The Most Unique Hike in San Diego: The Seven Bridges Trail
Updated: Dec 16, 2021
Before I took the seven bridges hike I had no idea what an urban hike was, to me it sounds like just a walk around town. A hike should involve getting out of the city and enjoying nature, but this hike involves sidewalks and overpasses. However, looking at the core of what a hike is, I think it should just be walking with a sense of adventure and exploration, which can be done anywhere and at any time. Urban hikes mean that no one is limited to their access to rolling hills and dirt trails, which I find truly incredible.
The seven bridges hike is a perfect loop that takes you across some of the major parts of the city of San Diego while getting to explore the many hidden bridges around the area. While I've driven around town many times, this walk really opened my eyes to the restaurants, architecture, art, and people of San Diego. Plus, the best part of an urban hike is that these trails have food stops!
Seven Bridges Hiking Details:
- This hike is a loop, but some of the bridges are off to the side so it's best to bring a map (or this blog) for reference.
- You start in Balboa Park so make sure to leave some time to explore that area as well (there are so many museums and my favorite, The Botanical Building!)
- The hike is 6mi, but also almost entirely flat, so it's really not difficult for anyone to complete
- Make sure to bring your wallet as you will pass so many tasty looking restaurants and cafes through Balboa, University Heights, and Hillcrest
- I suggest starting in Balboa, parking in the lot for either the San Diego Natural History
The museum, or the lot north of it. There are usually a lot of spaces here and it gives you a chance to walk through the park before the first bridge.
1. Cabrillo Bridge
When you get to Balboa Park, it can be a bit overwhelming with all of the things to do there, but feel free to either start or end your journey by exploring all it has to offer. You can check out their website here for all the fun museums and activities they have. But if you're just here for the hike, then follow along.
If you park in front of either the San Diego Natural History Museum or the Spanish Village Art Center, you should start by going South on Village Place until El Prado. From El Prado, you will start to head West toward the epicenter of Balboa. On this street, you walk through the main courtyard in Balboa, home to the lily pond, multiple museums, and the awesome botanical building (which in my opinion, is a must-see).
Continuing down El Prado out of Balboa you will cross your first of the seven bridges, CabrilloBridge. Built in 1914, this was the first multi-arched cantilever bridge in California and originally had a pond running under it. Today, the 163 (or Cabrillo) expressway runs beneath it and connects Balboa Park to the West side of San Diego.
2. First Avenue Bridge
Once you leave the lush beauty of Balboa Park, you will begin to enter Banker's Hill, an old neighborhood of downtown San Diego. Continuing on El Prado, (which turns into Laural Street once leaving Balboa Park), you will head out 5 blocks before turning right onto 1st Avenue. Following first avenue, North takes you to the second bridge, the First Avenue bridge.
The First Avenue bridge is a steel-arched bridge built in 1931. It was dubbed "the people's bridge" due to its creation being prompted by the local property owners wanting to connect over the valley. The valley below the bridge is Maple Canyon, which is home to a mile-long hiking trail that allows you to get a small taste of nature in the middle of the city.
3. Quince Street Bridge
From First Avenue you'll take the first street right onto Quince Street, at the end of this street you will reach the beautiful Quince Street Bridge. This one had me a bit confused because if you want to walk across it, you will have to walk back across to continue on the hike, but I think it's worth it because of the nice view across Maple Canyon.
The Quince Street Bridge is a wooden trestle bridge built in 1905, unfortunately, with all ancient wooden bridges, it was been remodeled quite a bit since its creation. With the original bridge only costing $805 to build, the refurbishments over the years for this historic landmark have now cost roughly $250,000! So please go over and enjoy this ridiculously expensive monument to history before they tear it down to build a better bridge.
4. Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
Definitely one of the coolest bridges of the hike, but I should give you a couple of warnings first:
- it does sway back and forth, and for someone prone to motion sickness, it had me feeling a little queasy at the end
- there are almost always a lot of people on the bridge, so be aware you'll be walking very slowly across it
- there is some caution tape on the rails of the bridge where they have disconnected, which definitely put me off at first, but once I got a closer look it seemed that they weren't part of the support system of the bridge so....cross at your own risk?