Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

San Diego, California 92121

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Professional Review and Guide

"A good choice for long and short hikes is Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, with its meadows, tree-lined trails, and wide-open spaces. This 4100-acre natural park, jointly owned by city and county, was invaded in early 1988 by developers who built a 20-foot-high vehicle road from the west entrance to Lopez Ridge. It’s still a fine place to walk, though, and popular with mountain bikers and horseback riders too. There are creeks to cross, shallow pools to cool your feet in, even a little waterfall. Seven miles long from end to end, the canyon is a haven for wildlife. This guide contains 5 separate walks in Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve and each is covered in detail."

More Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Professional Reviews and Guides

"Although popular, and dead center in the middle of a populated urban area, Los Peñasquitos always seems a little remote. The hike begins at the newest trailhead and ends at a remote waterfall, with spectacular rock formations and forested glens in between. Multiple intersecting multiuse trails all culminate at the path to the waterfall or to Rancho de los Peñasquitos, a historic ranch house that serves as the preserves visitor center."

"This is an easy, out-and-back, 12-mile round-trip ride. The terrain is gentle over an unpaved two-wheel-drive road that is in good condition for most of its length. The road does have a few sandy spots, and some of the short hills contain loose rocks and ruts.

Los Penasquitos Canyon is six miles in length and lies in the midst of San Diego suburbia. Just a few minutes of pedaling will take you into the deep shade of sycamores, eucalyptus, live oak, pepper trees, and willows."

"Bikes are now limited to the canyon's main through-road, a couple of designated connector trails and a parallel road in the canyon's eastern half. The thoroughness with which virtually every singletrack in the preserve has been signed as closed to bikes attests to the fervor of the anti-bike advocates."

"Located in San Diego near where Interstates 5 and 805 meet. Highlights: Waterfall. Hazards: Several trails closed to mountain bikers. Many violators can be found."

"A cascading waterfall following the winter rains."

"Crickets sing, cicadas buzz, and bullfrogs groan. A sparrow hawk alights upon a sycamore limb, then launches with outstretched wings to catch a puff of sea breeze moving up the canyon. A cottontail rabbit bounds across the trail, and stops to take your measure with a sidelong stare. Los Penasquitos Creek slips silently through placid pools and darts noisily down multiple paths in the constriction known as the falls."

"Peñasquitos translates from the Spanish as “little cliffs.” The name references the steep hills that border this delightful canyon. This area includes land first granted to San Diego by Mexico in 1820. This course has several short, steep hills offering great workouts in a quiet canyon with abundant sycamore, eucalyptus, and oak trees. Midway up the canyon, a rock-filled gorge with a waterfall provides a great spot to rest. There are mile markers along the trails, which are shared by cyclists, hikers, and equestrians. Several historical structures in the canyon provide interesting background material about the area."

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Reviews

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4/21/2018
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8/28/2010
Really enjoyed this trail, there were many beautiful and vistas of different types. 1st part of the trail is in/near a creek bed where you will probably see hawks, the 2nd part is on a hill trail surrounded by different desert shrubs and trees of various colors (most all gorgeous) and while on the hill trail the far reaching views are wonderful. The third part of the trail goes back down into the creek bed but the environment is quite different you start to see more pines here and get more a feel of a wilderness woodland. As for the complaints about staying on the trail, yes starting the trail and getting to the hill trail could be difficult, but just take a look at my GPS data I uploaded, once on the hill trail the trail is quite easy to stay on until you get back down into the creek bed, but if you take a few moments to look around you will see it the trail.
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8/30/2008
The trailhead is not marked but read the 'trail guide' and you can find it with ease. The trail itself is very very lightly used and for the most part you are going to have a map and good navigating skills to find your way as much of the trail past the initial 2 miles is gone...we could not find our way after the first two miles, as there was no worn trail. In general the trail was never worn any wider than 18"-24", and it many areas was more like 12" or non-existent. On the up side it was not crowded. In the 2.5 hours we were out we never saw another person, and this was on a labor day weekend. Would not recommend :( Many better hiking options in the area.
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2/11/2008
Nice trail, great scenery and fairly easy if limited to the allowed bike trails but there are a few interesting challenges to make it fun.
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10/15/2006
Hiked this trail with a group of Boy Scouts and it was beautiful. Lush riparian area around the creek and wonderful desert around the canyon. A great trail for the fall and still plenty of water in the creek. Many animal signs and evidence of previous dwellers, ie Native Americans.
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6/10/2006
I don't know if I was on the right path, but following the directions to this trail I was unable to go very far. About .1m into the hike the trail was completely covered up by the overflow of the creek. the real problem being, the creek was a nasty sludge by this time of year. greenish-yellow ick composed most of the creek.
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10/17/2005
good beginner level trail. the trail follows the canyon from east to west and back so there isn't a huge amount of climbing but there are some small rolling hills. a mixture of dirt roads and not too technical single track make it a good place for the less advanced rider or makes it an idea place for cyclocross training.
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7/15/2005
Nice ride along the trail leading out to the waterfall area, allows for several traversals of the stream if you choose to take them along the way.
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5/19/2004
Awesome getaway from local traffic/hustle-bustle. Best time to go is in the morning when it's less crowded...then you'll see tons of rabbits, coyotes, a few deer. More crowded in the summer...practically empty all winter. Watch out for the occasional rattlesnake!
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2/26/2003
Good riding as it's right in the middle of a major urban area, so you've easy access, and cos it can be really pretty at times. With all the recent rain, there's lots of spring flowers (which also means the entire Preserve is closed when it's too wet). Only the main paths are open to bikes, and you're not allowed west of the waterfall on the northern side of the creek. A good side route for a bit of a blast is to take the north side of the creek trail from the east (Black Mountain Rd) and at the 2-mile mark make a right to the north. You're now on the San Diego Sea to Sea Trail, and this will lead you right up to the top of the northern mesa - the only bike access up this way. If you keep following the Trail, you'll end up at the Pacific Ocean - it's a good trip.
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Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Photos

Trail Information

San Diego
Nearby City
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Accessibility
Several options
Trail Type
Moderate
Skill Level
Up to all day
Duration
Year-round; 8:00 a.m. to sunset
Season
Waterfalls
Features

Activity Feed

Oct 2018