The 1574-acre Mount Gower Open Space Preserve, like so many other parks and preserves in San Diego County, was hard-hit by the Cedar Fire of October 2003. Today, however, Mount Gower’s post–fire shade of gray and black is well on its way to being completely replaced by green. The larger live oak and sycamore trees hunkering down along the ravines have seen several fire cycles. They promptly bounced back in the months following the Cedar Fire, a bit more gnarled-looking than before. The chaparral, which dominates the preserve, had to start from scratch. Species such as chamise, sugar bush, and Lord’s Candle yucca did so almost immediately, bootstrapping upward from undamaged root systems with brave displays of fresh foliage. The trail system has two main branches. The meandering west trail, 1.8 miles long, leads to a 2300-foot viewpoint on top of a barren ridge. This is worth the effort on the clearest days, when the vista includes the Coronado Islands, Point Loma, the San Gabriel Mountains behind Los Angeles, and a long roster of San Diego County high points. The more difficult, rambling trail into the south part of the preserve extends about 4.5 miles. If a short, easy hike is your preference, a mere mile of simple walking on the start of this trail takes you to a pleasant rest area overlooking oak-lined Swartz Canyon. From there, you may follow a short spur trail up to a 1976-foot peaklet perched over San Diego Country Estates and San Vicente Valley.
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