One of the best hikes in North County is tucked in between Mira Mesa and Rancho Penasquitos in the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve. The preserve covers 4,000 acres of land and reaches from the I-5/805 merge to just East of I-15. There are multiple access points but the most convenient place to enter is from Canyonside Recreation Center at the west end of the parking lot, past the softball fields. The trail entrance is clearly marked and as an added bonus the Johnson-Taylor Adobe is close-by and offers a terrific glimpse at the canyon’s past history.
There are several trails running through the preserve. They all follow the path made by Penasquitos Creek and most of the trails are open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians. The terrain is mostly flat so hiking here is easy and it’s easy to forget you are still in the city as you get out into the open spaces. There is plenty of wildlife with ducks, rabbits, and squirrels visible along the way and many other species making their homes in the canyon. Signs caution to be on the watch for rattlesnakes.
The main attraction of this hike is Penasquitos Falls, a scenic waterfall about 3 miles from either the east or west entrance to the preserve. It’s actually a bit closer if you start from the west, parking just off of Sorrento Valley Blvd. The City of San Diego has a downloadable trail map on their web site and the trails are very clearly marked. It’s an easy hike so as long as you have plenty of water and snacks and take a few rest breaks this is a great hike for older kids but six miles is probably too far for most younger children. This is a great way to get outdoors and into nature without having to travel very far from home. The park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset and may be closed when it rains due to flooding on the trails.