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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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|
|Total Ascent:||285 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Bathrooms and drinking fountains at park|
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View route or download GPX from CalTopo