I love finding places close to home. Perfect for an early morning hike, run or to just relax before the day begins. The Mission Trails Regional Park is the perfect place for this! With 60 miles of trails and boasting North and South Fortuna mountains, this is a wonderful place to come explore. Only 8 miles from downtown San Diego, it is the city escape you have needed.
This area is full of activities for any family looking for a good day or even weekend adventure. With ample amounts of hiking and sight seeing to do on any given day there is more to this wonderland than just walking around for a bit. To all my fellow climbers, you will find plenty of trad, sport and top rope routes to play around on as well as endless boulders to climb. Fishing? Absolutely! Kumeyaay lake has plenty of space to cast a line and with a catch and release ordinance the local fish population will be protected for future fishing trips. If you are looking to extend your stay past just a day there is a Lake Kumeyaay Campground with 46 sites right by the lake! Keep going down the road 1/4 mile to get to the Oak Canyon Trail trailhead to set out on some great hiking!
If you park at this trail head, you will find a nice resting area just down from the parking area with picnic tables to kick back at and take in the sounds of nature. If you walk just a few hundred yards further you will find yourself looking at the Old Mission Dam.
Built in 1803 as a way to provide irrigation water to the fields of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá. This area is a perfect oasis to sit and catch a glimpse of a crane strolling through the water looking for a snack or just get a look at beautiful piece of history! One of my favorite places to get to on this trail is the top of both South and North Fortuna mountains. From up here you get an amazing view of the whole park in all directions. It was up here you can see the very definite line of where the park ended and the city began. It's the only time inside the park you really get that feeling of civilization being immediately in your presence (unless you take the far trail along the highway, you may slip here and bust your shin open like me and find that the traffic noise for this short run really isn't worth it and definitely is avoidable). However, the presence of civilization isn't a deterrent for the views. Only seeing some traffic and houses, it was mild most for San Diego. There is so much more than just recreation going on here however.
Going back all the way to even before the San Diego landing of the Cabrillo in 1542, the natural landscape of the area has been kept in tact today. As you walk through the grasslands of the canyon you get a feel of what it was like for the Kumeyaay to walk the area and sleep in the tranquility of the canyon. Unfortunately, there is bleak reality to these grasslands.
California used to harbor some of the most pristine grassland landscapes in the world to now have lost 99% of what used to be a very important ecosystem (Learn more about disappearing grasslands). Through all the development and human impact these precious areas are disappearing from our home. Birds, coyotes, rabbits, mountain lions and so many more locals are at risk of losing these precious habitats. However, Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) is committed to educating visitors and preserving this historical place!
Good news right?!?! They have used their 8,000 acre park to make an amazing experience for everyone. I read a quote by David Basset of the Judith A. Basset Candid Education and Conservation Center, "Through interactions comes understanding... through understanding comes appreciation and through appreciation comes conservation". This could not be anymore true. MTRP has a state of the art visitor center that is dedicated to a fun and exciting learning experience of the area and the first people to call it home. They do this with inclusive events and even a theater that you can catch one of their educational films at! The MTRP Visitor Center is working to preserve this amazing landscape and the rich history of the area, so definitely take the time to check that out!
The Mission Trails Regional Park is a place that San Diego enjoys, but a place we need. With efforts like MTRP's we can have more hope for a brighter future in our natural world. For your chance to help you can donate or even volunteer!