In our many trips to Mission Trails over the years, we’d always overlooked the Oak Grove trail
due to its short length. Deciding it was high time to rectify this oversight, we leashed up one of the dogs and headed to the park for a short hike combining the Oak Grove and Visitor’s Center Loop trails.
This first section of trail ran right along the edge of the Father Junipero Serra Trail road, and then turned eastward to parallel Mission Gorge Road. The road was mostly obscured by trees and brush, but periodically the sound of singing birds was drowned out by the roar of a passing car. But it was early on a Sunday, so there wasn’t a lot of traffic, and the scenery more than made up for the occasional car. In mid February, our surroundings were bright green with new grass thanks to recent rain.
We crossed a very small creek and found lovely little resting spot beneath the thick tangle of oak and willow trees. Here, there was a bench to rest on, as well as an interpretive exhibit with a sample Kumeyaay ‘Ewaa, or grass house.
The trail passed through some more thick brush before emerging into an open, chaparral lined stretch. I was walking in front, and as I rounded a corner, I caught a brief glimpse of a coyote padding along the trail towards us. The moment he spotted me he silently ducked into the brush and disappeared.
As we approached the end of the Oak Grove Trail, we could see the aftermath of the fire from the previous summer. Fortunately it was a relatively small area that had been affected, and there was some new growth and obvious signs of restoration work being performed.
The chaparral broom grew tall on either side of the trail. We stayed right as we passed a couple of trail junctions that led back towards the Visitor’s Center. To the north we could see the rocky protrusion of South Fortuna Mountain.
At 1.1 miles we passed the turn off for the Grinding Rocks and continued along the Visitor Center Loop. The trail soon bent westward and we found ourselves parallelling the course of the San Diego River on our right. The banks of the river were completely overgrown with brush , sycamore, and oak trees, creating a dense green barrier obscuring the river. But in spots we could hear the sound of running water below.
Once again the trail paralleled the busy Mission Gorge Road, but we had lovely green chaparral and the occasional wildflower between us and the road.
The trail turned north. South Fortuna and Kwaay Paay loomed in the distance. We could see the car-lined Father Junipero Serra Trail through the chaparral and knew we were almost at our destination.
The trail connected with the Visitor Center driveway, and we headed back to the car.
Take Mission Gorge Road .25 mile east of Jackson Drive. Turn left onto Father Junipero Serra Trail, then turn left into the Visitor Center parking lot. map
|Total Distance:||2.9 miles|
|Total Ascent:||300 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Bathrooms and drinking fountain at Visitor’s Center|