Oak Grove Loop and Visitor Center Loop (Mission Trails Regional Park)

20150214_DSC3568-EditOakGrove_VisLoopIn 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.

From the Visitor’s Center parking lot, we walked back down the driveway and found the Oak Grove trailhead on the opposite side of the Father Junipero Serra Trail.20150214_DSC3556-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

A short way up, the trail split into a loop. We took the right fork and set off on the wide dirt path.20150214_DSC3557-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

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.20150214_DSC3561-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

The path soon turned away from the road and the traffic sounds began to fade. At .3 mile we came to the first trail junction and stayed right.20150214_DSC3563-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

Another junction followed almost immediately, and we stayed right again along an additional outer loop trail. We were surrounded by beautiful grasslands and the occasional oak.20150214_DSC3566-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

At .6 mile we met back up with our original trail, closing the loop. Once again we took the right fork and followed the trail into dense, riparian foliage.20150214_DSC3570-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

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.20150214_DSC3571-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

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.20150214_DSC3575-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

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.20150214_DSC3580-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

At .9 miles we reached the paved Father Junipero Serra Trail. We weren’t quite done yet, so we crossed the road and headed up the Visitor Center Loop Trail.20150214DSC_6989OakGrove_VisLoop

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.20150214_DSC3585-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

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.20150214DSC_7009OakGrove_VisLoop

20150214_DSC3596-EditOakGrove_VisLoopThe trail descended briefly and we came to the San Diego River Crossing intersection. To the right lay the watery flow of the river. We turned left to head back towards the Visitor’s Center.20150214DSC_7015OakGrove_VisLoop

From here we had a brief climb up a gravelly incline.20150214DSC_7016OakGrove_VisLoop

At the top of the was the Overflow parking lot. We kept to the trail along the left to return to the Visitor’s Center.20150214DSC_7019OakGrove_VisLoop

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.20150214_DSC3603-EditOakGrove_VisLoop
20150214DSC_7018OakGrove_VisLoopThe 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.20150214_DSC3607-EditOakGrove_VisLoop

The trail connected with the Visitor Center driveway, and we headed back to the car.


Directions
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
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 300 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Bathrooms and drinking fountain at Visitor’s Center
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Mission Trails Regional Park
Trail Map
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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