San Diego is a city filled with impressive architecture. Yet few are familiar with the staggering number of bridges that can be found along a short, 5-mile loop near downtown San Diego. A few of these bridges cross over busy interstates. Others transport you across vast canyons lined with palm trees and hand-planted greens. Cross all of them and you’ll complete the 7 bridges urban hike, an increasingly popular stroll through some of San Diego’s most interesting neighborhoods and a chance to walk across a few bridges that seldom receive foot traffic.
To reach the first bridge, cross Park Blvd and walk towards the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden. The bridge will be clearly visible and will take you across to the San Diego Natural History Museum and Rueben Fleet Science Center. Continue walking west past a long strip of the greater majority of museums found in Balboa Park.
You’ll pass the Old Globe Theater on your right before reaching the Cabrillo Bridge. This bridge was the first multiple-arched cantilever bridge built in California as a pedestrian entrance way to the Panama-California Exposition . After crossing over the Cabrillo Bridge you’ll continue following Laurel Street for several blocks until you reach First Ave.
Turn right onto First Ave. and continue walking to reach the First Ave. Bridge. Observe the informational engravings on both sides of the bridge. This bridge was built in 131 and is the sole steel-arch bridge in the city. It recently underwent renovations to meet California earthquake standards and to remove lead paint. Continue on First Ave and turn right on Quince St. to get to the fourth bridge.
Follow Quince St. for two blocks to reach the Quince St. bridge entrance. This is the second most aesthetically pleasing bridge in my opinion that you’ll cross during your urban hike across the 7 bridges. This bridge was built in 1905 as a way for pedestrians to easily access the Fourth Ave. Trolley Station. It is one of the few remaining wooden trestle pedestrian bridges in San Diego. After you’ve crossed the Quince St. bridge, retrace your steps back to First Avenue and turn right.
Stay on First Ave. for two blocks. Turn left onto Spruce St. and follow the road past the “Not a Through Street” sign to reach the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, my favorite bridge along the entire walk. The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge provides a pedestrian pathway across Kate Sessions Canyon and is the only bridge of its kind in the county. The lightness of the bridge always it to sway as you walk across, reminiscent of something you’d find in Costa Rica rather than San Diego.
After crossing the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, turn right on Brant St. and then right again on Upas St. Turn left on Albatross St., followed by a right on Walnut Ave. Take a left on First Ave. and continue for four blocks before turning right on University Avenue. You’ll follow University Ave. for quite a while, making your way through most of Hillcrest. You’ll pass by many of the shops, restaurants, and bars found in this eclectic community before reaching Vermont St. Turn left at Vermont St., walking through the shopping center past a Wells Fargo on your right and the Trader Joes to your left.
Continue past Trader Joes until you reach the Vermont Street Bridge. The Vermont Street Bridge was recently added to the city of San Diego in 1995, replacing the 1916 wooden-trestle bridge that allowed easier access to the University trolley line. The new steel bridge now connects pedestrians from Hillcrest to University Heights.
After crossing the Vermont Street Bridge, turn right on Lincoln Avenue. Walk a few long blocks until your reach Georgia St. Turn right on Georgia St. and follow the street until its end to reach the final of the 7 bridges. As of the time of this post, the Georgia Street Bridge is undergoing restoration after being deemed structurally deficient and seismically unsafe. This will likely be the bridge you find to be the least impressive, nonetheless it must be crossed to complete your loop.
After crossing the last bridge, turn right on Robinson Ave. and then make a left on Park Blvd. Follow Park Blvd. for close to one-mile before returning back to the parking area near the Natural History Museum to close the loop.
7 Bridges Urban Hike Tips
Tip #1: Arrive early to secure a parking spot. Parking for Balboa Park fills up quickly, especially on weekends.
Tip #2: This hike is almost entirely flat on concrete surfaces. Regular tennis shoes will suffice. Hiking boots not necessary and would be a nuisance.
Tip #3: Stop by one of the many museums at Balboa Park after your hike. On Tuesdays, entry is free.
Tip #4: Print out a trail map or detailed directions beforehand. This will make it easier to navigate along the way.
From downtown San Diego, follow A Street and turn left onto Park Blvd. Turn left onto Village Place and turn left to park in the lot near the Natural History Museum. If you’ve driven past the parking area for the San Diego Zoo, you’ve gone too far.
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Total Distance: 5.3 miles
Trailhead Address: Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden, 2125 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104