Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, with its long, looping trail system, year-round creek, and easily accessible waterfall, is a highly popular hiking destination. In addition to all of its many natural attractions, it is also home to the historic Rancho Penasquitos Adobe Ranch House. The Ranch House has a long history as a private residence and bunkhouse for ranch hands. You can incorporate a tour of the Ranch House into your hike if you like, or maybe just stop by to visit some of the barnyard animals that live on the grounds. Even if you bypass the Ranch House, the eastern half of Penasquitos Canyon offers a scenic and interesting hike along Penasquitos Creek to a small but scenic waterfall.
We began at the trailhead in the southwest corner of Canyonside Community Park. There’s another trailhead a little to the north on the west edge of the park you can start at (which skips the Ranch House), or you can follow the driveway that leads to the Ranch House from here. We decided to follow this trail south from the parking lot however.
Around 1.4 miles the trail moved away from the riparian strip and back into the more open fields. We came to a series of junctions where several side trails converged. You can take the narrow single track to the left to stick closer the creek, as well as avoid mountain bikers as they’re not allowed on the single tracks. We elected to continue straight on the main trail though. The paths converge farther up so take whichever you like. We elected to take the wider path this time, just because we’d done the single track on a previous trip and felt like mixing things up.
Around 2.4 miles we came to another large 4-way intersection. Carson’s Crossing lay to the left, and the waterfall was straight ahead. The path on the right led northward all the way to Del Mar Mesa Preserve. We continued straight.
The water in the creek was shallow enough that it was possible to cross over to the other side and pick up the trail over there, but given the slippery rocks we decided not to risk our cameras unnecessarily. We headed back to the trail we’d come in on and retraced our route east.
We turned left to continue east, and found another junction where a single track spit off to the left along the creek, and a wider dirt path led straight. We took the single track to the left, but again, either route will get you back to the starting point.
Around 5.25 miles we came to a “T” junction near the Penasquitos Creek Park Crossing. The path to the right led out to the wider trail that paralleled the single track we were on. We took the left fork.
There were a number of partially bare Sycamore trees lining the trail around us, and we heard the tell-tale sounds of woodpeckers. We glanced around among the tree trunks above us, and sure enough spotted some acorn woodpeckers doing their thing.
A short distance beyond, another single track split off to the left. As before, either path will get you where you’re going. We took the single track on the left again, enjoying the quiet we’d been finding on the path less traveled.
A short distance to the side of the trail we found the grave site. A nearby plaque had some information about the man buried here, John Joseph Eichar, who was thought to be an employee at the Ranch House in the 1800’s.
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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:||6.3 miles|
|Total Ascent:||190 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed on main trail|
|Facilities:||Bathrooms and water at park|
For more information, visit:
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
View route or download GPX from CalTopo