Rancho Mission Canyon is one of San Diego’s many little neighborhood open space canyons that provides a small swath of natural space within our urban landscape. The nearby Mission Trails Regional Park draws most of the crowds, so you’ll likely have some quiet solitude in which to enjoy the chaparral covered hillsides and chirping birds.
Like most of the canyon areas in the City of San Diego, there are a number of different trail heads from which you can access the canyon. The route described here starts in a residential neighborhood just off Mission Gorge Road and will take you all the way to Navajo Road near Patrick Henry High School. We chose this route because it appeared to offer the longest possible trek and we wanted to explore as much of the canyon as we could. If you want to mix things up, you could easily do this hike in the opposite direction, make it a point-to-point, or turn around at Rancho Mission Canyon Park in the middle.
We started at the end of a cul-de-sac in a residential neighborhood. As we passed through the gate, we saw a cement path heading straight ahead, which connected to another street. We headed down the dirt path to the right to enter the canyon.
Around .5 mile we passed through a section of thick brush, ducking below branches that overhung the trail. We climbed upwards slightly along the rocky path, and then descended again. We came to a cluster of palm trees where a wash ran down the canyon side and across the trail. There was a deep gully that we needed to traverse to continue along the trail. We found the easiest route was to just climb into the rocky wash and follow it downhill a little ways, then climb back out to rejoin the trail.
We soon emerged from the thick, overgrown bushes and found ourselves in a more exposed section of trail again. We passed a small rivulet of water running down the hillside, an artifact of the recent heavy rains. We marveled at the novelty of running water, which we had seen far too little of recently.
Just shy of 1 mile we passed a trail branch that led down the hill on the right. A small use trail ran along the bottom of hill, paralleling the main trail. We continued straight along the main trail in order to avoid the houses down below, as well as enjoy the fantastic views afforded by our high vantage point.
We continued on through the tall chaparral, and at 1.5 miles reached another junction at the bottom of the hill. To the left was a nice little creekside trail that led up to a residential area, but we turned right. About 250 feet further on we took a fork to the left that went down into the creek.
I expect its normally pretty dry in this section, but as we were just coming off a good rainstorm, we found a wet and muddy stream to cross. Fortunately, there was a small wooden structure – more than a board, but less than a bridge – to aid in our crossing. While it was a bit wobbly, we safely avoided the horrors of wet socks.
We reached the top of the hill and found ourselves fairly close to the backyards of several houses. However we did have some nice views of the canyon behind us from here, and it was extremely quiet and peaceful in spite of the proximity of homes.
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From Mission Gorge Road, go south on Jackson Drive. Turn right onto Hemingway Drive, then turn right again to continue on Hemingway. Follow Hemingway as it curves around, continue to the cul-de-sac at the end of the road and park on the street. Note that this is a residential area, so please be respectful with your driving and parking, and don’t make excessive noise as you prepare to set out. map
|Total Distance:||4.9 miles|
|Difficulty:||Easy – Moderate|
|Total Ascent:||496 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Total Distance:||4.9 miles|