Rustic signs along some of Clairemont’s major streets call attention to one of the most valuable canyon habitats in San Diego’s urban core: the 900-acre Tecolote Canyon Natural Park. On the park’s patchwork of old roads and trails it’s possible to poke into just about every nook and cranny. By day, you’re sure to spot a hawk soaring on the thermals or perching high on the crown of a dead oak tree. By night, you might hear the yapping of a coyote or the plaintive hoot of an owl, the creature for which this canyon was named. The name “Natural Park” refers in part to the native vegetation. The dominant plant communities are sage scrub (California sagebrush, white sage, black sage, lemonade berry, laurel sumac, monkeyflower) and chaparral (chamise, toyon, scrub oak, hollyleaf cherry, redberry). Live oaks, willows, and sycamores grow along the stream channel in places where water is more plentiful. Since Tecolote Canyon has been completely surrounded by an urbanized environment for nearly half a century, it’s not surprising to find invading nonnative plants here, too. The “offenders” include tumbleweed, wild chrysanthemum, mustard, fennel, pampas grass, and ice plant. For all but the most cursory exploration of this canyon, you should wear hiking boots, or at least a pair of running shoes with off-road traction. Parts of the trail system are rough, but even small kids will like it—though perhaps not if they are forced to go too far. Be aware that winter rains can turn the clay soils into sticky mud. A city street map, used in conjunction with the free trail map available at the nature center, will help with the fine points of navigation. In addition to the primary trailhead on Tecolote Road, the park has eight other “neighborhood” trail-access points.
© Jerry Schad/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.