Now that I'm leaving San Diego, I thought I would share the spots that I grew to love during my five years in these here parts.
Los Penasquitos Canyon. Multiple ways to get into it (Black Mountain Road, the 5/805 merger, Camino Ruiz, or Del Mar Mesa to the north.) A nicely wooded fairly wide canyon with a waterfall smack in the middle, halfway (3 miles) from either 5/805 or Black Mountain Road/Canyonside Park. Not far north of UCSD campus. My favorite.
Del Mar Mesa. With connections from the waterfall area of Penasquitos, the state has been stalling on opening this for years. That said, the Tunnels section is supposedly the furthest south riparian oak ecosystem on the Pacific coast.
Marian Bear Canyon, the western portion of the 52. Yes, it's short, a freeway runs along one side, but green and nice and well-preserved. If you work along the 5 or near UCSD it's a great weeknight run. On the west side along I-5, it connects to Rose Canyon, which is wooded in the west end. Don't miss out on the trails that connect to Marian Bear just east of Regents, going both north to the park on Governor Drive, as well as to the south.
Cedar Falls/Upper San Diego River Canyon. The falls are cool, but turn right and head south toward El Cap Reservoir. The most deserted and biggest canyon in San Diego County, partly because you're trespassing. (The chance of being caught is very close to zero, but you didn't hear that from me.)
Santee Lakes/Sycamore Canyon/Secret Valleys/Scripps Ranch. Start at Santee Lakes, and run up into Sycamore Canyon. OR, start at the next canyon west of Sycamore Canyon and run south to the lakes. In the spring these valleys are lush and green and beautiful, but in that valley to the west, you're technically trespassing on Miramar Air Base. (And if you are, you'll be there with lots of other folks.) If you're an urban explorer type, in these parts there are abandoned buildings and blast tunnels where they built and tested Atlas rockets in the sixties.
Black Mountain Ranch Park via Lusardi Creek to Lake Hodges Dam. What the hell am I talking about? Look at satellite maps sometimes and ask what this canyon system is. Stop by for a beer and chow afterward at Hernandez Hideaway in Del Dios.
Lake Hodges - the north side is fun and you can make it to Del Dios (and if you're really hardcore you can keep going, and do Lake Hodges Dam to Black Mountain as above, except in reverse.) But my personal favorite is the south side of the lake. Near as I can tell though, the trail fortunately ends at that peninsula with the American flag waving. "Fortunately" because that means you'll have this rugged trail all to yourself. Unfortunately because you can't go down the south/eastern shore of Hodges to the dam, which would be a great way to connect to Lusardi Creek.
Mission Trails - in particular, Mt. Fortuna and the Stairs. Mission Trails is decent-sized for its proximity to the rest of San Diego and it's another nice one you can do during the week.
Torrey Pines/Blacks Beach. There are a lot more ways to get down to the beach from the cliff tops than you think. Going south from Torrey Pines Beach:
- The trail from the parking lot at the T.P. visitor center
- Another trail that comes down from the straightaway further south, that joins the other one shortly before the beach
- The scary unofficial cliff trail at the far north end of the Torrey Pines glider port lot.
- The official but still steep way down to Black's Beach.
- The road down from La Jolla Farms/Blackdog Road
- Summer Canyon
- Going up Summer Canyon, if you turn left (south) fairly early on, there's a pretty scary scramble that I don't recommend, unless you want an upper body workout and a serious risk of falling (i.e. if you do it and break you head now that I told you that you can't sue me you dumbass). I hate to admit that it was still a lot of fun.
- You can make it on the beach to Scripps Pier *at low tide*.
Also don't miss the disconnected piece of Torrey Pines in southern Del Mar. You can run through Del Mar to Crest Canyon and have your own La Jolla Trail Half Marathon.
El Capitan Mountain. Often times more of a hike than a run, given the steepness and rockiness/erosion of the trails. TAKE WATER. Stop in for some tasty tacos at nearby Barona Casino.
Noble Canyon. Don't wuss out. By that I mean, go from the bottom to the top, not the other way around. The mountains in San Diego County aren't high enough to be significantly cooler in the summer, so TAKE WATER.
Also, here are some "projects" you might want to try:
The whole coast of San Diego County. Don't try this unless you're as cool as me. Because I'm pretty cool.
Coast to Crest. From the County Fairgrounds in Solana Beach to Julian, along the San Dieguito River. Parts still under construction as of spring 2014.
Sea to Sea - from Torrey Pines Beach to the Salton Sea via Anza Borrego. Parts still under construction as of spring 2014.
I look forward to the time when Mexico's infrastructure allows us to be a little bolder in its isolated areas. Seriously. Here's this fascinating, unique, beautiful country on San Diego's doorstep, and we (sadly with justification) consider its open spaces largely off-limits.
Finally: San Diego's outdoor culture is growing by leaps and bounds. Get out there and volunteer, and VOTE ACCORDINGLY FOR CANDIDATES WHO PROTECT OPEN SPACE. They don't just protect themselves you know!