Southeast San Diego isn’t exactly renowned for its outdoor recreational opportunities. But like so many other areas in the county, one can find small islands of natural areas tucked away amid the urban sprawl. One such example is Chollas Lake Park, located about a quarter mile up the road from a large shopping center in Oak Park, just off Highway 94.
Despite having lived within 10 minutes of this park for the past 19 years, we had only recently learned of its existence. One Sunday morning, when it was too warm to tackle a more ambitious hike, we decided to head out and explore the park.
There are several separate parking areas at the lake, but we chose the eastern lot since it was the first one we came to. From the parking lot, we headed down towards the water to pick up the trail. The path loops around the lake so you can start at whatever point you like. In addition to the loop around the lake, there are some additional side trails and loops on the west side that you can combine for hikes of various lengths.
We set off in a clockwise direction. The path was cool and shaded by towering eucalyptus trees on both sides. The trail was busy with walkers, runners, and dog-walkers, but it still managed to provide a feeling of quiet peacefulness.
Rounding the first bend, an alternate course (the “Nature Trail”) branched off to the right. This trail went up the hillside a ways and eventually reconnected with the main trail. We wanted to stay along the water, however, so continued on the main path.
We passed through another chain link fence and encountered a “T” junction. The right fork led up the hill to a loop around the baseball field, which would then loop back the way we had come. We decided to go left, back into the shady eucalyptus trees, and loop back on the south side of the park.
We soon came to a chain link fence. On the other side were some houses and a residential area. There was a rather elaborate network of use trails around here, so we chose one at random that pointed back the way we had come to begin our return trip.
Soon enough we were back at the parking lot near the baseball diamond, and picked up the trail again. Rather than retracing our original route, we found a path that looked like it passed along the south edge of the park and headed that way.
Then we continued down the path along the southern shore. Here, the tranquility of the park was slightly disrupted by the sound of traffic on the nearby College Grove Drive, but overall it was still pretty quiet.
Soon enough, we were back at the parking lot, and headed back to the car.
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From Highway 94, take the College Ave exit. Head north on College Ave, then turn left onto College Grove Drive. Proceed .7 miles, the entrance to Chollas Lake Park will be on the right. map
|Total Distance:||2.2 miles|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Bathrooms and drinking fountains at lake|