Dictionary Hill Open Space Preserve

Dictionary Hill Open Space Preserve in Spring Valley is the newest addition to the County’s open space parks. Thanks to the dedication and perseverance of the Dictionary Hill Open Space Advocates, the County Board of Supervisors recently voted to acquire and preserve these 175 acres.

In the 1800’s, Dictionary Hill was known as Lookout Mountain. Rufus King Porter, one of the founders of Spring Valley, would climb the mountain to check whether the steamer was in port before making the trip into Old Town to pick up mail and sell produce. Today, standing atop the hill, one can enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of southeast San Diego.

There are several access points to the new open space, but we chose the trailhead at the end of S Barcelona Street as it appeared to offer the longest hike to the hilltop, and incorporates a stretch along Bancroft Creek. The trail began at the road’s end, leading into a dense grove of eucalyptus trees.

We followed the trail through the trees and turned right, heading west.

The trail climbed a short hill through the chaparral.

Before long it leveled out. There was a dry creek bed on our right, full of brush – Bancroft Creek.

Around .25 mile the trail crossed the dry creek bed and continued through the canyon.

Around .4 mile we came to a 4-way junction.

We took the left fork to begin making our way up the hill.

The path was steep and rocky. We were glad we’d bought our trekking poles as the footing was a bit challenging.

Around .55 mile we came to a “T” junction and turned left. Up the hill, we could see a small water tower.

Taking a moment to pause and catch our breath, we admired the stunning view to the east.

The trail wrapped around the southwestern flank of the hill.

Soon we were able to see Sweetwater Reservoir to the south. Here there was another wide junction, and we turned right to make our way towards the summit.

We passed a few more intersections but stayed straight, aiming for the high point.

Finally, right around the 1 mile point we reached the wide, open top of Dictionary Hill. We looked around for a benchmark or peak register but didn’t find anything other than rocks and brush.

The real destination though appeared to be on the western edge of the hill top, from where we had an outstanding view of the city below and the coastline beyond. We began picking out local landmarks and were even able to spot our house. In the distance, we could see the Silver Strand, Point Loma, the Coronado Bridge, and the Coronado Islands off the coast of Mexico.

We walked around the hilltop, taking in the panoramic views all around. To the north was Cowles Mountain and other peaks of Mission Trails.

Mount Helix was closer, to the northeast, and Iron Mountain and Mount Woodson could be seen far in the distance to the left. We were also able to pick out the distinctive forms of El Cajon Mountain and Cuyamaca Peak. All in all, we were extremely impressed with the view given the short climb that had brought us here.

After exploring the hilltop we decided to take a slightly different route down. We found another rough path leading down the northeast side of the hilltop, heading towards another water tower (different than the water tower we had passed on our climb up).

There was quite a network of interconnecting trails up here, but we just headed for the water tower.

Upon reaching the tower, we turned right and followed the fence line east down the hill.

We continued downhill, reaching a “T” junction with another utility road and turning left.

This road curved around and continued west down an extremely steep hill. The dirt was very loose and slippery, being that it hadn’t rained in pretty much forever, and we were once again thankful for our trekking poles.

Finally we reached the bottom of the hill and turned right.

We were now in the canyon through which we had come in, and in just a couple hundred feet passed the turn-off we had first taken to begin climbing the hill. From here, we retraced our route back to the start.

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From 94 east take the Sweetwater Springs Blvd. Head south on Sweetwater Springs Blvd for approximately .9 mile. Turn right onto Austin Drive and continue for approximately .7 mile. Turn left onto S Barcelona St and proceed about .3 mile to the end of the road where you will find the trailhead. Park along the street. map

Total Distance: 2.1 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 565 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Dictionary Hill Open Space Advocates
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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