Lake Jennings is a man-made reservoir located in Lakeside. While its main purpose is to provide drinking water, Lake Jennings also provides a wide array of recreational opportunities including fishing, camping, boating, bird-watching, and most importantly, hiking. While the campground is open 7 days a week, the eastern side of the lake is only open Friday – Sunday, so you’ll need to plan accordingly if you want to do this route and go all the way around the lake.
We parked in the large parking lot near the Bait and Tackle Shop and went inside to pay our Day Use Fee: $2 per person. We also picked up a free trail map.
From the store, we headed east along the road which sloped gently down towards the lake.
The road soon split into higher and lower portions. We decided to stick to the lower road on the left so we’d be closer to the lake and potential bird sightings.
We passed a floating ramp that provided disabled access to the water below.
Just beyond was Siesta Point which provided a nice view of the lake through the trees. The shoreline was well shaded, primarily by eucalyptus trees.
We continued to have fabulous views as we hiked on.
El Cajon Mountain rose up to the northeast.
We approached the eastern end of the lake, designated as “Hermit Cove.”
There were numerous access points leading down to the water’s edge. As we rounded the eastern edge of the lake and began heading west, we walked down to the edge of Hermit Cove.
Upon spotting us, a Great Blue Heron who was hanging out along the shore flew to the opposite bank, where he waited for us to leave.
We spent a few minutes taking pictures and watching a flock of Coots swim around before leaving the poor Heron and continuing on. We soon came to another split in the road, and once again stayed to the left. We found some large patches of Prickly Pear Cactus along the road.
The grass and sage of the surrounding hillsides were brown and dry after a long hot summer. Large Laurel Sumac bushes dotted the hills with green.
As always, we had more great views of the lake.
At 2.25 miles we reached Eagle Point, where the paved road ended and a closed gate blocked traffic. We went around the gate and continued on. Finally we had some dirt under our feet!
We spotted an Osprey nesting platform, currently unoccupied, down towards the water.
The trail meandered along, following the contours of the lake’s shoreline.
We spotted a cute little Gopher Snake hanging out in the shade on the side of the trail. He ignored us as we approached to take pictures.
Around the 3 mile point, as we neared the northern tip of the lake, we found the turn-off to the County’s new Historic Flume Trail on the right (I believe they’re still finishing the staging area on the far end of this trail, we’ll be doing a full write-up once the trail opening is announced).
For now we continued on along the road surrounding the lake.
We encountered another unoccupied Osprey platform along the trail.
Around 3.5 miles we found another gate, with a “T” junction just beyond.
To the right was a road leading up towards the campground. To the left was a short spur trail to a picnic area and overlook known as Sentry Point. We headed left to check out the views.
From this point, you can continue on around the lake like we did, but I’ll warn you right now that it involves mostly road walking with traffic from here on. There are a few good views to be had, but if I had to do this hike again I’d probably do it as a 7-mile out and back and turn around at this point.
But we had set out to go around the entire lake, so that’s what we did. After enjoying the overlook we turned around and headed up the hill on the paved road towards the campground.
Halfway up the hill there was a turn-off for the Campground Loop Trail on the left. This is the easier to navigate and more scenic way to get to the main road, so I recommend turning left and following the trail. But at the time we did this hike, we weren’t sure where the trail led, plus we did want to check out the campground, so we stayed straight.
The campground looked pretty nice, however the sites were pretty close together so I suspect it gets kind of noisy, especially on weekends. But they do have one of the more unique camping experiences I have seen – you can rent a tipi!
We made our way through the campground and past the check-in kiosk to find the other end of the Campground Loop trail near the road.
We continued south on the main road, which had no sidewalk to walk on, and a chain link fence to obstruct our views of the lake.
Before long though, the fence transitioned to half-height for a while, and we were once again enjoying the awesome scenery.
The road traveled over the dam that created the lake.
On the far side of the dam we found what looked like an old parking lot, currently gated off.
An old sign or monument stood at the north end of the abandoned lot.
And at the south end was an old cement table, with more nice views of El Cajon Mountain.
We continued on along the road, dodging cars.
Despite the inconvenience of walking on the road, we still enjoyed the scenery and are glad we did this route at least once.
As we made our way around the southern edge of the lake, with a mobile home park to our right, the powerful smell of pine trees dominated the air. I was pleased to be wrapping up the hike with this sweet scent, as it’s sometimes hard to come by in San Diego.
Around 5.3 miles we passed through another gate and came to a “Y” junction in the road.
We stayed left to get back to the main entrance we had driven in and followed the road a short way to our car.
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From I-8 take the Lake Jennings Park Road exit and head north. Follow Lake Jennings Park Road for approximately .3 miles, then turn right onto Harrit Road. Follow Harrit Road for approximately .3 miles until it splits, stay to the right to find the Lake entrance. Park in the large lot outside of the Bait & Tackle Shop. map
||Dogs not allowed
||Bikes not allowed
||Water and bathrooms at Bait & Tackle Shop; port-a-potties along trail
||$2 per person Day Use Fee
For more information, visit:
View route or download GPX from CalTopo