The Walker Preserve Trail is the most recently completed section of the San Diego River Trail. This section encompasses over 100 acres of mixed sage scrub, riparian and wetland habitat capable of supporting at least 3 federally protected bird species (the Southwestern willow flycatcher, the California gnatcatcher, and the least Bell’s viero). This area was once part of the Walker Family Dairy Farm, and until recently was off-limits to the public as it was used for sand mining. A combination of funding from the City of Santee and various grants were used to purchase the land and construct a beautiful riverside trail that was opened to the public in April 2015.
We’d been eager to check out this new section of trail ever since it opened. We finally had an early Friday afternoon to spare so we drove out to Santee for a stroll. Although there’s a large open area that appears to be a nice parking lot, its actually a staging area for cleanup and restoration projects and not open for parking. But there was plenty of curbside parking on Magnolia Avenue just past the entrance, so we parked on the street and walked the short way back to the trail.
The staging area is absolutely overflowing with amenities and sets a very high standard for new parks and trails. Besides the usual trash can, informational kiosk, benches, picnic tables and a gazebo for shade, there were drinking fountains for both humans and dogs.
As we began walking along the trail, we were impressed with how well manicured and immaculate it was. The trail surface was composed of fine, decomposed granite and was perfectly level. There was not a single rut or pebble to trip over. After some of the steep and eroded trails we’d done recently, this was like hiking on a cloud that had been polished with a baby chinchilla (note: Hiking San Diego County does not condone the use of animals for the polishing of any surface).This was a nice trail.
To the left was a row of suburban houses, and to the right was a lush green belt of trees and brush that hid the San Diego River. One might think that walking through the suburbs like this would mean a lack of wildlife, but within a few hundred feet of the trail entrance a beautiful red-shouldered hawk flew right over our heads and perched on a nearby tree.
The one thing this trail was lacking was shade. It was the middle of the afternoon in early June, and it was quite hot out. We noticed numerous young sycamore saplings had been planted along the side of the trail, so hopefully in several years there will be some shade to enjoy.
Several overlook spots along the trail have picnic tables and benches, as well as historical relics like this sand dredging tool. There were also numerous interpretive signs with information about the local habitat, wildlife, and history of the area.
As the trail bent, following the contour of the river, we saw the distinctive form of El Cajon Mountain in the distance.
A bit shy of the 1 mile mark, we found a trail branch leading up a small rise on the left. Following it, we found another picnic area, this one with a little bit of shade courtesy of a number of willow trees.
Another path on the far side of the picnic tables reconnected with the main trail, and we continued on.
Before long we found ourselves at the Lakeside Baseball Fields and the end of the Walker Preserve Trail. There appeared to be bathrooms and ample parking at the baseball fields, so it might make a good starting point if you wanted to do the trail in the opposite direction from what we did.
For those interested in a longer outing, a less fancy (but perfectly serviceable) path continued eastward towards the Lakeside River Park segment of the San Diego River Trail. But we chose to make this our turnaround point, and headed back the way we had come.
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Take 52 East to the N Magnolia Ave exit. Turn left onto N Magnolia Ave. Continue on N Magnolia approximately 1.2 miles – you will cross the San Diego River then the trailhead will be on the right. Continue just past the trailhead and park along the curb on N Magnolia. map
|Total Distance:||2.4 miles|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Drinking fountains at trailhead. Bathrooms available at turnaround point Lakeside Baseball Fields.|