San Diego is filled with hidden gems that not even locals know about. These hidden gems include secret sea caves, hiking spots, suspension bridges, historic structures and more! These hidden gems might transform your weekends into small adventures around America’s finest city when fun events aren’t taking place. We encourage our readers to go out and explore our city and to let us know of any other secret spots we should visit!
Spruce Street Suspension Bridge
Hidden in between the canyons and beautiful Mission Hills and Banker’s Hill real estate, is an old suspension bridge that goes over a canyon to connect 4th and 5th Avenue. The Spruce Street Suspension bridge was built in 1912 by the City of San Diego to connect the 4th and 5th Avenue trolley stops. Although the trolley stops are no longer there, this is a fun way to travel from Mission Hills into Banker’s Hill. The suspension bridge is a historic piece of San Diego that is fun to visit, especially on a windy day. The swaying bridge is completely safe and is maintained regularly so you don’t need to worry about it being dangerous. The bridge is 375 feet long and 70 feet in height, it is quite the view! Although this “secret” is pretty well known now thanks to the internet, it can be quite busy on the weekends, so it’s best to visit during on a weekday or at hours everyone is at work or school.
Directions: Go to the intersection of 1st Ave and Spruce Street. Go West on Spruce Street and you will bump into a sign that clearly marks the location of the bridge. You can also go from the other side by going to East Spruce and Brant Streets.
La Jolla Secret Swings
Although they aren’t much of a secret anymore, nor is anything thanks to social media, these swings in La Jolla are hidden between trees on the hillside next to Scripps Pier near UC San Diego. This is a short hike from Expedition Way and you will have an ocean view while you swing. There have been recent reports of the swings being cut down, but locals like to hang their’s back up. Regardless if you find a swing or not, the view is breathtaking.
Directions: On La Jolla Shores Drive, park near UCSD Coastal Apartments (permits are required). Once parked, you will walk past the apartments until you find Discovery Way where you will cross the street and see three metal poles. Go past the poles and look to the right to find the swings. You can also take an alternative route by taking the trail at the South side of the Birch Aquarium parking lot. Follow the trailhead that begins with a small wood plank walkway.
Mount Nebo La Mesa Secret Stairs
Avoid the Stairmaster at the gym and walk up and down this long flight of stairs instead. Or you can go the more fun route and bust out your old slinky and take it for a walk down the stairs. This 245 stepped staircase lies in the Mount Nebo area of La Mesa. They were built in 1913, making them a historical piece of San Diego. There is a main staircase and then there are several smaller ones in the same area. At the top of the stairs, you have a decent view of La Mesa and East County.
Directions: Park on the street at the junction of Winsor and Canterbury. Please note that this is a residential neighborhood and you should be quiet and respectful of nearby private residences.
Harper’s Topiary Garden
Fans of Edward Scissorhands will appreciate this hidden gem in Mission Hills. 15 years ago, Harper’s Topiary Garden was created by the owners of this house who were tired of looking at the basic shrubs in their yard. They decided to transform their shrubs into places they have seen in their times traveling through Asia, North Africa, Hawaii, Europe and North America. The couple does not charge people to view their garden, all they ask is that people do not touch it and respect it completely, as a simple touch could break the sculpture.
Directions: 3549 Union St. San Diego, CA 92103
The Mushroom House aka The Pavilion
This unique home was built in 1960 by Sam Bell who was heir to General Mills. He purchased his summer home on the cliff with spectacular views of the ocean. His property extended down a 300-foot cliff and onto the beach, which is covered during high tide. With this extra plot of land, he built a guest retreat with the first glass elevator in San Diego and 300-foot tramway to get to the house. The architect who designed the home had to design the home with tidal waves, rock slides, earthquakes, wind, rainstorms and kids in mind, thus the unique design. This location is not open to the public, but you are free to walk down the beach and enjoy the architecture. Please note, this location is South of Black’s Beach which is a nude beach; don’t be alarmed if you see naked people sun tanning.
Directions: During a low tide, park near Scripps Coastal Reserve and make your way down the trailhead to the beach. Once at the bottom, turn left and walk until you see the house.
Discover Secret Spots in San Diego
This is our first blog in our new series of secret spots to explore in San Diego. At Ascent Real Estate, we value being a San Diego local business and want to give outsiders as much insight as possible into life in San Diego. If you know of any other secret spots, feel free to drop some information in the comments and we’ll go explore it and add it to our next blog!