Gonzales Canyon

Gonzales Canyon has a modest network of trails that explore several connected canyons. The Torrey Pines Loop Trail, which has only a modest stand of Torrey Pines at the very end, explores two adjacent canyons full of mixed chaparral and coastal sage scrub. We combined this loop with a section of the Lagoon Trail, which travels along a lush riparian belt, for a scenic and varied figure-8 dual loop.

We parked right by the dog park, and walked a short distance in the direction of the parking lot entrance to where we found a metal gate to the east. We went around the metal gate and followed a gravel path to the left.

We quickly spotted a wooden sign downhill to the right marking the start of the Torrey Pines Loop Trail.

The narrow trail wound downhill into the canyon below.

We crossed a wooden footbridge, and the trail wrapped around to the other edge of the canyon.

Before long the trail swung around, heading north.

Above us, numerous homes lined the canyon’s rim, but we had quiet solitude within the canyon.

Around .6 miles we crossed a dry streambed.

A little past the streambed we came to a “T” junction. There were some wooden directional signs, but unfortunately they were lying flat on the ground to the left of the trail.

Fortunately, we had studied the map before setting off. The left branch led uphill back towards our starting point. We took the right fork to continue further into the canyon.

Much of the vegetation was brown and dry, but the Baccharis Broom was blooming, with showy white tufts atop feathery green branches.

The trail wound its way along the canyon floor until we reached another “T” junction around .9 miles. This was the mid-point of our figure 8, and we’d eventually be coming back here and taking the left fork. For now, we continued straight.

A short stroll brought us to another “T” junction where the second loop began. Ahead of us was a sycamore-lined riparian strip along a creek, and a soft sandy trail branched off in either direction. We turned right to do this loop in a counterclockwise direction.

The ground was soft with deep sand at first, but slowly became harder-packed as we continued.

Around 1.15 miles we came to a “Y” junction. The right fork, marked with a sign reading “Sword Way”, led uphill to a nearby residential area. We continued along the creek to the left.

The trail continued on, bending to the left before long, where we came to yet another “T” junction. You can continue on to the right if you’re looking for a longer hike, the trail seems to continue on for quite a way (based on looking at maps).

But we took the left fork, following the sign for the “Lagoon Trail,” to being closing our loop.

Most of the creek was overgrown with thick brush, but we did pass a spot where we could see bit of stagnant water.

We also spotted some Toyon with its bright red berries.

We also passed a section where the thick undergrowth cleared beneath the towering Sycamore trees. There were some large patches of poison oak in this area too, and a beehive, so be careful in this stretch.

The Sycamore leaves were turning brown and dropping from the trees, giving us a lovely taste of fall.

Around 1.75 miles we came to another “Y” junction and took the left fork to begin closing the loop. The right fork looks like it eventually leads to another residential access point.

We crossed the dry creek bed once more.

Just beyond the creek we came to another “T” junction and turned left to return to our starting point.

Right around 2 miles we returned to the start of the second loop and turned right.

We walked the short distance to the next junction where we turned right to resume the Torrey Pines Loop.

The trail made a long switchback then began to climb uphill.

The trail curved around the edge of the mesa above us and led to the western side of the canyon.

Around 2.3 miles we came to a “T” junction with a wide utility road.

The continuation of the Torrey Pines Loop was on the opposite side of the road, a couple dozen feet to the right.

We continued on the Torrey Pines Loop Trail as it began to ascend.

As we made our way out of the canyon, we began to hear the sounds of dogs barking from the dog park atop the mesa on our left and knew we were getting close. There were a couple of pretty steep sections of trail, but they were pretty short so it wasn’t terribly strenuous.

We also finally spotted some Torrey Pine Trees on our right. They seemed to be in somewhat short supply here, given the name of the trail.

Finally, around 2.8 miles we had made our way out of the canyon and reached a chain link fence at the edge of Torrey Pines High School. We turned left, following the fenceline along the back of the dog park, and returned to the parking lot.

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From I-5, take the Del Mar Heights Road exit and head east on Del Mar Heights Road. After approximately 1.3 miles, turn right onto Lansdale Drive, then after .1 mile turn left onto Torrey Highlands Park Road where you will find parking near the dog park. map

Total Distance: 2.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 436 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Water and bathrooms in parking lot
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
View route or download GPX from CalTopo
Trail Map

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