We encourage all San Diegans to comply with local and state mandates to help flatten the curve on COVID-19. Let’s stay local and fly solo or with our immediate family. 

If you need to get some fresh air and move your body, the region’s largest urban park still provides ample opportunity for healthy outdoor activities that meet safe social distancing guidelines. Balboa Park’s 1,200 acres of open space encompass urban forests, canyon nature preserves, scenic mesas, themed gardens, cultural landscapes, and 65 miles of marked trails.

You can pick up any of the park’s numbered trails anywhere using the downloadable trail map, or you can begin your exploration at one of the six main gateway locations in the park. Balboa Park’s marked trail system lays out more than 20 different paths, offering a wide diversity of terrain, distances, and difficulty levels — from short strolls on level pavement to longer treks up steep dirt canyon trails. Check here first, to determine what’s open and what’s not.

Whether you explore by walking, jogging, running, or biking, we advise you to follow proper trail etiquette to ensure everyone is safe and protected during this time.

1. Practice CDC and Local Hygiene Recommendations
Follow CDC and the City of San Diego’s guidance on personal hygiene prior to heading to trails — wear a mask, wash hands, carry hand sanitizer, do not use trails if you have symptoms, etc. Be aware that effective May 1, the city has mandated that anyone venturing outdoors is required to wear a mask.

2. Maintain Safe Social Distancing
Observe at all times CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of six feet from other people. The City of San Diego has provided specific guidelines for passive use of public parks and beaches. Practice it and know what it looks like. Maintain it as you walk, bike, or hike.

3. Let Them Know You’re Coming
Warn other trail users of your presence, and as you pass others on the trails, allow proper distance and politely step off trails to allow others to pass, keeping the minimum recommended distances at all times. You can signal your presence with your voice, bell, or horn. Also, try to limit your personal distractions, such as mobile device use.

4. Don’t Rely on Public Restrooms
Though Parks and Recreation continues to maintain standalone restrooms in Balboa Park, on certain canyon trails, you may find yourself a mile or two from the nearest one. Be prepared before you start out, and time outings so that you are not dependent on public restrooms.

You are strongly encouraged to bring your own beverages, especially water. Public drinking fountains may be disabled and should not be used, even if operable.

6. Dispose of Your Own Trash
Carry a suitable trash bag with you to dispose of your own trash. By taking everything out with you, you help protect park workers and city maintenance staff.

7. Keep Your Tunes to Yourself
We all move to a different beat; for some of us it’s a sweat-it-out playlist, and for others it’s simply the sound of the birds and the breeze. Do other trail users a favor and keep your tunes and tik toks to yourself, allowing each of us to curate our own adventure.

8. Leave It Be
Whether you come across a stunning wildflower patch or someone else’s cairn (stacked rocks), just leave them be. It’s not cool to knock them over or pick your own bouquet. If you decide to stop and take a photo momento or add a new sculpture to the landscape, be sure to mind your fellow trailblazers and pull over with plenty of space for them to pass.

9. Your Furry Friends
Be sure to follow leash laws when outside the park’s three off-leash dog parks (which are currently closed), and be courteous with your fellow hikers, allowing them to pass safely with ample room. Follow the leave no trace principles by always cleaning up after your pet and ensuring they don’t disturb the flora and fauna.

10. Become a Park Advocate
Raise the banner for Balboa Park as a freshly minted member of the Balboa Park Conservancy. Our Park Advocate level of membership is 100% FREE. With it, you’ll gain access to important park news and updates, special offers, and future volunteer opportunities. As a Park Advocate, we make it easy for you to help build a brighter Balboa Park. Sign up for free today!

Photo by Richard Benton.