Balboa Park is home to one of the city's more memorable nature walks, the Bridle Trail. Located west of state Route 163, the Bridle Trail is a relaxing adventure through the forested hills of the popular park.
The trail is accessible at several points along Balboa Drive and Sixth Avenue, including a spot several yards north of the lawn bowling site. Upon entering the trail, your path will take you on a smooth descent into the canyon beneath the majestic Cabrillo Bridge.
The Bridle Trail is alive with activity, even if you happen to be hiking on your own. Unusually tame squirrels scurry along the sides of the path, and the small network of trails has become popular with joggers.
“It's actually kind of a hidden gem,” said Jim Murphy, a San Diego civil engineer and former marathon runner.
Murphy was enjoying the trail and the park during a recent afternoon run.
There are a number of ways to reach the Bridle Trail, Murphy said. Its soft terrain and ease of access make it the perfect destination for city dwellers to be “one with nature.”
The veteran jogger warned against visiting the spot after dark, noting criminal activity that takes place in the park at night. Vagrants squatting near the trail and sexual assaults have been reported.
At the basin of the canyon, you will find yourself under the long shadow of the Cabrillo Bridge, one of the area's most recognizable landmarks. Completed in April 1914, the 450-foot-long bridge originally was used as a pedestrian pathway to the Panama-California Exposition.
While the trail runs parallel to the usually noisy Route 163, the otherwise natural surroundings are a breath of fresh air so close to the city. Tall pines shade your trek, and the rolling yet well-tended path makes for a nice outdoor excursion.
If you head south toward the Cabrillo Bridge, you will wind your way to the dog park. Heading north will bring you toward Upas Street and Hillcrest. One interesting sight along the way is a decommissioned bridge that once connected Richmond Street to Route 163. It has since been blocked to foot traffic and stands silent.
After meandering northward along the freeway for a quarter of a mile and passing under the Quince Street bridge, your journey will end near Upas Street. You can either head east across the pedestrian foot bridge, or west up the hill and find yourself back on Sixth Avenue.
There are many ways to enjoy the trails of Balboa Park. Although the Bridle Trail is next to a busy freeway and close to the sights and sounds of downtown San Diego, there is no better way to see the city's favorite attraction from behind the scenes.
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