Places to Run: Penasquitos Canyon (West)
Penasquitos Canyon: A Quiet Retreat for a Run or Hike
Penasquitos Canyon is a haven nestled in the middle of San Diego. It's Trails meander up the narrow canyon from La Jolla on the west to Rancho Penasquitos on the east. There are wide access fire roads as well as narrow single track trails, and the system is a favorite for runners, hikers, and mountain bikers.
The trailhead on the west end is a parking lot on Sorrento Valley Blvd. It is a large and safe area, but be sure to get out before sundown as they do lock the gates and you may find your car stuck there for the night.
The trail is initially challenging as you leave the lot, twisting through the first bit under the road, then rising steeply to a lookout that offers the first panoramic view with a half a mile. Trail Map
From here, the trail descends and joins the the creek trail near Wagon Wheel Crossing.
You can choose to stay on the main trail (fire road) or cross the suspension bridge to travel the single tracks that skirt the north side of the creek heading East.
The trail from here offers a series of climbs and descents. None are ridiculously difficult, but they are not easy either. They always reward you with wonderful views of the canyon on the more distant Torrey Pines mesa and Black Mountain.
During Spring you will find these areas green with native grasses, and wild flowers will surround you on all sides.
At about 3 miles is the iconic Waterfall. It is a small tumble of water over a boulder strewn area that lies almost exactly in the middle of the trail. It delights with the sounds of cascading water. For the adventurous, you can cross the creek on the boulders, or you can just stop to take in the quiet peace of a waterfall in the coastal region of San Diego.
The trail continuous 3 more miles to the East end. There are water and restrooms in the community park on the North side of the creek at that point.
Hazards and Concerns
There are rattlesnakes, deer, and mountain lion that can be found in the canyon. While deer and mountain lion sightings are exceptionally rare, the rattlers are fairly common. We recommend that when you run trail that you not use headphones so that you can be safe in the event of a run-in with a perturbed snake. There rattles are there for a reason ... to scare you off. They don't want to bite you, but they will if provoked or startled.
Water is available only at the East side of the trail in the Community Park.
Restrooms are available at many trailheads, though usually portable. The only flush toilets are available at the same park with the water on the East side.
Poison Oak is common in many of the low areas beneath the canopy of Oak Trees on the Eastern portion of the canyon. If you run the single track trails, be aware of the Poison Oak and take precautions and apply treatment if you think you may have been exposed. It is important to remember that your dog may give you Poison Oak from their fur if they are exposed during your run or hike.