Knott Grove

In 1986, college student Cara Knott was murdered by an on-duty CHP Officer and her body was dumped from an abandoned bridge above Penasquitos Creek. Her father, Sam Knott, channelled his grief and spent the next decade lobbying to have the area near where her body was found dedicated to his daughter. In 1996, the site was set aside as the Cara Knott Memorial Oak Garden, and several years later was re-dedicated as the San Diego Crime Victims Memorial Oak Garden.

The site is accessible by car, but it also lies right along a section of the Trans-County Trail. In the midst of an unpleasant heat wave, we were looking for an easy hike we could do in the evening after it had cooled off a bit. This little trek to Knott Grove fit the bill perfectly. One of our monsters, the valiant Apollo, insisted upon joining us, so off we went.20160628_DSC5597_Knott_Grove

We started our hike from Canyonside Community Park. There’s another, somewhat more convenient, staging area located at the intersection of Mercy Road and Black Mountain Road, but Canyonside Park has two advantages. First, the Mercy Road staging area closes at sunset, whereas the park is open until 11 pm. Since we were doing an evening hike and not sure exactly when we’d finish, we didn’t want to have to worry about getting locked in. Second, parking at the Mercy Road staging area costs $3 but is free at the park. Normally, I don’t object to paying a nominal fee to help support the local parks and trails we get so much enjoyment from, but embarrassingly enough neither of us happened to have $3 on us this particular evening. So the park it was!

We found the trailhead in the southwest corner of the park and headed south.20160628_DSC5496_Knott_Grove

We made our way along the wide path until we came to the Ranch House Crossing, where we would make our way across Penasquitos Creek. We followed the sign to the right for the hiker crossing (the left fork leads to the horse crossing).20160628_DSC5502_Knott_Grove

We found a cute little wooden bridge spanning the narrow stream.20160628_DSC5504_Knott_Grove

After converging with the path from the horse crossing, we found a narrow single track branching off to the left and followed it.20160628_DSC5508_Knott_Grove

The trail wound through some shady, riparian brush which provided some welcome coolness.20160628_DSC5514_Knott_Grove

At .4 miles we came to a “T” junction where we met up with the main Penasquitos Canyon Trail and turned left.20160628_DSC5516_Knott_Grove

Around .5 mile, we found the Mercy Road staging area on the right. We stuck to the left, passing several paths that led up to the parking lot. We didn’t go up to check, but I’d wager there are restrooms and water up there if you find yourself in need.20160628_DSC5518_Knott_Grove

As the trail approached Black Mountain Road, it curved to the left.20160628_DSC5521_Knott_Grove

An underpass took us beneath Black Mountain Road. A path on the right hand side kept us out of the stagnant water. I was glad we’d recently double checked the batteries in our headlamps as I wouldn’t want to traverse this in the dark on our return.20160628_DSC5526_Knott_Grove

As we emerged from the underpass, the trail bent southeast.20160628_DSC5527_Knott_Grove

We soon found ourselves just outside the Canyonside Horse Stables. We could see and hear horses and their caretakers in the many corrals and stables.20160628_DSC5530_Knott_Grove

We continued following the trail south.20160628_DSC5533_Knott_Grove

Just shy of .9 mile we came to a “T” junction as the trail turned to parallel Mercy Road.20160628_DSC5534_Knott_Grove

We were a little unsure of which way to go, but after a minute we spotted a sign reading “Trans-County Trail” to the left, partially obscured by the brush. We turned left.20160628DSC_8968_Knott_Grove

The trail made its way past the stables.20160628_DSC5537_Knott_Grove

Penasquitos Creek was on our left, hidden by thick brush. Mercy Road was up the hill on our right, but we couldn’t hear any traffic noise down on the trail.20160628_DSC5543_Knott_Grove

At 1.6 miles we found a 4-way junction. We continued straight, crossing a wide utility road that led up to the street.20160628DSC_8977_Knott_Grove

The trail became narrower and the surrounding brush became thicker. We came to a quaint wooden footbridge which took us across the creek.20160628_DSC5558_Knott_Grove

Tall oaks lined the side of the trail here, concealing any sounds or views of the residential areas on either side of the canyon. We were in our own little sylvan world.20160628_DSC5561_Knott_Grove

We crossed another little footbridge and took a moment to enjoy the peaceful stream.20160628_DSC5566_Knott_Grove

As we continued on, we started to hear traffic noise again around the 2 mile mark. Ahead of us, the I-15 overpass came into view.20160628_DSC5570_Knott_Grove

The trail passed under the freeway. Enormous support columns loomed above us.20160628_DSC5573_Knott_Grove

Beyond the I-15 bridge was another older bridge which was no longer in use.20160628_DSC5577_Knott_Grove

From here the trail led down to a paved road, Cara Way. We turned left and followed the road. The retaining wall along the roadside was adorned with interesting artwork.20160628DSC_8998_Knott_Grove

We quickly spotted a gazebo amid a grove of oak trees, and headed down to explore.20160628_DSC5581_Knott_Grove

There were small tokens and memorial plaques throughout the garden.20160628_DSC5585_Knott_Grove

We spent some time relaxing in the gazebo and reflecting in the quiet solitude of the trees before heading back the way we had come.

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From I-15 take the Mercy Rd/Scripps Poway Pkwy exit, and turn left onto Mercy Road. Follow Mercy Road for approximately 1.4 miles, then turn right onto Black Mountain Road. After .2 miles, turn left into Canyonside Park and find parking. The trailhead is located in the southwest corner of the park. map

Total Distance: 4.75 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 285 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Bathrooms and drinking fountains at park
Fees/Permits: None

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

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