Rose Canyon

The Rose Canyon trail head on Genesse AveOne of things I think is really neat about San Diego is the number of hikeable little nooks and crannies that can be found just about everywhere. If you’re itching to go hiking but don’t have all day, fear not. Chances are there’s a decent hike within a few minutes of your house.

Rose Canyon is one of seventeen canyons and open space parks managed by the City of San Diego.  Tucked in between the 5 and 805 freeways, just north of the 52 and south of the Coaster tracks, this hike won’t win any awards for seclusion, but it offers a nice little jaunt with a mix of exposed chaparral, riparian habitat,  and shady oaks.

We began our journey by parking at the University City High School. Its ok to park here when school is not in session, however if classes are in, you’ll need to drive a ways up Genesse Ave to one of the residential areas to find street parking and hoof it back. You could also start at the opposite end of the canyon and do this hike in reverse.

20140704Rose Canyon3817From the school, we walked down to the street and crossed at the light, then turned south on Genesse to get to the trail head. We descended briefly into the canyon and shortly found a trail branch headed to the left along a Nature Trail. We kept to the main path and quickly found ourselves in the cool shade of numerous oak, sycamore, and willow trees that grew together above our heads. To our right, we could hear the sounds of a small creek burbling but only caught brief glimpses of what might be water as we walked. We noticed a lot of poison oak along the trail, however the path was very wide so it was easy to avoid.The Rose Canyon trail has several well shaded sections

As we walked along the shady path the sound of traffic was quickly replaced by the chirps of birds and rustling of leaves as lizards scurried through the brush away from us. After about ⅓ of a mile, the shady tree cover gave way to riparian brush on our right and a ice plant covered hill to our left below a line of houses. Rose Canyon trail

We continued to encounter lizards and even saw a rabbit paused in the middle of the trail, but of course they all bolted at our approach. Numerous birds came and went, some resting briefly along the wooden rail fence that ran along sections of the trail. We met another hiker who told us he had recently seen a green heron in the canyon. This seems like a nice spot for some bird watching.The Rose Canyon trail in San Diego

At .8 miles we came upon a trail to the left leading up to another trail head in the residential area above us (looks like there is another trail head at the end of Regents Road). We continued heading west along the main trail, crossing over a small creek that still had a tiny bit of water in it.Creek running through Rose Canyon

At around 1.2 miles as we approached an enormous sycamore tree, we noticed some burned patches along our right, apparently the aftermath of a small brush fire that occurred over a year ago.

As previously mentioned, the Coaster line runs right through the canyon here, and we periodically had a train go by. While that sounds like it would be annoying and distracting, it really wasn’t all that disruptive as they went by quickly.

At 1.35 miles we could see the cross and hilltop of Mt Soledad begin to appear in the distance. After crossing a wide bridge, the trail gradually turned towards the south and the terrain began to get a bit rockier.Mt Soledad rises in the distance above the Rose Canyon trail

At 1.65 miles, the trail turned abruptly southwards and we encountered a small use trail that crossed over the train tracks. There was a paved path on the other side of the tracks where we saw the occasional road cyclist. By now we were very close to I-5 and the traffic noise was pretty loud.

The Rose Canyon trail narrows as it approaches the creek crossingJust under 2 miles in, we reached another shady section as Coast Live Oaks and other greenery took over the trail side. The trail narrowed down to a single track, and we crossed over a picturesque wooden bridge (an Eagle Scout project), surprised to find the creek below had enough water to actually generate a reasonable amount  of noise as it ran over the rocky bottom.One of the bridges in Rose Canyon

We wound along the trail some more, then crossed another bridge. This one was a little less ornate than the previous one. The water here was stagnant and smelled a bit funky, but we crossed without incident.20140704Rose Canyon3901

We emerged from the shady creek passage and found an exposed, sunny hill before us. 20140704Rose Canyon3905

Climbing up we could see the Coaster tracks, paved bike path, and cars zooming along I-5 below us. Ahead in the distance ran Highway 52. View of Highway 52 and I-5 from the Rose Canyon trail

We crested the hill and descended the other side. As we approached the 52, the trail began to curve eastward. We noted a small wooden bridge on the right which led to a trail that appeared to go under the 52 overpass. It looks like this will actually connect with San Clemente Canyon/Marion Bear Park if you want to get some serious mileage in.Bridge leading from Rose Canyon to San Clemente canyon

We decided to save that trek for another day, however, and continued along the main Rose Canyon trail.

After another ¼ mile or so, we came to the end and found another trail head in a residential neighborhood at the intersection of Bloch St and Bothe Ave.Rose Canyon trail head at intersection of Bloch St and Bothe Ave

Having reached the end, we turned around and headed back the way we had come.

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From highway 52, take the North Genesse Ave exit. Head north on Genesse to the University City High School entrance on your right (street sign says Centurion Square). Park at the high school if school is not in session, otherwise continue on Genesee to Decoro St and find street parking where you can. The trail head to Rose Canyon is on the opposite side of Genesse from the High School.  map

Total Distance: 5.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation Change: 450 feet
Best Time of Year: Year Round
Dogs Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Yes
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information visit:
City of San Diego Parks & Recreation – Rose Canyon Open Space Park
Friends of Rose Canyon

4 thoughts on “Rose Canyon

  1. Nice to see a post about my old stomping grounds (I’m in Michigan now).

  2. I was in Michigan once. In November. There was strange white stuff on the ground.

    Thanks for stopping by our site, glad you enjoyed the write-up 🙂

  3. Shelley Plumb says:

    Great article and fabulous photos. Rose Canyon is a breath of fresh air in the middle of an urban environment. We are so lucky to have it. Thank you.