Lopez Canyon

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Lopez Canyon is a small offshoot of western Los Penasquitos Canyon. The seasonal Lopez Creek runs through it, with an accompanying lush riparian habitat. Lopez Canyon is usually less busy than neighboring Penasquitos, so its a great alternative if you’re seeking a bit of quiet solitude, or you can combine the two trails if you’re looking for some extra mileage.

Starting from the western Penasquitos parking area, we passed through the gate at the trailhead, and followed the trail through the thick riparian brush.
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In several hundred feet, we came to a “T” junction. We turned right, following the signs for Lopez Canyon. (Los Penasquitos Canyon lies to the left.)2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6713-Edit

The trail ran through an open grassy area for a short stretch before bending to the right and crossing over the dry creek. Thick tangles of willow, mule fat and other riparian vegetation grew along the creek bed.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6717-Edit

On the far side of the creek, we found ourselves flanked by the dry, grassy slopes of the canyon wall on one side and the lush green of the creek on the other.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6724

Abundant patches of Sacred datura, with its large trumpet-shaped white flowers lined the trail.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6723-Edit

Around .65 miles we found ourselves passing through a field of enormous, dried flower stalks.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6746-Edit

In the midst of this field we came to a “Y” junction in the trail. The right fork was an old dirt road (Lopez Road) leading up to another trailhead near an office park. If you’re looking for a slightly more challenging route, you can get a bit of climbing in by following this trail up to the canyon rim. We were more interested in scenery today, however, so turned left to continue along the creek.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6750

We emerged from the field of dry stalks and continued along the narrow footpath.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6754

As with just about all riparian areas, there was a considerable amount of poison oak along the trail.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6759-Edit-Edit

Just shy of the 1 mile point, we crossed the dry creek bed again.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6762

We were deep in the canyon now, and despite the fact that we could occasionally glimpse houses and buildings on the canyon rim above us, we felt blissfully secluded on the quiet canyon floor.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6764

Tall Sycamore trees provided a leafy canopy overhead, and flowering buckwheat dotted the trailside.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6765

Around 1.15 mile a side trail branched off to the right, leading up towards more office buildings above. We took the left fork to maintain our course along the creek.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6770

At 1.3 miles we crossed the rocky creek bed again, the smooth river rock crunching loudly beneath our feet.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6777

As we continued, the sound of snapping branches made us look up to the hillside on our left. A small herd of deer was grazing in the brush. Most of them ran off upon noticing us, but one doe hung around for a couple of minutes, staring back at us as we stared at her.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_9266-Edit

She finally wandered off to find the rest of her herd, and we continued on our way. More beautiful Sycamores awaited us.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6778

At 1.5 miles, the trail we had been following led to an open, rocky expanse and disappeared. You can follow the rocky creek bed for awhile and pick up the trail again as it leads towards a bridge where Camino Santa Fe Road passes over the canyon. But as the sun was quickly burning off the cooling marine layer and the high humidity was sapping our energy, hiking along the exposed creekbed just to reach a road wasn’t sounding especially appealing to us. So, we decided to make this our turnaround point and headed back the way we had come.2016Lopez CanyonDSC_6784

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From 805-N, take exit 27B for Sorrento Valley Road. Turn left onto Vista Sorrento Parkway and continue for approximately 1 mile. Turn right onto Sorrento Valley Blvd. The trailhead will be on your right in just under 1 mile. map

Total Distance: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 110 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Port-a-potty at trailhead; no water
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
View route or download GPX from CalTopo
City of San Diego Parks & Recreation: Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve
County of San Diego Parks & Recreation: Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve
Friends of Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve
Trail Map

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