Last weekend I wanted to go hiking…I wanted to feel like I was far away but not have to deal with the driving that actually entails far away. I pulled out Google maps for San Diego County and zoomed out looking for green spots on the map. That is when I remembered the Wilderness Garden Preserve in Pala. It is just off of the 76 East and I feel, little known unless you live near. This time of year is one of the best times of the year to come–they close for the month of August, partially due to the heat in that time of year.
The park is the oldest county park in San Diego County and trails are very well-maintained and of an easy-moderate level. It is a great place to bring your family and you can also bring your dog. Just be sure to bring plenty of water for all if you take them out on the trail.
While we were out there we saw many types of birds, hawks, loons, bullfrogs and even what looked like some type of praying mantis.
The preserve also has some interesting history as a grist mill and there are some structures and information at the Ranger Station. In addition, is some Native American history from the Luiseno Tribe who had a metate located along the trail with a marker.
One of the nicest things about this park, however, was that even on a Sunday, a holiday, no less, it felt very secluded and private. There were very few people when we came in the middle of the day and there is plenty of room to spread out with over 700 acres of park space.
The Wilderness Gardens Preserve is open from 8 AM to 4 PM, Thursday through Monday only. Parking is $3. It is worth the drive this time of year and provides many attractions and natural beauty that is unique to this area.
San Diego Harbor is undergoing a major revamp these days. As you can see from my pictures below there is construction equipment in the background and old buildings being torn down to make way for the new. It is hoped that the future harbor will rival big city waterfronts like San Francisco or Seattle at some point. The most recent projects to have completed were the cruise ship terminal and the visitor information center and kiosks such as the popular Carnitas Snack Shack.
Phase 2 and 3 remain to move forward on what is known as the Embarcadero re-development project. If you are interested, you can find out more here: https://www.portofsandiego.org/central-embarcadero.html and here: http://fw.to/o2HaWMK
The San Diego harbor is really a gateway to San Diego and downtown though, so it is a great place to either start your visit to San Diego, check out what is happening as a local, get some exercise on the walking paths, take the kids for some low cost fun at the new waterfront park or even head on over to Little Italy for some great dining options.
Parking can be a bit tricky in this area, the waterfront park pictured above has some underground parking for a fee, otherwise you may have to lace up those walking shoes and be prepared for hitting the blocks down here or opening up the wallet for some pricey downtown parking fees–whichever eases your mind the most is up to you.
One of the biggest attractions here is the San Diego Harbor tours–Hornblower and Flagship are the two main ones and they are all located just to the left of the above photo. You can do a 1-hour tour or go out further for some whale watching which is a nice, relaxing way to see San Diego from another perspective.
The Embarcadero walking path also tells a little history of San Diego’s military and its contributions. At the southern end of the walking path, you will see one of San Diego’s more famous landmarks, (which can also be seen in the background of my homepage ;-)) along with other memorials and sights to see.
All in all, there is a little something for everyone at the Embarcadero and is an area with a lot of history for San Diego.
Living in central San Diego, there are few options for dog parks if you have a small to medium-sized dog that cannot go off-leash without fencing. Until now. The Civita development
as part of the master plan for this 14.3 acre park located off of Friars Road and Russell Parkway has recently unveiled the first phase of a large, open space park with multiple attractions with plans to open the next phases in the coming months. When completed it will include an outdoor, small amphitheater, a museum of Mission Valley history, community garden, recreation center and pools for the homeowners of the Civita community, walking trails, basketball court, ping pong tables and more. You can find out more information here.
While exploring this new park, I saw an interesting crysal sculpture and learned on the Civitas blog of a pop-up art exhibit coming to town in the next two weeks. It looked intriguing so I purchased tickets. You can find out more on the exhibit’s website–Wonderspaces. It proclaims to be an event with food trucks, beer and interactive art spaces. Lots of exciting stuff!
This article mainly focuses on the dog park, which just opened about two weeks ago. It is located at the top of the park, after climbing several flights of steps or coming from Murray Ridge Road, you can park at the top. The park has two runs, one for small dogs and one for larger breeds. In the dog parks are drinking fountains, trees that provide shade, several structures for agility training or play and plenty of grass.
It is nice to have something as equally nice as the dog park up in Encinitas without having to make that long drive.
Can be found in Switzer Canyon in South Park. I recently took a friend on this hike and she was in awe of how many different trails and landscapes we came across on this short hike. The route to this trail begins in the midst of an eclectic neighborhood with old Airstream trailers, refurbished homes with an assortment of architectural creativity. You then come across the entrance to the trail which drops down into the base of a canyon and then leads back to the bridge which houses the Switzer canyon sign. To get to the rest of the trail here is where your adventuring comes in. You might want to bring a flashlight as you will need to hunch down and pass under the bridge through a small tunnel. Don’t think about whether there are mouse droppings or meth needles on the ground, just use your iPhone app’s flashlight and venture forth! On the other side is some interesting graffiti and a rock-covered trail through the rest of the canyon. This deposits after a quarter of a mile along the perimeter of Balboa Park’s golf course and the backyard of some homes.
All in all, you will enjoy the challenge of this hike and it is a peaceful walk through parts of San Diego I am sure many have never frequented–some of the best parts about San Diego coming together.
This park flies under the radar of most people in San Diego, even people like us who have been living in San Diego over half of our lives and had no idea this place was literally under our noses in the neighboring community of Oak Park. Depending on which way you drive to get here you aren’t expecting much, but the proud residents of this recreational park and lake are keeping a good thing secret. I think….
The park has a fitness course, a cactus garden, walking trails and paths, fishing lessons for youth, picnic tables, a dock and lake, several different species of birds and a protected area for breeding and events such as the free summer lunches put on by San Diego Unified. A smart way to make sure neighborhood kids get to eat while school is out and also expose them to a nice setting out in nature.
I am glad there are places like this out there in such an urban, densely populated area, so that local residents don’t have to drive for miles to take a break out in nature. There has been some controversy lately in the local news because of the water source for replenishing the lake. Chollas Lake does not produce its own water so it has to be pumped in, but the community benefits of having this preserve make it a worthwhile sacrifice. Otherwise, there is nothing else like it out here for city dwellers other than Balboa Park which is for some people that live in this community and don’t have regular transportation, still a stretch to get to.
This is a place that helps bring the community together and offers urban youth fishing lessons at a low cost along with other activities such as summer camps, an annual egg hunt and reading with the Ranger.
Here are some links to learn more:
Chollas Lake Map
Programs at Chollas Lake