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Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

Sorrento Valley to Waterfall Loop

San Diego Metro Area, California

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Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

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  • The trailhead and equestrian staging area off of Sorrento Valley Boulevard.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Heading northeast toward the South Trail.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • A variety of grasses provides color and texture.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Wagon Wheel crossing.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • A wooly bear crosses the path.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Mountain bikers cresting a hill.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Some hilltops provide excellent vistas.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Typical section of trail.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • A deer cautiously watches passersby.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • A bee laden with pollen.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • A tunnel spider lays in wait.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • The canyon proper, through which Peñasquitos Creek runs.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Wild crabapple.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Stone stairs leading down to the creek.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • The waterfall is obscured by boulders.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Risky scampering will lead you to a view of the falls.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Peñasquitos Creek flowing through the canyon.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • A quiet pond along the North Trail.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Along the North Trail.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Silverleaf nightshade with berries.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • The trail leading to Del Mar Mesa Road is mostly used by bikers.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • A cozy stroll through tall marsh grasses.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • Yerba mansa.- Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
  • - Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Feeling of solitude close to the city. Great wildlife.
Cons: 
Odorous sewer vents along the trail.
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Region:
San Diego Metro Area, CA
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Net Elevation Gain: 
115.00 ft (35.05 m)
Parking Pass: 
Not Required
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Suitable for:
Hiking, Biking, Horseback
Total Distance: 
6.00 mi (9.66 km)
Trail type: 
Loop
Trailhead Elevation: 
65.00 ft (19.81 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve is a popular destination for San Diego weekend warriors, and for good reason. It’s just a short distance from the city, but it feels much more isolated, especially compared to other San Diego hikes that have vistas overlooking subdivisions. The only evidence of civilization will be a few houses dotting the ridges and the occasional sewer vent along the trail.

Although the waterfall in the center of the preserve is the main attraction, it’s quite small, and it is eclipsed by the sheer beauty of the surroundings.

Starting at the parking area along Sorrento Valley Boulevard, follow the trail to the left and under the overpass. You’ll follow the South Trail along the southern side of the canyon. Wagon Wheel and Sycamore crossings permit you to cross Peñasquitos Creek if you want to make a shorter loop, but it’s worth it to continue to the waterfall so that you can cross to the North Trail there. The falls themselves may be anticlimactic, as the actual falls are mostly obscured by large boulders. But it’s a great place to dip your toes and cool off from the trip along the exposed trail. To complete the loop, use Wagon Wheel crossing to bring you back to the South Trail.

Keep an eye out along the trail for wildlife both large and small, and look for animal signs such as scat to get a sense of the population. And don't forget to bring binoculars to admire some of the 175 types of birds in the area.

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Field Guide

Field Guide

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(51 within a 30 mile radius)

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