Nature and history on a walk in Los Peñasquitos Canyon.

Naturalist Mike Kelly leads a small group of hikers into Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve from the Del Mar Mesa trailhead.
Naturalist Mike Kelly leads a small group of hikers into Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve from the Del Mar Mesa trailhead.

Free guided nature walks in the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve introduce the public to unexpected wild beauty in the heart of San Diego. Yesterday I went on one of these easy walks.

Our guide, naturalist Mike Kelly, longtime member of the Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, has been an advocate working to safeguard this beautiful and historic San Diego canyon for over three decades. He’s a friendly fellow whose knowledge of the canyon’s flora, fauna and fascinating history made for an extremely enjoyable hike.

Years ago, Mike and others fought to save Los Peñasquitos Canyon from development. Their efforts resulted in about half of the canyon being protected. Fortunately, the preserve is connected to other similar natural areas in San Diego through various corridors, allowing wildlife to move about and thrive. Owls, woodpeckers, hawks, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, mule deer, even an occasional mountain lion make the canyon their home. Native trees, chaparral, grass and spring flowers are abundant and the source of endless enjoyment.

I learned there are also wildlife tracking hikes, plus night walks, when deer are frequently seen. There are also free guided tours of San Diego’s second oldest residence, which stands near the east end of the preserve, the Rancho Santa Maria de Los Peñasquitos adobe. To learn about all these wonderful adventures, which are ideal for families, click here.

To learn more about the Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, click here! Perhaps you’d like to become a member!

The Del Mar Mesa trailhead is located near suburban homes at the north edge of Los Peñasquitos Canyon.
The Del Mar Mesa trailhead is located near suburban homes at the north edge of Los Peñasquitos Canyon.
A sign posted at the trailhead shows future trails proposed in the Natural Resources Management Plan.
A sign posted at the trailhead shows future trails proposed in the Natural Resources Management Plan.
Our small group of hikers heads down into the canyon through Coastal Sage Scrub habitat. We are passing California scrub oaks.
Our small group of hikers heads down into the canyon through Coastal Sage Scrub habitat. We are passing California scrub oaks.
We headed to Carsons Crossing before checking out the popular Waterfall.
We headed to Carsons Crossing before checking out the popular waterfall.
Approaching the central part of the long, narrow canyon, which runs from Poway west to the Pacific Ocean. Peñasquitos Creek lies beyond those coast live oaks in the distance.
Approaching the central part of the long, narrow canyon, which runs from Poway west to Del Mar and the Pacific Ocean. Peñasquitos Creek lies beyond those coast live oaks in the distance.
Kit Carson crossing is an historically important spot in Peñasquitos Canyon. Kit Carson crossed the creek here during the Mexican-American War. General Kearny's US Army of the West was faced with formidable Californio lancers in San Pasqual, and the legendary frontiersman Kit Carson snuck away in the middle of the night to summon reinforcements from San Diego. The later 1857 Jackass Mail stagecoach line also ran through here enroute to San Diego.
Kit Carson crossing is an historically important spot in Peñasquitos Canyon. Kit Carson crossed the creek here during the Mexican-American War. General Kearny’s US Army of the West was faced with formidable Californio lancers in San Pasqual, and the legendary frontiersman Kit Carson snuck away in the middle of the night to summon reinforcements from San Diego. He knew to come this way.  The later 1857 Jackass Mail stagecoach line also ran through the canyon here enroute to San Diego.
Heading west through the beautiful canyon in the shade of oaks, sycamores and willows. It's an easy, pleasant hike.
Heading west through the beautiful canyon in the shade of oaks, sycamores and willows. It’s an easy, pleasant hike.
Looking north across a field in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve in late October. Many leaves and flowers are now brown, awaiting winter rains.
Looking north across a field in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve in late October. Summers are very dry. Many leaves and flowers are now brown, awaiting winter rains.
Walking slowly, senses alert. I smell the nearby sagebrush. I hear acorn woodpeckers and quail. I see beautiful clouds.
Walking slowly, senses alert. I smell the nearby sagebrush. I hear acorn woodpeckers and quail. I see beautiful clouds.
Mike Kelly is a guide and activist whose knowledge of Peñasquitos is deep. Here he shows us some poison oak which is growing a short distance off the trail.
Mike Kelly is a guide and activist whose knowledge of Peñasquitos is deep. Here he shows us some poison oak which is growing a short distance off the trail.
A peaceful walk through nature. Over several decades, activists like Mike have worked hard to preserve the canyon and protect it from development. Today it is maintained by both the City and County of San Diego.
A peaceful walk through nature. Over several decades, activists like Mike have worked hard to preserve the canyon and protect it from development. Today it is maintained by volunteers and both the City and County of San Diego.
Mike Kelly shows us some California broom. Native American Kumeyaay and pioneers used the plant like a broom for sweeping.
Mike Kelly shows us some California broom. Native American Kumeyaay and pioneers used the plant like a broom for sweeping.
Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is a very popular place for jogging, hiking and mountain biking. Even marathoners use it for training.
Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is a very popular place for jogging, hiking and mountain biking. Even marathoners use it for training.
Now we're approaching a sign and a large rock outcropping, which I learned is volcanic.
Now we’re approaching a trail sign and a large rock outcropping, which I learned is volcanic.
Sign shows proposed San Diego Trans County Trail, which when completed would run from the Pacific Ocean over the mountains east of San Diego and out to the Salton Sea in the desert.
Sign shows proposed San Diego Trans County Trail, which when completed would run from the Pacific Ocean over the mountains east of San Diego and out to the Salton Sea in the desert.
I see lots of prickly pear cacti. Now we are getting close to the popular waterfall!
I see lots of prickly pear cacti. Now we are getting close to the popular waterfall!
Approaching the Peñasquitos Creek waterfall from the east.
Approaching the Peñasquitos Creek waterfall from the east.
Descending rough stone steps to the waterfall. I learned the steps were a project of an Eagle Boy Scout.
Descending rough stone steps to the waterfall. I learned the steps were a project of an Eagle Boy Scout.
The small waterfall and its rocky pools are located near the center of Los Peñasquitos Canyon. It is the destination of many hikes. A great place to relax, cool off, and listen to the soothing water.
The small waterfall and its rocky pools are located near the center of Los Peñasquitos Canyon. It is the destination of many hikes. A great place to relax, cool off, and listen to the soothing water.
Water spills over rocks. It isn't Niagara Falls, but it is wonderful nonetheless.
Water spills over rocks. It isn’t Niagara Falls, but it’s wonderful nonetheless.
Hikers pause above a pool of water which is captured by large blocks of volcanic rock. When the creek crests, it can rise many feet and submerge this area.
Hikers pause above a pool of water which is captured by large blocks of volcanic rock. When the creek crests, it can rise many feet and submerge this area.
A hiker up above seems to walk in the sky.
A hiker up above seems to walk in the sky.
Families wander down a pleasant trail in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. There is much here to see and appreciate. So much to learn.
Families wander down a pleasant trail in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. There is much here to see and appreciate. So much to learn.
Naturalist Mike Kelly shows us a poisonous flower of Datura. In nature, beauty and danger are often found together. We didn't see any rattlesnakes or mountain lions!
Naturalist Mike Kelly shows us a poisonous flower of Datura. In nature, beauty and danger are often found together. One should be thoughtful when hiking, and be careful to wear sturdy footwear and bring water.  We didn’t see any rattlesnakes or mountain lions!

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego!  Are you curious?  There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

5 thoughts on “Nature and history on a walk in Los Peñasquitos Canyon.”

  1. I’ve been meaning to go there. Can you walk all the way to the ocean? A woman told me about a hike where you drive up 5, then exit east on Villa De La Valle, then turn right at the second light and park at the dead end. I’m wondering if that is all part of the same trsils?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The main Penasquitos Canyon trail that I know goes from Sorrento Valley Boulevard east of I-5 (near the El Cuervo adobe ruin) to Black Mountain Road just north of Mercy Road. Via de la Valle is farther north; it runs north of the San Dieguito River, which runs from around the Del Mar Fairgrounds to Lake Hodges. I know there are hikes to be had around there. Try googling for hike descriptions in San Diego and maybe you can find a map!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome! San Diego was mostly narrow canyons, a few tree-lined rivers and creeks, scrubby chaparral on sun-baked hills and coastal sagebrush before being developed. The majority of trees one sees today aren’t native.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s