Running Through Balboa Park

Balboa Park got a little mention a couple days ago in my review of my running sandals, but the place deserves more space. It’s an amazingly beautiful and picturesque set of museums even if you don’t head over to the zoo. Running through it just whet my appetite for more time there.

If you are interested in running there are more than a few trails to hit up while here, and honestly, I just ran about 2-3 miles down in the canyon by the rose garden. Back there the trails criss cross, and you can make what ever distance and difficulty you’d like to have for your run.

But there are just so many different trails it’s really crazy, and the terrain is such that you can really mix and match to your own preferences from gravel or sand to concrete or well beaten trail. Here’s a link to an overall map and to a list of maps by area, I just wish I had more time to explore.

As for the park itself, it’s quite a set of museums covering everything: science wizardry, man’s history, natural history, San Diego History, and multiple varieties of art.


My run was in the middle of the day, and it was nearly 80ºF despite being towards the end of November. There were still plenty of very friendly runners out and about and a moderate sized crowd in the museum area that I started from. Given that it was a Monday afternoon just before Thanksgiving – I’d imagine that the crowds get much bigger.

IMG_3150 There really weren’t many people around at all.

As a preference then, I would have liked to run there in the early morning to avoid crowds and temperatures. But that being said the trails could be busier at that time, the trails were empty save a few runners here and there.

I started up by the botanical garden and headed over a road on a foot bridge to a cactus garden.


The sandals actually gave me a bit of a worry here – who wants to run around cactus without anything on their feet? Although, the worry didn’t slow me down much. And thinking about it, it’s a lot easier to get needles out when they aren’t also pushed through fabric. The Tarahumara had to run into cactus occasionally, and they still had their sandals around….

14 - 11

The trail I chose went down a steep hill to a little river bed and paralleled the river bed for a ways. Everything was tan an dead after I left the garden. This could be normal for winter here, but from what I’ve heard this year has been particularly dry.


The views from the trail still caught the eye, and the hills burned the legs a little. I’d put these trails up against any trails in the country for difficulty if you kept to the canyons, but again, you had the options of sticking to the mostly level trails or sidewalks through out the park.

For diversity of conditions, convenient locations, and sheer beauty, Balboa Park has to be one of the best places to run or explore in San Diego. That is if you can steal yourself away from the beach and the bay for long enough!


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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