City Hiking Guides

Waterfalls and Ocean Views: The Best Carlsbad Hiking Trails

POSTED ON October 19, 2022 BY Ralph S.


Carlsbad, California, offers plenty of hiking opportunities for everyone. It also boasts a network of hiking trails that beckon both locals and visitors alike. Exploring the incredible views of the coastline and mountain ranges is just one of the many reasons to visit Carlsbad.

As you traverse the trails, you’ll encounter designated picnic areas and inviting playgrounds. From easy walks suitable for family outings to longer hikes for those seeking a more immersive experience, there’s something for everyone.

In this blog post, we’ve collected some of Carlsbad’s fun and most popular hiking trails while giving tips on the best time of the year for hiking. Also, you can check out other trails on the city’s official parks-recreation website.

Agua Hedionda Lagoon Trails

Agua Hedionda Lagoon Trails

  • Location: Carlsbad, CA
  • Total distance: 2.3 miles (3.7 km)
  • Hiking Duration: approximately 2 hours to cover all the interconnected trails
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Type: out and back

Nestled in the charming coastal city of Carlsbad, California, lie the scenic Agua Hedionda Lagoon Trails. These include the Agua Hedionda North Shore Hubbs Trail, Agua Hedionda Harbor Drive, Agua Hedionda Bayshore Drive Trail, Agua Hedionda Kelly Trail (Hallmark East) and Agua Hedionda Summerwind Trail

With their convenient street parking and easy access from the freeway, these are popular choices for locals and visitors who want to enjoy a leisurely trek. Each trail is less than 0.5 miles (800 meters) and cuts along the shoreline, offering stunning views of the lagoon on one side and the bustling city on the other.

What sets these trails apart is their sandy terrain, which gives you that real beach vibe as you walk. The easy terrain makes it perfect for families and people of all ages to explore. You may even see some dogs passing by, as this is a dog-friendly area. Located close to the water, you’ll feel a refreshing breeze as you walk along the trail.

Lake Calavera Hiking Trails

  • Location: Carlsbad, CA
  • Total distance: 6.25 miles (10.4 km) in collection of 9 trails
  • Hiking Duration: approximately 1 hour for each short trail, or 6 hours to cover all trails
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Type: Loop and out and back
  • Printable Map
  • Lake Calavera Trail Guide

Nestled in the heart of Carlsbad lies the serene Lake Calavera Preserve with its collection of nine trails. Each trail is relatively short, at approximately 1 mile, and can easily be completed within an hour. However, for those looking to explore more, these trails can also be connected for a longer hike that takes you around the entire lake.

As you walk along the pathway, you’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and shade from trees, making it an ideal hike for warm, sunny days. The peaceful lake in the middle of the preserve adds to its charm and provides a home for various wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled, as you may see some local birds or even deer passing by.

One of the most enjoyable things about this hike is the variety it offers. You’ll walk past rocky hills, through open fields, and along the lake’s edge.

Click this link to find out more about the trails.

San Luis Rey River Trail

San Luis Rey River Trail

  • Location: Carlsbad, CA
  • Total distance: 8.2 miles (13 km)
  • Hiking Duration: approximately 3 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Type: Out and back
  • Check trail direction

The San Luis Rey River Trail is a hidden gem in the city of Carlsbad. The trail follows the San Luis River from the parking lot near Sea Cottage Way up to Andrew Jackson Street, covering a distance of 8.2 miles (13 km) in total. The trail is mostly flat and paved, making it an easy hike for people of all ages.

Starting from the parking lot, you’ll follow a scenic route that passes through quiet neighborhoods and open fields. As you continue, you’ll cross under the freeway and enter a more natural area with lush vegetation and views of the river. Keep an eye out for wildlife, as this area is known for its diverse bird population.

One of the highlights of this trail is that it offers a variety of scenery as you walk along. You’ll pass by residential areas, industrial sites, and natural habitats, giving you a unique perspective of the city. Be sure to bring your camera and capture the beautiful views of the water and surrounding nature.

The trail is also conveniently located near some street parking areas, making it easy to access

Batiquitos Lagoon Hiking Trail

Batiquitos Lagoon Trail

  • Location: Carlsbad, CA
  • Total distance: 0.7 miles (1.1 km) for Batiquitos Lagoon North Bluff and 2.7 miles (4.3 km) for Batiquitos Lagoon North Shore
  • Hiking Duration: approximately 30 minutes for Batiquitos Lagoon North Bluff Trail and 1 hour for Batiquitos Lagoon North Shore Trail
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Out and back
  • Parking: Small public parking at Windrose Circle (Batiquitos Lagoon North Bluff Trail) and street parking along Gabbiano Lane (Batiquitos Lagoon North Shore Trail)

Looking for a quick and easy hike with stunning views? Look no further than the Batiquitos Lagoon Hiking Trails in Carlsbad. These two trails offer a perfect blend of nature and cityscapes, making them favorites among locals and tourists alike. With plenty of parking options and well-maintained pathways, it’s the ideal spot for a leisurely stroll or a family outing.

The Batiquitos Lagoon Trail (North Bluff) is a flat and paved trail that connects to the San Pacifico Trail. At just 0.7 miles (1.1 km) in length, this short hike provides beautiful views of the lagoon and nearby neighborhoods. There’s also a small public parking area at Windrose Circle, making it easily accessible for all. After your hike, you can even enjoy a picnic or relax in the shade under one of the many trees along the trail.

On the other hand, the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail (North Shore) offers a slightly longer and more natural experience. This 2.7-mile (4.3-kilometer) unpaved trail follows along the edge of the lagoon, providing opportunities to spot various bird species and other wildlife. Parking is available along Gabbiano Lane, and the trail also connects to the Aviara Trails-Eucalyptus Trail for those looking to extend their hike. With its peaceful surroundings and serene views, this trail is perfect for a refreshing escape from the city.

Aviara Trails

View of Lagoon from Aviara Trailhead

  • Location: Carlsbad, CA
  • Total distance: Varies based on trail (all trails connect and can be looped)
  • Hiking Duration: approximately 2 hours for the longest loop
  • Difficulty: Easy to moderate
  • Type: Loop and out and back
  • More info: You can check out the map and get more information here

Located within the Aviara Community in Carlsbad, the 6-mile (9.6 km) Aviara Trails offer a network of well-maintained pathways perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. With multiple trails to choose from, you can easily spend an entire day exploring the area and taking in the picturesque views.

One of the most popular trails is the Eucalyptus Trail, which takes you on a peaceful journey through eucalyptus groves and open fields. This 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) loop trail is great for all skill levels and offers opportunities for bird-watching and enjoying beautiful sunsets.

For a longer hike, you can connect to the Batiquitos Lagoon Trail (North Shore) or the Aviara Trails-Tot Lot Loop, which adds 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) and 0.9 miles (1.4 kilometers), respectively, to your journey.

The Aviara Trails also offer access to the Batiquitos Lagoon and San Luis Rey River trails, providing even more options for outdoor adventures.

Other nearby Hiking Trails

From the scenic vistas of San Marcos to the idyllic charm of Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad’s hiking trails offer a diverse tapestry of terrains and experiences, catering to both seasoned hikers and leisurely walkers.

As you step onto these well-trodden paths, you’ll find a variety of options that seamlessly blend the thrill of adventure with the ease of accessibility. Whether you’re seeking a fun family outing, a solo escape, or a spot to connect with fellow nature enthusiasts, these trails provide the perfect backdrop for exploration.

Lake San Marcos Trail

Lake San Marcos

  • Location: San Marcos, east of Carlsbad, CA
  • Total distance: 1.5 miles (2.4 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Less than 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Type: Out and back

Nestled in the tranquil city of San Marcos, just east of Carlsbad, lies a hidden gem waiting to be explored. The Lake San Marcos Trail is a challenging 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) out and back hike that offers stunning views of the surrounding water and wildlife.

As you embark on this journey, you’ll find yourself walking along a paved path that runs parallel to the lake. With its sparkling water and lush greenery, it’s the perfect setting for a long and peaceful walk. Along the way, keep an eye out for various bird species and other animals.

Although considered a difficult hike due to its steep inclines and uneven terrain, the beautiful views make it well worth the effort. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking to get some exercise, this trail is a great option for those seeking a challenge and a chance to connect with nature.

Double Peak Park

Double Peak Park San Marcos

  • Location: San Marcos, CA
  • Size: 200 acres (0.81 km2)
  • Number of trails: Multiple
  • Total length of trails: undefined

Double Peak Park in San Marcos, CA, is a rugged and picturesque natural escape for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Spanning over 200 acres (0.81 km2), this park boasts a variety of activities, from hiking and biking to playgrounds and picnics. With its interconnected trails and panoramic views, it’s no surprise that it’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.

As you explore the various trails, you’ll find yourself immersed in nature with views of rolling hills, lush valleys, and glimpses of the sparkling ocean in the distance. The rugged terrain adds to the adventure, making it a great option for experienced hikers looking for a challenge.

For those with little ones, there’s also a play area near the entrance of the park where kids can run around and burn off some energy. After your hike, be sure to stop by one of the many picnic tables for a well-deserved break and lunch with a view. With its idyllic surroundings and outdoor activities, Double Peak Park is the perfect spot to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.  Overall, it’s a must-visit for anyone seeking an unforgettable outdoor experience in San Marcos, CA.

La Orilla Trailhead

La Orilla Trailhead

  • Location: Rancho Santa Fe, CA
  • Total distance: 2.5 miles (4 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Less than 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Type: Loop

The La Orilla Trailhead in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, is a hidden gem that offers a picturesque and tranquil hiking experience. This 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) loop trail starts at El Camino Road, intersects with the Stonebridge Trail before joining the Santa Catalina Trail, and finally culminates near the Dike/Levee Trail.

As you set out on this scenic journey, you’ll find yourself surrounded by towering trees, rolling hills, and peaceful meadows. The well-maintained trail is mostly flat and easy to navigate, making it suitable for all skill levels. Along the way, you may even spot some local wildlife, such as deer or rabbits, adding to the enchanting atmosphere.

The highlight of this trail is the serene lake that runs alongside most of the route, offering stunning views and a refreshing breeze. As you make your way back to the trailhead, take a moment to soak in the peaceful surroundings and appreciate the beauty of this hidden gem in Rancho Santa Fe.


Carlsbad is an incredible place that offers a lot of hiking trails suitable for hikers of different skill levels. These are just a few of the trails available in Carlsbad. Carlsbad’s hiking trails provide an ideal way to exercise and explore the area’s stunning beauty. Whether you are an advanced hiker or a beginner, Carlsbad’s hiking trails offer something for everyone.

So, put on your boots, grab your backpack, and set out to explore Carlsbad’s stunning trails.

Continue exploring by visiting our page on city hiking guides for more exciting spots.


Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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