Hellhole Canyon County Preserve is a San Diego managed park that sits in Valley Center, California. The small town lies just above the large city of Escondido and is a large open space preserve. Hellhole Canyon has over thirteen miles of trails. The area is one of San Diego’s lesser known hiking preserves but it’s great for it’s views of San Diego’s mountains, coastal views, wildlife viewing, and wildflowers. Despite the preserve’s name, those that visit this canyon are greeted with some amazing views.
Hiking Hellhole Canyon County Preserve
Nestled below Palomar Mountain
in the small town of Valley Center, California lies a large open space of land called Hellhole Canyon County Preserve. The canyon lies in the northern part of San Diego County and offers 2,023 acres of open space, 13.5 miles of hiking trails, an equestrian-friendly staging area, potable water at the trailhead, camping sites, vault restrooms and even an amphitherter.
The preserve was created in part because of the unique topography of the canyon. The area lies below Palomar Mountain which is one of San Diego’s wettest areas. Palomar gets as much rain during the year as areas of the Central Sierra range further up to the north. The mountains naturally attract a significant amount of wildlife and have used the canyon to move across parts of the county.
Hellhole Canyon County Preserve Views
The preserve offers several views typical of those of San Diego valleys. In the heart of Hellhole Canyon runs Hell Creek which flows sporadically through the winter months with heavy rainfall. The creek bed takes quite a bit of rain to get going but if it does, there is an adjacent creek that can have a waterfall. The canyon offers a riparian landscape with about the only trees throughout the preserve.
Rising above Hellhole Canyon are loop trails that ascend to the top of the park. The park’s highest point is Paradise Mountain which tops out at 3,261 feet followed by a shorter, Rodruigez Peak. From the top of Paradise Mountain there will be phenomenal views of Palomar Mountain, northern San Diego County, and the infamous Escondido Canal. The canal was constructed in the 1800’s and runs through the southern end of Hellhole Canyon. The canal still provides water from the San Luis Rey River south to Lake Wohlford in Escondido. On a clear day views of San Clemente island off the coast can be seen as well as some of the San Gabriel mountains in Los Angeles like Mount Baldy
Hellhole Canyon County Preserve Must Know Facts
The park has hiking trails for all levels of hikers. Hellhole Canyon is open Friday through Monday 8 a.m. to sunset. There is no vehicle or restroom access on 12/25. The preserve also features an outdoor amphitheater. Here the county offers a variety of speakers and presentations. An example of some presentations that are held here are stargazing events. For more information on events held in Hellhole Canyon County Preserve, check out their website
On A Personal Note:
The trails here have a lot of variety to offer. The full loop can be quite a leg burner to the top of Paradise Mountain and the views of Palomar Mountain are rewarding. This is a great area to catch spring flowers and chaparral blooms. Difficulty of these trails range from easy to expert depending on how far much you’re wanting to explore. To get the most of the views, head up out of the canyon towards Paradise Mountain or Rodriguez Peak. If you’re lucky enough there will be a chance to see various birds of prey, snakes, quail, wild turkeys, deer, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions to name a few.
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