and pay close attention to your surroundings because more wildlife moves at night.

I would recommend staying away from using headphones while hiking, especially at night because you are not able to hear if anything is around you.

6. Take your time

One of my best recommendations for hiking safely at night is to take your time. Rushing through anything, especially at night makes it far more dangerous. Stopping occasionally to look and listen is a great idea. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If you are on a time crunch, consider taking a shorter trail so you don’t find yourself rushing through a trail.

Why Night Time Hiking?

Nighttime hiking is a great way to beat the heat and still be able to explore while also taking in a different perspective of nature. You are able to see the beautiful stars and even the Milky Way! Hiking at night forces you to be more in tune with the environment because you are not able to see as well and you have to rely on your other senses. 

Best Spots for NightTime Hiking in San Diego

Iron Mountain

Chelsey sitting on top of Iron Mountain in San Diego

Iron Mountain is a great location for night hiking for several reasons. There is only one main path up and down, so if you stay on the trail it is hard to get lost. You can also see the city lights while you are hiking, which makes for a stunning view. There are a few steep places on the trails, so make sure we wear good hiking shoes. 

Cowels Mountain

Chelsey on top of Cowel's mountain in San Diego at nighttime

Cowels Mountain offers some of the best hiking in San Diego. It is the highest point in San Diego and you are able to see the lights from nearby cities from the top of the mountain. There are several different trail options for hikers of different fitness levels, the trails are well maintained and easily accessible.  Cowels Mountain is one of the most popular hiking spots in San Diego, which is great for safety because it is well-traveled. 

Mt Woodson

Chelsey and Dan on Mt. Woodson Potato chip rock

Mt. Woodson is a wonderful place to hike in San Diego and home to the famous Potato Chip Rock hike. While there are more trails than just to Potato Chip Rock, it is a big reason that people choose to hike on Mt. Woodson. The trail going from Lake Poway is the most popular because it is very scenic, and there are facilities along the way which make it a very safe hiking trail. 

Hiking in San Diego at night can be breathtaking and fun. To top that off, there are so many great options for safe hiking trails. I love the different perspective that hiking at night offers and now you know how to do it safely. I would love to read about your nighttime hiking experiences, so feel free to share below!

Have fun exploring! 

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