Guajome Regional Park in Oceanside offers a variety of scenery on a short easy day hike. By looping together the park’s various trails into a figure “8” pattern, you can take an approximately 4 mile hike which passes by a lake and a pond, through a marsh, beneath hanging willow trees, and through San Diego’s trademark chapparal.
When you drive into the park, there is a kiosk where you buy your parking permit (currently $3) – the machine will make change, but it is in the form of dollar coins, so plan ahead and bring exact change if you can. Place the permit on your dashboard when you park.
From the parking lot, pick up the trail by heading northwest towards Guajome Lake – look for the children’s play area right by the entrance where you drove in, the trail starts on the other side of it. Don’t be dismayed if there are large groups of people here picnicking and fishing in the pond, after about two minutes of walking you will leave most of them behind.
Our adventure began on a warm Sunday afternoon. The trail started out right along Guajome Lake, which is really more of a large pond. Tall reeds and grasses obstruct most of the lakeside, but occasional openings provide access for fishing or duck watching. Dragonflies of various hues hover near the reeds along the shore.
Around .25 mile, there was an intersection in the trail. The branch to the left was the Willow Trail, on which we would return. We continued along the lakeside for just a bit longer until we came to a small wooden footbridge which led to the Nature Trail. You can also turn right and continue around the back of the Lake if you want to extend your hike a bit. We passed another hiker who told us he had seen a turtle coming out of the Lake along the back fence, so we went to check it out. Upon turning down the back trail, we could see a small lump off in the distance which we decided must be the turtle. So we set off at a brisk pace to try and catch up with the creature before it made it off the trail, however we didn’t want to make too much noise and scare it, so we couldn’t move too quickly. By the time we caught up with the lump, it had moved off the trail and into the surrounding bushes. Despite our searching, we were unable to spot it in the brush. Yes, we had been outrun by a turtle. If you’re interested in wildlife viewing, I’d recommend checking out this little section of the trail.
We returned to the wooden bridge and crossed over to the Nature Trail. It begins as a raised path through a marsh surrounded by a variety of plants, including mule fat, fennel, and cattails. Interpretive signs can be found to help in your plant identification endevors. Watch out for poison oak along this stretch.
Soon trees began to replace the reeds and the trail became shady and cool. We came to another wooden footbridge which lifted us above a prolific patch of yerba mansa plants. Beyond were towering palm trees. We strolled along the path, enjoying the leafy cover of the multitude of trees and plant life that shrouded the trail, providing cool shade and seclusion from the rest of the park.
After about 1 mile the Nature trail ended and we came to a “T” intersection. We left the shaded cover of the nature trail and turned turned right on the wide dirt road. Before long we came to the “Lower Picnic Entrance”, and found more families enjoying the the sunny afternoon. The trail met up with paths leading to the picnic area, but we stayed to the left on what signs indicated was the “Luiseno” trail.
The trail wound along the edge of the park. A residential area was visible up the hill on the right, and to the left side of the trail thick riparian brush and larger trees could be seen closer to the water. The side of the path was covered with flowering fennel and occasional wildflowers, much to the pleasure of the local honeybee population. Despite the fact that it was a pleasant Sunday afternoon, we only encountered a few other hikers and runners along this section of trail.
After maybe .5 miles on this trail, the trail forked and we climbed a steep but short rise on the right fork. From the top of the rise we got our first glimpse of the Upper Pond.From here, the trail loops around the pond. We took the right branch and set off on the aptly named “Upper Pond Trail.”
Like the larger Guajome Lake, the Upper Pond is encircled with thick brush and tall reeds, with only a few openings where you can reach the bank. Along the first stretch we found several specimens of what is now my new favorite plant: the Artichoke Thistle.
The Upper Pond Trail only goes for about .25 mile before it turns left and changes names to the “Santa Fe Trail” as it parallels Santa Fe road. We came upon an overgrown bench along a small creek. We followed a small use trail into the dense brush along the creek and found a secluded spot in the shade to relax and listen to the quiet trickle of the water as it cascaded over tree roots.
We followed the loop back to its starting point, and instead of going back up the steep hill, we took the right branch, which made a gradual descent. At the bottom of the hill there was another trail split where we reconnected with the Luiseno trail. The left fork led back the way we came, so we took the right fork which provided a parallel path to complete the loop.
After a while, signs of development in the park began to reappear, and we found ourselves at an intersection along the outskirts of the park’s campground. Staying relatively straight brought us to the Willow Trail which paralleled the Nature Trail we took earlier and ran along the edge of the campground. This section of trail was mostly shaded by a variety of eucaclyptus, coast live oak, pine trees, as well as its namesake Willow trees. The shade was a welcome relief after the exposed sections we had been on previously.
We were returning to the more cultivated section of the park, with the undeveloped marsh on our left contrasted by the green expanse of lawn housing a gazebo on our right (there was a memorial service in progress so we didn’t take pictures of the gazebo). Before long we found ourselves back at Guajome Lake, and turned right to head back to the parking area.
From I-5 take Highway 76 east 7.5 miles to Guajome Lake Rd. Turn right on Guajome Lake Rd. and proceed to the park main entrance. From I-15 take Highway 76 west for 10 miles to Guajome Lake Rd. Turn left at Guajome Lake Rd and proceed to the park main entrance. map
|Total Distance:||4 miles|
|Best Time of Year:||Year round|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs are allowed|
|Facilities:||Toilets and water fountains available|
|Fees/Permits:||$3 parking fee|
For more information visit:
County of San Diego – Guajome Regional Park