East Shepherd Canyon

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East Shepherd Canyon is another one of San Diego’s many neighborhood canyon areas that helps maintain a touch of nature in our otherwise urban and suburban neighborhoods. Unlike many hikes in San Diego, however, East Shepherd Canyon has the unique advantage of being fairly well shaded for much of the route. A short, tree-lined hike sounded perfect for one of our monsters, so we were joined by the ever-handsome Apollo.
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There isn’t any formal parking area for this trail, so we parked on a small side street (Remora Street) and walked north along Santo Road for a couple of hundred feet to reach the trailhead. The area was lush and green after some winter rains.
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Many years ago Tierrasanta was part of Camp Elliot – a Marine Corps Training Camp used during WWII. We were greeted by a sign alerting us to the remote possibility of unexploded shells in the area. Always ready for a little excitement, we headed down the path. Nothing like a little unexploded ordnance to liven things up! In all seriousness, it’s been a very long time since this area was used for military purposes, and its quite heavily trafficked by hikers and walkers these days. It’s perfectly safe to hike here.
How to make an urban canyon hike more exciting

So down into the canyon we went. We quickly left the traffic noise of Santo Road behind and found ourselves on a narrow trail weaving through chaparral and eucalyptus trees.
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The trail turned towards the right and we found a small stream of water along the canyon floor, a result of recent rains. We came to a very small water crossing, which most people could easily hop over with the aid of a strategically placed rock or the narrow board that spanned the water. For humans (and most normal dogs who have no problems bounding through puddles), this spot would require barely a pause. For not-so-normal dogs like Apollo, however, it took a minute. For you see, despite being part Labrador, Apollo HATES water. After carefully surveying the terrain and assessing his options, he finally decided the best course of action was to cross the wooden plank. Thank goodness for all those years of agility training!
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After successfully navigating the Bridge of Death, we continued up the trail. We stayed to the right as we merged with another neighborhood access trail. The path widened and we soon began to see small interpretive plaques describing some of the common plants found in the canyon, including Laurel Sumac, Chaparral Broom (or Broom Baccharis), and Coast Goldenbush. The plaques, part of the “Shepherd Canyon Native Plant Trail,” were courtesy of Girl Scout Troop 3278, who created and installed the signs as part of their Silver Star project.
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The trees began to thin out and we found ourselves along a slightly more exposed section of trail.
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At .7 mile we came to a 4-way intersection, and found a sign for Dishwasher Pond. The pond was on our right, hidden by a thick screen of brush and trees. To the right was a short spur trail that led to a concrete spillway at the edge of the pond where we could get a good view of the water. Despite its odd and somewhat unfortunate name, it was a pretty spot.
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Continuing up the main trail, we found another trail fork leading off to the left that appeared to connect with the road above us. We stayed to the right and passed into another cluster of eucalyptus trees. The trail was once again cool and shady from the trees and tall brush surrounding us.
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At 1.1 mile we found another fork leading up to the road on our left. We stayed to the right and began up a tree covered hill.
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The trail climbed towards the road, then leveled out and bent to the right. Before long, it began to climb again.
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Once again the trail forked, both routes leading up to the street at the top of the hill (Via Valarta), and the end of our trail. We found a spot under the trees to rest for a few minutes and give Apollo a good long drink of water, then we turned around and headed back the way we had come.


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Directions: From Highway 52, take the Santo Road exit. Proceed south on Santo Road for just under 1 mile to Remora Street. Turn left onto Remora and find parking along the street. map

Total Distance: 2.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 310 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

View route on Google Maps

2 thoughts on “East Shepherd Canyon

  1. Mo Ruchhoeft says:

    Hi, Thanks for the mention of the Native Plant Trail the girls did for their project. It was a lot of work, but we are really proud of how it turned out. Nice write up of the whole trail. BTW, Dishwasher Pond got its name from having a dishwasher dumped in it the bad old days. It was taken out and the whole area cleaned up along ago, but the name stuck. I also have a blog (shibumo.wordpress.com) that has some camping and hiking posts you might be interested in. My son is a Boy Scout and our troop goes out to Anza Borrego several times a year. Those posts are all grouped under the Boy Scout Adventures category.

    • The Native Plant Trail is fantastic! I love finding informative stuff like that on trails 🙂 Thanks for checking out our blog, and I look forward to exploring yours!