With over 8 miles of trails and 7 different staging areas, Otay Valley Regional Park offers numerous potential hikes of varying lengths. The park is mostly flat, making for easy going, and has several ponds which provide excellent bird watching opportunities. The Park is also home to the Finney Interpretive Overlook, where benches, picnic tables, and interpretive shade structures provide awesome views of the valley, as well as a lesson in the history of aviation in the Otay Mesa area. This 5 mile out and back route hits most of the park’s highlights, including 3 of the larger ponds and the Finney Overlook.
While there are numerous trailheads one can start at, we decided to make our starting point the Ranger Station on Beyer Boulevard. This spot appeared to have the best parking, as well as restrooms and water. We took the trail that led north from the parking lot, passing through a gate near the Ranger Station.
The path led through towering baccharis. The trail then turned left next to an informational kiosk.
On our left was Willett Grove. We passed a plaque dedicated to local resident John A. Willett who was instrumental to the cleanup and restoration of Otay Valley Regional Park.
To our right we could see the calm, still water of Fenton Pond. A flock of Caspian Terns circled above.
Around .13 miles we came to a junction and turned right.
The trail continued along the bank of the pond. We found benches placed periodically along the trail, providing some quiet spots to sit and watch the birds.
At .26 miles we came to another “T” junction, and once again turned right to continue circling the pond.
On the north side of the pond was a rock quarry where large piles of rock rose up.
We continued around the pond, keeping our eyes open for birds. We spotted a pair of Yellow Crowned Night Herons perched in the trees.
And some seagulls were hanging out atop an old utility pole.
Just shy of the .5 mile point we came to the end of the trail where another bench provided a fantastic view of the pond.
This spot gave us an excellent vantage point to enjoy the terns who were still circling the pond, and periodically diving in.
Honestly, we could have amused ourselves for most of the day right here, watching the antics of the birds, but we wanted to cover some more miles so eventually we tore ourselves away and continued our hike.
We retraced our route back to the Ranger Station and followed the trail to the road. We crossed Beyer Blvd and picked up the trail on the opposite side of the street.
The wide dirt path was exposed to the sun, and the morning clouds were starting to burn off. We were glad to have gotten an early start so it wasn’t too hot yet.
We found some lovely Bladderpod bushes along the trail, and set about searching for Harlequin Bugs, which can often be found on the plant.
Sure enough, some careful examination of the plant turned up several of the black and orange insects.
Continuing on, we spotted the placid waters of Heart Pond through the brush on our left.
The valley was full of a mix of riparian and coastal sage scrub plants including mule fat, buckwheat, broom baccharis, and sagebrush.
There were also huge patches of poison oak. Fortunately it was well-trimmed so it easy enough to avoid.
There were numerous rabbits out foraging.
Around 1.5 miles we came upon a “T” junction and turned left (the right fork leads to a trailhead on Beyer Way).
We quickly came upon another “T” junction and turned right.
We found a great deal more poison oak here, as well as a friendly lizard who posed cooperatively.
The path led under the road. The underpass was full of graffitti.
Once on the opposite side of the road we came a “Y” junction and turned right (the left fork is yet another trailhead).
We travelled parallel to the road for a short stretch, finding a lovely shady spot with willows.
After a short way the trail bent to the left, continuing along the course of the river. A path on the right appeared to lead up to the road.
There was another branch or two leading up to the right – it appeared there were some utility roads to access the power lines that ran along there.
We stayed straight until a “Y” junction at 1.8 miles where we took the right fork.
We soon came upon yet another “Y” junction. You can take either route, as they converge further up, but we wanted to get close to the next pond, so took the left fork.
In just a few hundred feet we were able to see Le May pond, surrounded by thick growing rushes.
There was a bench overlooking the pond, and a use trail that led down to the water’s edge.
After admiring the pond (alas, no birds to be seen), we continued along the trail.
We found more enormous stands of poison oak along the trail.
Then we came upon this cool stretch where the trail crossed the water on a raised levee.
We were able to get some great views of the water here.
Finally, around 2.6 miles we came to a “T” junction and turned right, heading uphill.
We went uphill a short way to another “T” junction and turned right again.
The trail bent around and continued ascending. We soon found a narrow set of wooden steps leading uphill on our right and followed them.
The trail ascended quickly, alternating between wooden steps and bare dirt.
It didn’t take long for us to reach the rim of the canyon. There was a nice viewing area, protected by a wooden fence, at the top.
The viewpoint provided a fantastic vista of the valley below.
But we weren’t done yet. We followed the path towards the street, then to the right as it passed along the outside edge of a school.
The path took us to the Finney Overlook – a small little park area commemorating local aviation history.
There are two distinctive looking shade structures, designed with the same airfoil shape used by the first glider which flew in 1883 over Otay Mesa.
We took some time to relax, have a snack, and enjoy the views before heading back.
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From I-5: Take I-5 south to the Main Street exit. Turn left onto Main St and continue for approximately .9 miles. Turn right onto Broadway and continue as it turns into Beyer Blvd. The entrance to the parking lot will be on your right, roughly .5 mile from Main Street.
From I-805: Take I-805 south to the Main Street exit. Turn right onto Main St and continue for approximately 2.2 miles. Turn left onto Broadway and continue as it turns into Beyer Blvd. The entrance to the parking lot will be on your right, roughly .5 mile from Main Street.
||Easy – Moderate
||Leashed dogs allowed
||Restrooms and water at staging area
For more information, visit:
Otay Valley Regional Park
County of San Diego: Otay Valley Regional Park
View route or download GPX from CalTopo