Tecolote Canyon is one of the larger urban canyons in San Diego. It has approximately 6.5 miles of trails, however several major roads and a golf course transect the canyon, making a contiguous hike difficult. We had previously hiked the southern portion of the canyon and set off today to explore the northern portion.
Upon reaching the bottom, we found a stream bed covered with smooth river rock. Small puddles of water remained after recent rains. We crossed the small creek and continued straight ahead, plunging into a jungle-like tangle of vegetation. The trail continued south along the edge of the creek.
We made our way along the edge of the creek. Most of the path was shaded by towering oaks, but there was the occasional open stretch where sunlight poured in. There were a couple more small creek crossings.
Around .25 mile we came upon a “Y” junction. The fork to the left led up to another trailhead on Genesse Avenue. We turned right, where we had a much larger creek crossing, to continue into the main canyon.
There were houses high above us along the rim of the canyon. Occasionally we heard the sound of voices or barking dogs drifting down from the nearby residences, but for the most part the canyon floor was tranquil, full of the sounds of singing birds. We heard an avian cry from above, and looked up to see a pair of hawks circling above.
The main section of Tecolote Canyon continues on the opposite side of Balboa Avenue, but unfortunately you’re not able to cross the road on foot (you could walk up Balboa and cross about .25 mile up the road, but unfortunately pedestrian access is prohibited – there are signs on either end of Balboa). The creek runs under the road through a tunnel, so you can probably take that route in the dry season, but right now the creek was too full for that to be an option.
So we were doing plan B, which was to take this side fork over to a small tributary canyon and end near Mt. Etna Neighborhood Park. The trail led very steeply up the side of the hill towards a course of powerlines.
Just shy of 2 miles we came to a “Y” junction. The path to the right appeared to head up towards a residential area. We could hear the sounds of someone playing baseball to the left and surmised that must be the way to the park. So we turned left here, crossing a dry creek bed.
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From Highway 52, take the Genesse Avenue exit and south on Genesse Avenue. Turn right onto Bannock Avenue (shortly past Clairemont Mesa Blvd), and find the North Clairemont Recreation Center on your left. Park on the street or at the recreation center. The trailhead is located on the southern edge of the park beyond the large field area. map
|Total Distance:||4.2 miles|
|Difficulty:||Easy – Moderate|
|Total Ascent:||450 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Drinking fountains and restrooms with limited hours at recreation center|