San Diego Trail Tramps

  Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve - East Approach



Date:  Sunday, June 16, 2013  9:00 AM - 5:00 PM


Location: In San Diego County, just north of Mira Mesa, between I-5 & I-15

Directions: To get there from San Diego, take 163 north (it turns into I-15) towards Escondido. Exit at Scripps Poway Pkwy. and go under the freeway and west on Mercy Road until it ends at Black Mountain Road. At the intersection, pull in to the large parking area on the west side of Black Mt. Road. We'll meet there to begin the hike around 9:45 AM.

Background info.: Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is 6 miles long and covers 3000 acres. Los Penasquitos means "the little cliffs". Over 130 birds, 26 mammals, 22 amphibian, and 90 different plants have been identified within the preserve. Currently a herd of about 35 mule deer roam the preserve, and bobcats and mountain lions were spotted in recent years. There are equestrian trails and dogs on leash are also allowed. We'll hike in to the falls area for lunch along the creek. (Don't forget sunscreen and beware of poison oak along the narrower trails.)


Hike Description: This easy hike is 6.4 miles roundtrip, elevation gain/loss 300', 3 hrs. hike time, plus breaks. Mountain biking allowed, good for kids, dogs allowed on leash.

From the large parking/staging area, set off on the wide trail to the west. For the first mile, the trail hugs Los Penasquitos Canyon's south wall which is a steep, chaparral-covered hillside. After passing near the Johnson-Taylor Ranch, you enter a long and beautiful canopy of intertwined live oaks, accompanied by a lush understory of mostly poison oak. Don't venture off the trail there, unless you enjoy itching and scratching for several weeks after exposure to the 3-leafed vine plant! Remember: "Leaves of three, let it be!" For more info, refer to The Hiker's Guide to Poisonous Plants.


At mile two, the trail winds out of the dense cover of oaks and continues through grassland dotted with a few small elderberry trees. Along the way to the falls, there are two creek crossings to the north, leading to a parallel trail on the far side of the creek. You could follow that trail when you return from the falls, but it is not as scenic as the main south-side trail. At the mile three marker, the road winds up onto a chaparral slope in order to detour a narrow, rocky section of the canyon. Near the top there's a wide spot, with racks for securing bikes, and a foot trail descending north to the falls area. You can retrace your steps from here.

Map of Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve: