Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail

Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail

History of Los Penasquitos Canyon

Los Penasquitos Canyon lies between Rancho Penasquitos, Sorrento Hills, and Mira Mesa. It comprises 4000 acres with a multitude of trails. It started out owned by Francisco de Maria Ruiz in 1815 and today is owned by the City of San Diego. The land was originally used to raise livestock and graze cattle. And in the 1960’s they tried to develop it, but by 1970 it was owned by the City and County of San Diego for use as a park and open space. We are certainly glad it was saved from development and preserved for biking and hiking.

Our First Trip to Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail

The Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail is one of many trails in the canyon and it leads to the Penasquitos Canyon Creek waterfall. The first time Karlie and I tried to hike to the waterfall we did not find it. We had a wonderful time exploring some other trails, but were disappointed we did not find the waterfall. We eventually hiked the trail with a dear friend who knew how to find the waterfall. That was perhaps one of my favorite hikes as Karlie was so happy that she sat near my friend overlooking the waterfall and gave her a kiss.

Today’s Adventure

Today we returned to the canyon to see if we could find the waterfall with Sunny. Since there are many trails and signage is sparse I would highly recommend looking at the map of the trail prior to starting. The simplest way to keep on track is to always take the trail to the right. This holds true except at the very start where you take the trail to the left, but there is a sign indicating the waterfall is to the left. After that take the trail to the right and you will eventually make it to the waterfall.

The trail starts past the metal gate and port-o-potty. It starts by winding to the left and under the Sorrento Valley Blvd overpass. Once through this section the trail becomes a wide hard-packed dirt trail. It continues through the canyon with views of the canyon walls and hills.

start of Los Penasquitos Canyon trail
on the trail
hiking Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail
on the trail
on the trail

As the trail continues there are some uphill sections and some areas of the trail are covered with stones. This makes the hike a little more challenging, but nothing like Black Mountain Nighthawk Trail or La Jolla Natural Park. Eventually you come across a sign indicating the waterfall is .6M away. The trail continues and then you come to a sign indicating the waterfall is a few steps away.

Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail waterfall sign
on the trail

As you continue on the trail you see an overlook and then very steep steps down to the water. There is not much room once you get down to this area, but it’s a great place to cool off in the summer. After exploring the water for a bit we headed back up the steps and hiked to the car. Our total hike was 5.7M. We went early so it was chilly at the start, but was really starting to warm up on the return hike.

at the top of the waterfall
Sunny on a rock
Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail steps to the water

Our Rating

Sunny, Karlie, and I rate Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail 3.5 out of 4 paws up. The only downside is there are few signs making it easy to take a wrong turn and not make it to the waterfall. Other than that it’s a beautiful hike along a creek with views of the hills along the way. Most of the hike is out in the open with little shade making it a hot hike once the sun is overhead. There is plenty of parking and a port-o-potty in the parking lot. This is a popular area so you likely will encounter other hikers and people on mountain bikes. All in all this is a fun hike and one we recommend.

For additional information about Los Penasquitos Canyon check out the City of San Diego website.

City of San Diego – Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

How Do I Get There?

The parking lot for the west entrance to the Los Penasquitos Canyon is in the 4200 block of Sorrento Valley Blvd. From I-5 take exit #30 – Sorrento Valley Blvd. Continue on Sorrento Valley Blvd for about 1.1M and look for the parking lot on the right. Entrance to the trail is near the port-o-potty, metal gate, and wood sign.

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