Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is a beautiful preserve that stretches from Interstate 5 near Sorrento Valley to just east of Interstate 15. The Preserve offers multiple trails fit for hikers, equestrian users, bikers, and even dogs. The trails are moderately trafficked. One of the best parts about the trail system is that it offers a beautiful year round creek with a small waterfall.
Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Trail
The hiking trails within Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve are located in the heart of the City of San Diego. The Preserve sits in between the town of Rancho Penasquitos to the north Sorrento Valley to the west, Poway to the east, and Mira Mesa to the South. While most people only venture between Interstate 5 and Interstate 15, hikers can hike past of I15 to explore some of the creek into Poway. Altogether, the park contains over four thousand acres of land and over twelve miles of trails to explore.
What makes the Preserve so great is the Los Penasqutos Creek which runs east to west from Poway to the coast. The creek actually is a major source of fresh water to the lagoon that makes up Torrey Pines Reserve. Within the preserve are several major attractions, one of them being a waterfall. The waterfall is located about half way between both the preserve’s eastern and western trailheads. Near the east entrances are a couple other attractions: creek crossings, a grave site for one of San Diego’s earliest pioneers, and the historic, Rancho Penasquitos Ranch House.
One of my favorite things about the Penasquitos Creek is that it generally flows year round. The fresh supply of water allows hikers and other visitors to enjoy a canyon rich with Cottonwood, Oak, and Sycamore trees. It’s also one of the few places close to the city where San Diegans can witness trees displaying fall foliage. The year round water supply also attracts some of San Diego’s larger wildlife like bobcats, mule deer, coyotes, and mountain lions to name a few. In the spring when the creek is at it’s highest levels the surrounding area has beautiful wildflowers and dense meadows.
For the sake of this trail guide, I’ll mostly be talking about the trail from the park’s eastern entrance off of Black Mountain Road. However, the park does have a couple different trail entrances with trail conditions being just about the same from either the west or east entrance (see more details on the trail directions below).
The park is operated by the City and County Of San Diego. Generally, area is open most days of the year and closed during rain events and for at least forty-eight hours afterwards. Although trails are open throughout the daylight hours, the actual parking lots are only open from 8am to to sunset. For more information about park and trail status, you can always call 858-538-8066 or check with the county’s website
On A Personal Note:
On May 27, 2019 a four year old child was out near the middle of the preserve. During the mid-afternoon he was attacked by a mountain lion. The attack did not result in a fatality. This event serves as a reminder for people to be aware of their surroundings and to be prepared for a worst case scenario.
I’ve hiked portions of this trail a few times from both parks east and west trailheads . There are very few trails in San Diego that have a constant water source throughout the year and because of that the trails are nice throughout all four seasons. What’s great about these trails is that it’s great for all levels of hikers
. Much like the trails in Balboa Park,
people can choose their own adventure here and make their hike as long or as short as they would like it to be.
The creek through the eastern side of the trail seems to have a larger flood plain. Because of that the forest is more dense and hikers have the opportunity to explore winding trails along the creeks edge. My favorite time to catch this trail is after it rains. After a rain the creek floods the area and the waterfall can turn into a nice rapid – by San Diego standards of course. I’ve also seen an abundant amount of wildlife in the area particularly coyotes that come down to the creek in search of food and water.
Do you have any updates to the hiking trail or want to share your hike/pictures? Please leave a comment below.