Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego

After work today, I headed out to Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) to get some hiking in. I checked out the VERY nice Visitor Center, grabbed a trail map, took a long drink, planned my route, and headed out. Good planning, lasted about a half hour.

Mission Trails Regional Park entrance

I started out on the Visitor Center Loop. My plan was to take the Grinding Rocks Trail to Father Juniper, then the Climbers Loop, then to the NE end, Oak Canyon, and around South Fortuna back to the entrance.

The Grinding Rocks trail, is along the San Diego River, which really isn’t much more than a stream thanks to the old Mission Dam, but there is tree-shade along parts of it.

Along Grinding Rocks Trail

The trail was wide and smooth.

MTRP Trail

There are a couple places where the San Diego River is very pretty.

San Diego River

I got to the Father Juniper Trail right at the west trailhead for the Climbers Loop. There are some nice looking rocks to climb up there, I thought. Too bad I didn’t bring any gear…

The trail up there is narrow and steep. You get an advertised 400 ft elevation gain in less than half a mile. Problem is, when you get up to the base of the climbing rocks, the trail just fades away. The trail is very poorly marked. I tried following boot prints, but they kept leading up and up. I eventually had to boulder my way to the top, with no safety gear. I was never in any danger, but if you can’t get up a four-foot boulder, you have to work your way back down. I really wish the darn trail was marked better.

When I got to the top, I looked back down, said a few bad words, sat down and ate the rest of the Sun Chips I had saved from lunch, and drank one of my water bottles. The view down was spectacular. What was supposed to be a maximum elevation gain for the loop trail, about 400 feet, had turned into 800 feet, most of the extra altitude done via bouldering.

Way Down

I checked the map and made a reroute. I made for the top of Kwaay Peak, since I was standing on it’s shoulders now. There were a lot of small trails going back and forth up there. It was absolutely beautiful, with a nice breeze and the setting Sun. Cowles Mountain was off in the distance. I found the top of Kwaay, and started back down. The trail was better and wider, but it was steep, had few stairs, and was steep in lot of places, and slippery with dust. This is looking back up-trail at one point.

I saw a hawk or owl dropping at one point on the hike from the climbers area to the top of Kwaay, and I saw four of five more on the way down. They were not compact pellets (long), and there was very little bone in them, indicating that the stomach of the critter doing the eating had very strong acid in it.

Somebody's Lunch

When I got to the bottom, I checked out the Old Mission Dam. It had a bit of the San Diego River backed up behind it. Since the dam was built in the days before Caterpillar existed, there was a lot of labor involved.

I walked back to the Visitor Center and my car along the Father Juniper, with a very thin crescent Moon and a bright Jupiter above.

At the end of the hike, this was a fairly uncrowded place. There were a number of people on the Father Juniper, but I didn’t see a single person on the Visitor Center Loop or the Grinding Rocks Trail. On the Climbers (alleged) Loop, I saw three people, and over Kwaay, three people.

I got started around 1415, and ended up back at the car under clear, dark skies at 1650. Total mileage was about 3.8 miles, and total elevation gain was 880 feet (and of course, back down 880 feet). Coming on the heels of the Cowles Mountain hike yesterday, this was a great workout.

I am really impressed by MTRP. To have such a large outdoor area so close to a major city, and to see all the people using it, is a good thing. I have hiked a lot of the western part of the park in years past while visiting San Diego, but only hiked about 20% of the park. There is still a lot to go, and frankly the total mileage of hiking trails I have barely scratched. I’ve also walked the Point Loma trails, the San Diego State Parks trails in La Jolla, and Blacks Mountain. I made a run at El Capitan back in February, but it was too late in the day to get very far. So hooray for San Diego and the state of California for building all these trails, and to the citizens that use them.

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5 Responses to “Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego”

  1. Hiking Iron Mountain, Poway, CA « Bill Hensley’s Random Blog Says:

    […] is looking southwest of the mountain. The mountains to the left are Mission Trail Regional Park (the tallest one is Cowles Peak), and moving right you see downtown, San Diego Bay, and Point […]

  2. Dave Gendron Says:

    With havin so much content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement? My blog has a lot of unique content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any ways to help protect against content from being stolen? I’d truly appreciate it.

    • Bill Hensley Says:

      Dave, it’s not really something I have ever experienced personally. I haven’t ever taken the time to see if any of my blog posts are being re-used without attribution.

      There are of course many sites that reuse blog material, but I’ve always found that they referenced back to the original blog.

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  4. Sonja Says:

    Hi Bill, I am illustrating/writing a children’s book about the Kumeyaay, our local San Diego Indians, and how they built tule canoes.With your permission, I’d like to use your photo as a reference for my watercolor. It will end up looking differently, but I am sure grateful for a documented source-photo to base my painting. Sonjasullivan2@gmail.com

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