San Clemente Canyon

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San Clemente Canyon lies just south of Highway 52, between Interstates 5 and 805. Highway 52 was originally planned to run through the canyon, but thanks to the efforts of Marian Bear, a community leader and environmentalist, 52 was rerouted to its currently location and the canyon was preserved. The area is now known as Marian R. Bear Memorial Park, and preserves a beautiful riparian habitat. 

The Regents Road staging area lies in the middle of the canyon, with parking lots on either side of Regents Road, and the trail runs in either direction from here. Heading west, you can actually connect to the Rose Canyon trail for a multi-canyon adventure. There’s also another mid-canyon staging area on Genesee Avenue. For our trip, we decided to hike east from Regents Road to the end of the park near the 805 freeway, since this would allow us the longest distance out and back hike.

The trail began at the east end of the large parking lot, next to the bathrooms. A wide, dirt path led us east along thick riparian vegetation.20160514_DSC0016-EditSan Clemente

We’d gotten a pretty early start, and were consequently rewarded with some wildlife sightings. A short way from the trailhead, we encountered several small rabbits foraging along the edge of the trail.20160514_DSC0031-EditSan Clemente

Around .2 mile, a side trail branched off to the right,leading up to a residential street.20160514_DSC0037-EditSan Clemente

To the right was a steep slope along the edge of a mesa, with houses perched on top. To the left was a thick band of riparian vegetation surrounding a creek. Beyond the creek ran Highway 52, which meant we had a pretty constant hum of traffic competing with the more appealing sound of birds singing.20160514_DSC0039-EditSan Clemente

We found an impressive patch of Poison Oak right along the side of the trail, and we would come to find quite a bit more throughout the canyon.20160514_DSC0288-EditSan Clemente

At .38 miles we came to a “Y” junction. You can go either way here, but the left fork led down to the creek which we knew was pretty full due to recent rains, so we opted for the right fork along the foot of the mesa.20160514_DSC0122-EditSan Clemente

After a short stretch of open grass, the narrow trail plunged into lush greenery.20160514_DSC0048-EditSan Clemente

We had to duck under a low branch and make a short but steep descent. The trail continued on through jungle-like tree cover so rare in San Diego.20160514_DSC0056-EditSan Clemente

At .63 mile we encountered another unmarked “Y” junction. Once again, either route would get us where we wanted to go but we decided to take the left fork to avoid some unnecessary elevation gain and loss.20160514_DSC0061-EditSan Clemente

We soon emerged from the thick tree cover, and the two trail forks converged again.20160514_DSC0066San Clemente

We found a patch of beautiful wild roses growing along the side of the trail.20160514_DSC0144-EditSan Clemente

In another .1 mile or so we met up again with the wider path we had split off from earlier. We were very close to the highway here, and could actually see the road through the wall of Sycamore trees that lined the creek. We turned right along the wider path, continuing east.20160514_DSC0163-EditSan Clemente

We followed the trail through more lush trees and soon came to a creek crossing. The water level was almost nonexistent today, but during wet weather the water can flow pretty quickly here.20160514_DSC0078-EditSan Clemente

On the far side of the creek, we turned right to continue along the trail.20160514_DSC0081-EditSan Clemente

Just past the creek we came to another “Y” junction. A small use trail led up to Genesee Avenue on the left. We continued on the right fork to cross under Genesee rather than over it.20160514_DSC0082-EditSan Clemente

Since the water level was low, we didn’t have any problems making our way through the underpass. In rainy weather, it might be better to cross above on the road.20160514_DSC0091-EditSanClemente

On the far side of the underpass, we headed left up the left bank.20160514_DSC0092-EditSan Clemente

This led us to the Genesee Avenue staging area, complete with bathroom and drinking fountains if you’re in need of either.20160514_DSC0094-EditSan Clemente

We followed the wide dirt path as it passed under the overpass and turned right. The trail descended to another creek crossing. There were enough dry rocks on the outer edge of the crossing that we were able to keep our toes dry.20160514_DSC0098-EditSan Clemente

The trail bent to the left and continued on.20160514_DSC0122-EditSan Clemente

There was a large patch of blooming prickly pear cactus on the left.20160514_DSC0123-EditSan Clemente

Once again, we marveled at the dense vegetation and tree canopy that we so rarely encountered hiking in San Diego.20160514_DSC0131-EditSan Clemente

Of course, the one drawback to riparian habitats such as this is the prolific growth of Poison Oak. While we’d been encountering patches of it all throughout the canyon, it was increasingly prevalent as we continued.
At 1.5 miles, we found another side trail branching off to the left, this one marked “Cobb Trail” as it led to Cobb Drive. We continued straight along the main trail.20160514_DSC0140-EditSan Clemente

More gorgeous greenery including Oaks, Sycamores, Willow, and of course Poison Oak surrounded us.20160514_DSC0144-EditSan Clemente

Just past 2 miles the signed “Kroc Trail” led up to the mesa rim and a residential area on our right. Once again, we continued straight.20160514_DSC0154San Clemente

While we were never very far from the Highway, this deep into the canyon we were able to enjoy a peaceful solitude amid the grass and trees.20160514_DSC0163-EditSan Clemente

Around 2.3 miles we saw the 805 freeway ahead of us. We noted a narrow, overgrown trail that led left, down towards the creek, and another path that led right up towards another residential area. But we were pretty much at the boundary of the park at this point, and decided to call this our turnaround point.20160514_DSC0176-EditSan Clemente

We retraced our route back the way we had come.

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From Highway 52, take the Regents Road exit. Head south on Regents Road a short distance to the entrance to Marian Bear Memorial Park on your right. Follow the driveway under Regents Road to park in the eastern parking lot. map

Total Distance: 4.6 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 223 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: Bikes allowed
Facilities: Bathroom and drinking fountain at trailhead
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
City of San Diego Parks and Recreation – Marian Bear Memorial Park
Trail Map
View route or download GPX in CalTopo

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