In the late 1800’s, the San Diego Flume Company built a 37 mile wooden flume to transport water from Cuyamaca to the El Cajon Valley. This elaborate construct consisted of nearly 9 million board feet of redwood lined with cork and sealed with tar, and traveled across 315 trestles and through eight tunnels. By 1935, the flume was replaced with an underground pipeline. Most of the lumber and other material that made up the flume was reclaimed, but in several places throughout the county the course of the flume can still be identified by a wide cut in hillsides and mountainsides where the flume ran.
One such stretch of the old flume path runs above El Monte Valley near El Monte County Park. A steep trail beginning from the back of the park leads up to and crosses the course of the old flume before continuing further up the mountainside. In addition to the minor history lesson, the climb offers a good workout and some fantastic views of the southern face of El Cajon Mountain.
After one too many Snickers Minis on Halloween, we decided it would be best to get out and get some exercise, so we headed out to El Monte Park. You can park in the large staging area on the left side of the road for free, or head up the road a little way and enter the park for $3. We chose the free option. The views of El Cajon Mountain were impressive even from the parking lot.
We came to a wide clearing surrounded by oak trees, with some hitching posts and a picnic table. The trail continued on the other side, where it began to ascend unapologetically up some steep switchbacks.
The surrounding vegetation was pretty dry, as we were at the end of summer. We noticed mostly buckwheat and laurel sumac along the trail. The scenery was dominated by the magnificent form of El Cajon Mountain looming to the east.
But first things first. The trail made a short descent and around .85 miles we came to a junction with the wide, flat cut of the former flume route. Our destination lay to the left, up the hill, but we took a short detour down slope for some exploration.
If you’re just in it for the scenery, this would make a respectable turnaround point as the best of the trail is behind you now. We decided we hadn’t had enough punishment, however, and continued on up the hill.
The brush grew thicker as we continued, and prolific amounts of coyote poop on the trail indicated a flourishing wildlife population. But being the middle of a rather warm day, we only saw a hand full of birds and numerous baby lizards scurrying away from us.
From here we retraced our route back to the park.
From I-8, take the Lake Jennings Park Road exit. Head north on Lake Jennings Park Road for approximately 1.8 miles. Turn right onto El Monte Road. Follow El Monte Road for approximately 4.9 miles to the staging area on the left side of the road, across the street from El Monte County Park. Parking in the staging area is free. You can also park at El Monte County Park for $3. map
|Total Distance:||4.3 miles|
|Total Ascent:||1365 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Bathrooms and water at park|
|Fees/Permits:||None if you park in the staging area; $3 if you park at El Monte Park|