SAN DIEGO–Studies show that being in nature provides physical and mental health benefits. And with people wanting to get outside during the pandemic, the Canyoneers from the San Diego Natural History Museum takes the guesswork out of finding a local trail.
For 47 years, the Canyoneers have offered free, guided hikes throughout the county. While current restrictions on group gatherings preclude these volunteer naturalists from leading in-person hikes this fall, the Canyoneers plan to share a list of their favorite trails each season so people can explore them on their own or with families
A list of 10 great fall hikes is now available on the Museum’s website at sdnat.org/canyoneers. It includes trails as close as the Bayside Trail in Cabrillo National Monument to the Big Laguna trail in the Laguna Mountains. The trails recommended for the fall have spectacular views on many hikes and ocean breezes on others—especially important as some of our fall months are still quite warm.
The Canyoneers focused on finding trails that are not overly crowded and allow for physical distancing. That said, they do recommend checking the website of the park/reserve in advance to be sure trails are open.
This program is made possible by hundreds of dedicated volunteers and proud partner Subaru of America, who is supporting the program for the fifth year in a row.
Hikers who want even more options can purchase Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors. This book was written, edited, and published by the Canyoneers and Sunbelt Publications, and details more than 250 local trails.
“We want people to get out there to discover the joy, beauty, and wonder we often take for granted in our busy lives,” said Jennifer Haslam, president of the Canyoneers volunteer group. “Our trail recommendations go into detail about our regional habitats and local flora and fauna. We like to encourage people to stop, look, listen, and examine to understand that everything is connected in nature.”
San Diego is known for its incredibly diverse terrain, ranging from beaches and chaparral to the mountains and desert further inland. Because of this, the region also have one of the highest concentrations of different species of any geographic area of similar size. Much of the area’s native habitat is threatened by development, habitat loss, invasive species, and more, making our region a biodiversity hotspot that needs protection.
“The restorative power of nature is more important now than ever,” said Eric Park, zone retail marketing manager at Subaru of America. “The Canyoneer program inspires people to get outside and explore, and that’s a cause we are passionate about.”
Canyoneers are citizen scientists and volunteers who have had comprehensive training by Museum scientists and local experts on the natural history of the region. One of the few trail-guide groups nationwide affiliated with a natural history museum rather than a park or reserve, Canyoneers have provided free guided tours in San Diego County since 1973—until this year. They will resume guided hikes once restrictions lift and when it is safe to do so.