I thought I would share some notes and pictures on a recent hike I took in the Los Penasquitos Preserve at the Western End.
Name: Combination - Carmel Mountain & Los Penasquitos Open Space Preserve
Location: Carmel Mountain Preserve Trail Head off of Canter Heights Rd (off of the 56)
The PQ Preserve runs East to West and is bordered to the North and South by mesas: to the North is the Del Mar and Carmel Valley Mesas, to the South is Mira Mesa and Sorrento Valley Mesas.
Nestled at the bottom is the PQ Preserve area which is a joint management effort by the City and County of San Diego.
The Los Penasquitos creek runs thru the bottom and is bordered with trees before it empties into the Los Penasquitos Lagoon which happens to be adjacent to Torrey Pines State Park.
The preserve is more or less 'bordered' on the east end by Black Mountain Rd and in the West by Vista Sorrento Parkway, approximately 6 miles end to end (not including the eastern extension that runs from Black Mountain to the I-15).
It is one of the hidden riparian 'gems' in the San Diego area and one of my favorite places to just 'get away'.
Difficulty: Easy going in(down), a killer climb up coming back out the same way
This hike connected in one of the many 'feeders' to the PQ Preserve from the adjacent Carmel Mountain Preserve. In looking at the open space maps of the area - there are many trail systems I have yet to explore
Maps of Open Space Parks and Canyon Parklands | Park & Recreation
Several of these overlap and interconnect - so I thought it would be a good 'adventure' to explore how I could get from the Carmel Mnt area into the PQ Preserve.
The trail head I selected was off of Canter Heights Drive off of Carmel Mountain Rd in Carmel Valley along the 56.
Beautiful day, not too hot, a nice breeze, on a weekday morning.
The trail parallels Canter Heights and you have a choice of going north or south at a crossing.
Going south takes you towards the PQ Preserve and overlooks the Carmel Valley Mesa area with lots of homes
The trail goes south and passes under Carmel Mountain Rd and continues to hug one of the many mesa sides until it gets to the expansive PQ Preserve.
Here is a view looking back to the Carmel Mnt overpass
Here is a view once you get to the edge of the PQ Preserve - looking south towards Sorrento Valley at the west end of the preserve
The trail continues going south and down, then practically 'drops' into the Preserve.
Once into the Preserve you get a feel of relaxation and escape. There are many trail options to take as there are trails on both the north side and south side of the creek and several maintained crossings.
I elected to go west on the north side trail on my way to Wagon Wheel Crossing
The trail is flat and well marked and maintained - even the crossing is marked and the bridge takes you across the creek to the south side.
Once across, you again have a choice of continuing west or east.
I elected to make this a loop and headed east. The view from the bottom of the preserve area is one of open glades and meadows as the trail parallels the creek.
Here is a view looking east on the south side trail - ahhhh
It is mostly open and uncovered in the western part of the preserve except for a small stretch on the south side which will provide some coolness in warmer/hot clear weather.
Continuing east for about 1.25 miles from Wagon Wheel Crossing with take you to the next maintained crossing at Sycamore Crossing.
You can stay on the south side trail and continue on, but I crossed over to head back on the north side to close the loop.
Here is an obligatory nature flower shot after making the Sycamore Crossing.
I headed back west until I got to the feeder trail I came down from the Carmel Mountain Preserve - except this was now a hike back UP.
That hill KMY! I had to stop at two points along the way. A great cardio workout and for the legs as well.
If you want to make this an easier adventure, then I would suggest entering the western end of the PQ Preserve from Sorrento Valley Rd where there is a PQ Preserve parking lot (no fee).
Overall - this is an excellent hike and one you would never expect *in* San Diego given the expanse of the area. Yes, there are times when houses atop the mesas on either side seem to peer down at you and remind you that you are in developed communities.
But, there are many places where they are far away or even hidden from sight and its just you, the trail, and the views.
ER Rating: 4.5/5 (just because of the hike out)