Highland Valley Trail

The Highland Valley Trail runs along Highland Valley Road, just south of the San Dieguito River near San Pasqual Valley. Despite the nearby road, the trail offers a scenic stroll along gently rolling hills through a mix of coastal sage scrub, grasslands, and riparian woodlands. Views of nearby agricultural farms and the San Dieguito River provide a pleasant backdrop.

We set off on a surprisingly warm day in between rain storms at the end of December. Since this was a relatively short and easy hike, we were joined by the ever adventurous Apollo. The parking area was uncrowded, there were only a couple of other cars so we had the trail almost entirely to ourselves.

We found the start of the trail next to the kiosk at the eastern edge of the parking lot.

After passing through a couple of trees at the start of the trail, we found ourselves surrounded by low-growing sagebrush, which allowed for open views of the valley beyond.

The trail has a corresponding interpretive guide, the Ruth Merrill Children’s Interpretive Walk, and we noted numbered posts as we walked. You can pick up the interpretive guide from the kiosk at the trailhead, or download it from the San Diegutio River Park web page.

Not far to our left was Highland Valley Road, which meant there was a fair amount of traffic noise on the trail. Fortunately the traffic wasn’t too heavy, so we could enjoy some extended periods of quiet in between cars.

Around .38 miles, the trail crossed a dirt road and picked up again on the other side.

The trail dipped into a lovely grove of oak trees. A wooden footbridge spanned a small creek. There were a few puddles of water downstream from the bridge, but it was otherwise dry. It was a beautiful and serene spot, and a wooden bench made for a perfect spot to sit and soak it all in.

From here the trail turned gently uphill and left the oak trees behind. Continuing on, we passed a field full of boulders on our left.

Apollo stopped, alerting us to something moving among one of the boulders. A roadrunner climbed to the top of one of the rocks and posed nicely for us.

Continuing on, we found more beautiful oak trees lining the trail.

Around 1.23 miles we crossed a paved service road and continued on the other side.

More sagebrush and beautiful views awaited us.

Around 1.4 miles the trail began to bend south, turning away from Highland Valley Road and following Sycamore Creek Road. We could see stand of willows and sycamore trees marking the course of the creek on the opposite side of the road.

Around 1.93 miles the trail crossed Sycamore Creek Road, continuing on the other side.

The trail led us to a shaded picnic area with a table and a couple of benches. We sat down for a rest and to give Apollo some water, and watched the horses at a nearby ranch.

After enjoying the scenery, we turned around and retraced our route back to the car.

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From I-15, take the W Bernardo Dr/Pomerado Rd exit. Head east on Pomerado Road to Highland Valley Road. Turn left onto Highland Valley Road, the parking area and trailhead will be on your right in approximately 400 feet. map

Total Distance: 4.2 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 373 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
San Dieguito River Park
Trail Map
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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