Rice Canyon

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As much as we love San Diego’s back country, we don’t always have the time and energy to drive out to the mountains or desert to hike. Fortunately, even the more developed areas of the County are rich with opportunities for hiking and exploration. Chula Vista’s Rice Canyon Open Space Preserve is home to a two-mile section of the California Riding and Hiking Trail (CR&HT) in the middle of a large suburban residential area. The canyon provides a peaceful patch of natural beauty you can enjoy with minimal effort.

We headed out to Rice Canyon on a breezy weekday afternoon for a quick stroll. It should be mentioned that there were a couple attempted abductions of female joggers on a nearby street late last year (December 2015), and a warning sign was still posted near the trail head. Be aware and take precautions as you feel necessary, but note that the attacks were on the street, not the trail. With two of us, we didn’t feel any concern.

We spent some time exploring the demonstration garden near the parking area. There were a bunch of interesting looking cacti and succulents, and many of them were beginning to bloom.
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After exploring the garden and marveling at the diverse array of interesting plant life, we finally got down to hiking. The wide gravel trail began at the western end of the parking lot. A handful of picnic tables provided a nice spot to sit and enjoy the breezy afternoon.20160304_DSC5837Rice Canyon

We set off down the gently sloping path. The distinctive CR&HT trail markers, brown posts topped with yellow, stood at regular intervals along the side of the trail.20160304_DSC5839-EditRice Canyon

To our right, the canyon wall sloped upwards, covered in various plants and topped by houses. Sunflowers were blooming on the hillside, creating large swathes of bright yellow.20160304_DSC5843Rice Canyon

To the left was another corridor of plant life between us and the overgrown creek that ran along the canyon floor. Some large fields of the interesting looking Snake Cholla appeared periodically. This would be a very bad spot to crash your bike.20160304_DSC5850Rice Canyon

We also found that the far less threatening lemonadeberry bushes were starting to bear fruit.20160304_DSC5984-EditRiceCanyon

At .75 mile a path to the left led to a concrete berm that spanned the creek. From here we could finally see some water.20160304DSC_6883Rice Canyon

Continuing on the trail, we found a beautiful Willow tree offering a bit of shade. Most of the shade producing plant life was close to the water, leaving the trail pretty much completely exposed to the rays of the sun. Here though, we had a small bit of shade to enjoy.20160304_DSC5861Rice Canyon

At 1.38 miles, the trail bent to the left and wound uphill to the street.20160304_DSC5877Rice Canyon

We crossed the street (South Rancho Del Rey Parkway) and continued straight along the sidewalk. After a couple of hundred feet of following the CR&HT markers, we found the entrance to the next section of the canyon.20160304_DSC5880Rice Canyon

We hiked down hill on the gravel path to the floor for the canyon again, where we found this lovely little lizard posing for us.20160304_DSC5885-EditRice Canyon

This portion of trail was further away from any houses than the previous stretch had been, and for a short time we forgot we were in the middle of a large city.20160304_DSC5891Rice Canyon

At 1.8 miles we somewhat abruptly reached East H Street, and the end of the canyon, so turned around and headed back the way we had come.20160304_DSC5894Rice Canyon

View the full photo gallery

From 805 South take the Bonita Road exit. Turn left onto Bonita Road and continue approximately 2.2 miles. Turn right onto Otay Lakes Road and continue approximately 1.3 miles. Turn right onto Avenida Del Rey, then turn left onto N Rancho Del Rey Parkway. In approximately .4 mile the entrance to Rice Canyon Open Space Preserve will be on the right. map

Total Distance: 3.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 280 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Rice Canyon Demonstration Gardens
View route or download GPX in CalTopo

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