Canyon Oak and Desert View Loop

William Heise County Park in Julian suffered significantly during the 2003 Cedar Fire, but the damage is mostly evident only on the outer portions of the park, away from the campground. The northeastern end of the park contains three intersecting loop trails – the Canyon Oak Trail, Desert View Trail, and a Self-Guided Nature Trail – where you can witness nature’s recovery. The trails travel through a mix of oak and pine woodland and thick chaparral. The trails are rather steep in sections, but you will be rewarded with some beautiful panoramic views from the “Glen’s View” viewpoint in the middle of the Desert View Trail.

We got an early start on the long drive to Julian and reached the park shortly after they opened. We paid our day use fee at the entrance station, then drove into the campground. We followed the main road through the campground until we found a small parking area on the right labeled “Canyon Oak Trail Parking Day Use” and parked there. The start of the Canyon Oak Trail was just across the road.

We followed the trail uphill through the chaparral and oaks.

It wasn’t long before we had some beautiful views of North Peak to the south.

The trail traveled in and out of the trees, alternating between rocky, arid landscapes and shady oaks.

Around .4 mile we found a side trail leading off to the left which appeared to lead down towards a group of campsites. Just beyond was another junction where the Canyon Oak Trail formed a loop. Both ends connect with the Desert View Trail, but we chose the left fork as it appeared to be a bit longer, and we were intent on maximizing our adventure.

The trail continued to ascend the arid slope. There was lots of manzanita, and some toyon bushes covered in bright red berries.

The views continued to impress.

At 1.1 mile we came to a “Y” junction and took the left fork towards the Desert View Trail. There was a second junction just beyond where we once again turned left.

The trail continued up the steep, rocky hill.

Partway up the slope we found a conveniently placed bench which provided a nice spot to rest a moment and enjoy the view.

We continued uphill. Eventually the manzanita gave way to some ceanothus and Black Oaks for a brief stretch.

We also found some scrub oaks with cute little acorns growing.

Finally, at 1.8 miles we came to the turn-off for Glen’s View. This is a short little spur trail leading off to an overlook. We turned left to check it out.

The short spur led to an rocky overlook where a view finder stood. By lining up the viewscope with markings on the pedestal, we could identify and look at the various peaks that surrounded us.

The view was quite impressive. To the east was the Salton Sea, Anza-Borrego, and Granite Mountain.

And in the east was El Cajon Mountain.

After hanging around for a bit picking out landmarks and enjoying the view, we returned to the main trail and turned left to continue the loop.

The trail meandered along the slope, full of chaparral. Looking southwest, we could see the forested area that was Heise County Park below.

At 2.8 miles we came to a “T” junction. This was the Nature Trail, an interpretive loop. Both forks led back to the campground and we could have taken either way back. But once again, we went for what appeared to be the longer route and turned left.

Gradually the surrounding vegetation around us transitioned from arid chaparral to lush oaks.

At 3 miles we reached the road at the edge of the campground.

We turned onto the paved road and followed the signs pointing towards the exit to make our way back to our starting point.

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From downtown Julian, head west on Washington Street (CA 78/79). After approximately 1 mile, turn left onto Pine Hills Road. After approximately 1 mile, turn left onto Deer Lake Park Road. Follow Deer Lake Park Road for 2.1 miles, then turn left onto Frisius Drive. Keep right to continue onto Heise Park Road and follow it to the park entrance. map

Total Distance: 3.25 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 900 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Water and restrooms located throughout the park
Fees/Permits: $3 day use parking fee

For more information, visit:
County of San Diego Parks and Recreation – William Heise County Park

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