Hollenbeck Canyon

The trailhead at Hollenbeck Canyon

Hollenbeck Canyon is a 3,200 acre wildlife area in Jamul managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The trails are open to hikers, leashed dogs, horses, and mountain bikers. Be aware that hunting is allowed from September through January. The area includes coastal sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodlands, riparian forests, freshwater marshes and grasslands. A seasonal creek runs along the canyon floor during wetter periods.

For our visit, in the middle of July, the creek was almost entirely dry. It was the middle of the day in summer in Jamul, but a strong breeze alleviated the worst of the heat. There was one other car parked at the trail head, but the driver was just there to make use of the port-a-potty. It looked like we would have the trail to ourselves.

The trail began by crossing an open grassy field. Rolling hills of brown grass and dried buckwheat surrounded us. The path gradually rose up a gentle incline, and as we rose we began to see the green beltway along the creek ahead of us. A narrow trail branched off to the left, heading to the top of a small hill, but we continued along the main path towards the creek.The trail at Hollenbeck Canyon

Before long the main road veered to the right while a smaller trail continued towards the creek. Eventually they both end up in the same place, but we followed the narrower trail since it seemed to take a more direct route to the shade of the trees. The path turned right and paralleled the creek as we approached the sycamore and oak trees that grew alongside the overgrown creek.The trail at Hollenbeck Canyon

The trail meandered along a bit before crossing the dry creek at a break in the wild green growth. We crossed and found a wide dirt path paralleling the creek on the opposite bank. We turned right to continue deeper into the canyon. (Make a note of this junction when you come to it, as on the return trip it is easy to zone out and keep going straight instead of crossing back over the creek – this will eventually lead you back to the road, however you’ll be a fair distance away from your car and the parking area).Crossing the dry creek bed at Hollenbeck Canyon

The trail continued along the creek side, alternating between open exposed patches and shady tree protected stretches. Boulder studded hills surrounded us on either side. The only sounds beside our footsteps were the sound of the wind rustling through the treetops and the occasional bird.The Hollenbeck Canyon trail

Around one mile in, we entered a deeply shaded stretch of trail, thick with lush oak trees on both sides. The creek to our right held a few stagnant pools of water. Lrage tangles of poison oak covered the creek sides, but was easily avoided.Tall oaks provide shade along the Hollenbeck Canyon trail

After another .2 miles or so, we found a bench strategically placed to enjoy the peacefulness of the oak grove.A strategically placed bench provides a welcome resting spot along the Hollenbeck Canyon trail

The trail soon turned slightly away from the creek, leaving us exposed to the mid-day sun. We continued on, admiring the deep red hillsides around us speckled with green shrubs and white boulders.Hollenbeck Canyon trail

Around 1.5 miles, the trail makes a short but somewhat steep climb, and we came across a branch to the left. The ruins of an old cabin lie about 100 feet up the branch, so we headed up to check them out.The ruins of an old cabin can be found along the Hollenbeck Canyon trail

After exploring the cabin we went back down to the main trail and continued our eastward trek. We were well away from the creek and its accompanying shady trees at this point. The path continued to rise above the base of the canyon below. The lush green of the trees along the creek bed below us contrasted starkly with the brown and red of the rocky hillsides.Looking down into Hollenbeck Canyon from the trail

As we continued along the hillside, the edge of the canyon wall below us grew steeper and steeper. The path hugged the hillside to our left and wound above the precipitous edge of the gorge below for about ¼ of a mile.Hollenbeck Canyon trail

We descended a bit and met up with another trail running perpendicular to our current path. We headed right, down towards the creek. We found a muddy puddle of a creek crossing, and carefully stepped across some rocks to avoid getting our shoes encrusted with sludge. A small group of yellow jackets were busy buzzing around the mud puddles, however we managed to avoid any insect altercations.Approaching the second creek crossing at Hollenbeck Canyon

Just on the other side of the creek was a beautiful grove of oaks. There were some decent size rocks under one of the trees just to the side of the trail which made for a good resting spot. The trail continues on from this point, but we decided this would make a good turn around spot on a hot day, and headed back.

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Take 94 East until it turns into Campo Road. Turn right onto CA-94 E/Campo Road (You’ll see TGI Friday’s across the street). Continue along Campo Road for approximately 9.5 miles, turn left onto Honey Springs Road. The trail head is on the left after about .1 mile. map

Total Distance: 4.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Elevation Change: 775 feet
Best Time of Year Fall, Winter, Spring
Dog Friendly? Leashed dogs allowed – Use caution as hunting is allowed in this area from September through January
Bike Friendly? Yes
Facilities: Pit toilet at trail head; no water
Fees/Permits: None

For more information visit:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area

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