Running the Trails in Downtown San Diego
Two of my favorite pastimes are running and travelling. Whenever possible, I like to make the two intersect. This typically results in urban exploration run, which I find is a great way to orient yourself and get to know a new city. In San Diego, I decided to try and get a decent trail run in, without leaving the core of the city. I'd read a bit about the trails in Balboa Park, so I figured this would be my destination. I was encouraged by the park's claim of "65 miles of trails", but prepared for mostly sidewalks and other paved routes. I was pleasantly surprised!
I spent the majority of my time running around Florida Canyon, which is easily accessible from the Rose Garden in the main strip of Balboa Park (near the zoo). It was a dusty run through a desert canyon - not what I was expecting to run when I set out that morning.
There is a long paved road along the bottom of the canyon, with a pretty complex network of singletrack and doubletrack trails spider-webbing along either side. Especially, with a few side trips out of Florida canyon to other parts of Balboa Park, it's easy to get a moderately long (mostly) trail run in without getting bored.
Probably my only complaint about this run is the "provided" routes offered by Balboa Park. There are a large number of marked routes all over the park. I decided to start following one, once I got to the park, but had to give up pretty quickly. The route signs sometime point towards areas with no trails (or too many trails without offering clear direction), send you running on the narrow shoulder of roads into oncoming traffic (around blind corners!), are sitting in fields with nothing around them, or simply seem to disappear. I found I was having a better time once I gave up on the "routes" and simply ran on the trails that looked fun.