Florida Canyon (Balboa Park)

Balboa Park has something for everyone. There are museums, theaters, an archery range, and tennis courts. You can see puppet shows, play disc golf, race remote control cars, there’s even a velodrome! So it should be no surprise that there are a number of notable hiking and walking trails throughout the park.

Florida Canyon lies in the northeastern portion of the park near Morley Field. There’s a number of interconnecting trails throughout the area so you can explore the area and create your own route. We decided to explore the area on either side of Florida Drive, which runs through the middle of the canyon.

We parked just outside the off-leash dog area by the tennis courts. There’s a cool little Native Plant Demonstration garden by the parking lot, so we took a few minutes to explore and the set off for our hike.

The trail head was located across the open field in the southwest corner.2016FloridaDSC_7299-Edit

From there the trail traveled south through dry, low growing brush.2016FloridaDSC_7302

The canyon is full of interconnecting trails, so you can fashion your route based on whatever happens to look interesting. We stayed straight, paralleling Florida Drive as the trail gradually descended to the floor of the canyon.2016FloridaDSC_7304

Near the bottom of the canyon we crossed a small wooden footbridge. To the right, a side trail led to the road, providing an opportunity to cross to the west side of the canyon. We continued straight as the trail climbed upwards.2016FloridaDSC_7305

The canyon was typical coastal sage scrub habitat, with lots of buckwheat, coast prickly pear cactus, broom baccharis, sage, and laurel sumac. As was to be expected in the middle of summer, many of the plants were looking a bit scraggly.2016FloridaDSC_7313

Around .4 mile we took a fork leading uphill to the left.2016FloridaDSC_7314

At .6 miles we reached the top of the canyon rim, where we found a fenced in work yard. We turned right, heading west once again.2016FloridaDSC_7321

We joined up with a wide, dirt road where we could see the Coronado Bridge in the distance.2016FloridaDSC_7324

After a short way we found and followed a marked single track that led back down the hill.2016FloridaDSC_7325

A wire fence appeared, guiding us along the ridge top.2016FloridaDSC_7329

The trail then began to descend towards the road.2016FloridaDSC_7331

Below we could see where the trail crossed the road and picked up again near a kiosk on the other side.2016FloridaDSC_9365

We made our way down a couple of long switchbacks to the road. Once across the street we found thicker and taller-growing brush. There was a dry stream bed running through the canyon and the habitat was more riparian than the other side had been.2016FloridaDSC_7337

There were a few flowers to be found as well.2016FloridaDSC_7338-Edit

We also spotted a photogenic little moth.2016FloridaDSC_7354

The trail turned right and we found ourselves travelling north, heading back towards our starting point. Around 1.1 mile we noted a trail branching off on the left, heading up the hill towards the Park’s Desert Garden and Rose Garden. We continued straight.2016FloridaDSC_7362

In a short distance we encounter another junction with some stairs on the left. Like the eastern side of the canyon, this side had a lot of interconnecting trails you can explore and fashion your own route. We continued along the low road to the right.2016FloridaDSC_7364

As we continued on, I happened to glance into the thick bushes on my left and noticed a large cluster of enormous pink flowers blooming.2016FloridaDSC_7369-Edit

Sadly though, we also spotted some evidence of homeless encampments in some of the other deep thickets of brush.

Around 1.4 miles we passed a set of stairs leading down to the right, which led to the street. We continued straight.2016FloridaDSC_7377

At the next junction, we turned right, more or less following the power lines as they paralleled the street.2016FloridaDSC_7385

Soon we spotted a street up ahead of us: Morley Field Drive.2016FloridaDSC_7391

At the street we turned right, crossed Florida Drive, and headed up the hill back to the dog park where we’d started.

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From I-5 take the Pershing Drive exit. Follow Pershing Drive for approximately .5 a mile and turn left onto Florida Drive. Follow Florida Drive for approximately 1.2 miles to Morley Field Drive. Turn right onto Morley Field Drive. Take the first right to turn into the tennis center complex, then make another immediate right towards the Morley Field Dog Park and park in the lot. map

Total Distance: 1.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 243 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed Dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Bathrooms and water available near tennis courts
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Balboa Park Trails – Morley Field Trails Gateway
Trail Map
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

One thought on “Florida Canyon (Balboa Park)

  1. So many boyhood memories of forts, and exploring! We loved the wild areas of the park. Back in the 50s, I remember coming home from the Casting pond one morning to see pairs of soldiers hiding behind the trees alongside the road, their rifles pointed in the direction we just came from! They were holding a “Mock War” all over the canyon! We found empty M-1 cartridges all over, once they’d gone. They were firing blanks, but one soldier got wounded in the foot anyway. A helicopter was called in for evac.