Rim Trail (Mission Trails Regional Park)

The western side of Mission Trails Regional Park contains an elaborate network of trails and utility roads that can be fashioned into any number of routes with varying amounts of elevation gain. You can explore low-lying valleys and river crossings or climb to hill tops to enjoy the views. This hike along the Rim Trail provides some great views of all 5 Mission Trail Peaks and the Suycott Valley below, as well as downtown San Diego in the west.

This hike could easily be done from the Clairemont Mesa Drive entrance, but we decided to start from the Colina Dorada trailhead since we’d never been there before. There were numerous intersections to navigate, some better marked than others. If you’re not real familiar with Mission Trails, it might be a good idea to bring a copy of the trail map along. We were joined by the fearless Khan.

The trailhead was easy enough to find at the intersection of Colina Dorada Drive and Calle de Vida. We squeezed around the side of the gate and set off down the gravel road.

The road wound north and east through the lush carpet of sage and clumps of laurel sumac. It wasn’t long before the road began to start gradually climbing.

We passed a couple of turn-offs that led towards the Quarry Loop Trail, but continued straight on the wide, gravel road. Pausing, we turned around to admire the view behind us in the cool, clear morning.

As we continued, we spotted the Clairemont Mesa entrance and connecting bridge on our left.

At .5 mile we came to a 3-way intersection. We stayed to the far left, following signs for the Rim Trail.

As we started up the next hill, we had a beautiful view of Cowles Mountain and Kwaay Paay Peak to the west. The recent rains had caused the hills to green up nicely.

At .85 miles we came to a massive junction with trails branching off in almost every direction. We turned left, heading uphill.

Roughly halfway up the hill, at .9 mile was another “Y” junction. This was the beginning of our loop. We noted the two blue cylinder things on the top of the hill to our left, as that would be the way we would return and they made an easily identifiable landmark. For now, we took the right fork.

At the top of the hill we stayed to the right, passing underneath the power lines.

In the west, we had more fabulous views of South Fortuna, Kwaay Paay, Pyles Peak, and Cowles Mountain.

The trail leveled out and we were finally on the “rim.” The recent storms had left some pretty big puddles along this section of trail, and apparently Khan was determined to walk straight through every single one of them.

Our tromp through the mud was rewarded with some beautiful views of North Fortuna.

At 1.27 miles a trail branched off to the left leading back to the Clairemont Mesa staging area. We continued straight.

We found some lovely little pools had formed just off the trail.

At 1.47 miles we came to another junction. The left fork led back to another neighborhood access point on Seda Drive. We turned right, continuing on the Rim Trail.

We continued on, Khan splashing happily through every puddle he could find, and us enjoying the scenery. At 1.75 miles was a “Y” junction. There was no mention of the Rim Trail on any of the signs, but the left fork appeared to follow the ridge back to the west, so we turned left.

The morning skies continued to impress.

At 1.83 miles we came to another “Y” junction, We were a little uncertain as to which way we wanted to go and ended up checking out a bit of both trails before deciding that the left fork, along the Playa Catalina Trail, was one we wanted (although they actually connect eventually, so you could go right if you want a somewhat longer loop).

Khan found some more puddles.

The trail led down along a rocky path towards another neighborhood trailhead on Corte Playa Catalina.

At the bottom of the hill we made a sharp left onto a steep service road.

The road tooks us to the bottom of the canyon where we found another junction. We stayed left, climbing up the steep hill back out of the canyon.

At the top of the hill we found another “Y” junction and turned left.

Almost immediately, we came upon another junction, and this time went right.

We followed the wide gravel road as it bent south, ignoring the many side trails that split off. Before long we could see the course of the power lines and the strange blue cylinders we had noted near the start of our hike, and knew we were on the right course.

The ascent of one more hill brought us to the blue cylinders. We proceeded straight to the beginning of our loop.

From here we retraced our route back to the Colina Dorada Trailhead so we could head home and give puddle-loving Khan a bath.

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From I-15 take the Tierrasanta Blvd exit. Head east on Tierrasanta Blvd for approximately 2.9 miles (almost to the end of the road), then turn left onto Colina Dorada Dr. Follow Colina Dorada for approximately 1 mile to the trailhead at the intersection of Colina Dorada Drive and Calle De Vida. Park on the street. map

Total Distance: 4.1 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 568 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

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

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