Kumeyaay Lake

Kumeyaay Lake in Mission Trails Regional Park was once a series of gravel pits along the San Diego River. After being mined out in the 1970’s, the area was restored and has since become an important nesting ground for the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo. The lake is also open to recreational fishing, and lies immediately adjacent to the Kumeeyaay Lake Campground, open on weekends and certain holidays.

The area also offers one of the easier and shadier hikes in Mission Trails Regional Park, making it a perfect spot for an early evening stroll in the summer. We set off on a late Saturday afternoon, and parked in the lot just across from the campground on Bushy Hill Drive. From the parking lot, we walked west along the paved Father Junipero Serra Road for about .2 miles, and found the trailhead on the right side of the road. You can also access the trail by cutting through the campground, but navigating the twisting loops in the campground isn’t quite as straightforward.

We made our way along the Campground Connector Trail through baccharis bushes.

After a short distance we came to a paved road on the edge of the campground and turned left.

We followed the road a short way until we found a gravel path leading off to the left, next to campsite #10.

We went downhill a short way to a “Y” junction. Once upon a time the trail looped around the entirety of the lake, but the northern portion of the trail has been set aside as nesting ground for the Least Bell’s Vireo and is now fenced off. As a result, the path now goes around each side of the lake, requiring some out and back maneuvering. We decided to visit the western side of the lake of the first and took the path to the left.

We crossed a cement spillway where a large group of people were lounging around fishing in the lake.

Once across the spillway we found the campground amphitheater on the other side.

The path continued on the far side of the amphitheater. Behind us we could see Kwaay Paay and Pyles Peak in the late afternoon sun.

Before long we spotted a chain link fence, overgrown with brush, blocking the path north. But a trail led southeast through a tunnel of brush along a narrow finger of land protruding into the lake. We turned right and followed it.

Thick willows obstructed our view of the lake, and where the willows partially cleared, tall rushes growing along the edge of the lake took over.

At .45 mile, we came to the end of the trail. A narrow channel of water (full of rushes and other plants) lay in front of us. We could see a trail on the other side of the water, but there was no reasonable way to cross.

So we retraced our route to the “Y” junction at the edge of the campground and this time took the path leading west.

The campground was just to our right, and the sounds and smells of campers preparing dinner filled the air. On our left was the southern shore of the lake, but once again views were almost entirely obstructed by the thick brush. There were a couple of access points leading towards the water where we could almost see the lake.

We quickly passed the edge of the campground and things got much quieter.

Around .9 mile we found a short spur trail on the left and followed it a short way. Here we found the other side of the narrow channel of water where we had turned around earlier.

We returned to the main trail and continued heading east. Some low-growing willow branches overhung the trail.

Tall grasses crowded the trail for a short section, and we moved cautiously, alert for any signs of rattlesnakes in the thick brush. Fortunately, we saw none.

Soon, the trail turned northward.

We found a fat, fuzzy caterpillar crawling through the grass along the edge of the trail.

The trail continued to curve gently around to the left, and soon we came to the end of the trail. Another chain link fence blocked further progress.
From here we retraced our route back to the campground.

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From Mission Gorge Road, head west on Father Junipero Serra Trail for approximately .1 mile. At the stop sign, turn left and park in the lot at the corner of Bushy Hill Drive and Father Junipero Serra Trail. Walk up Father Junipero Serra Trail about 1/4 mile to find the trailhead on your left. map

Total Distance: 1.9 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: Negligible
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Bathrooms and water at campground or at nearby Mission Dam parking lot
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Mission Trails Regional Park
Trail Map
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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