Hike Oak Canyon in Mission Trails Regional Park

Rate this Adventure Oak Canyon Trailhead, Santee, California, United States

  • Activities:


  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    3 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    200 Feet

Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

Mission Trails Regional Park is considered the largest urban park in the United States. With San Diego's open spaces diminishing, there's no better time than now to explore this 5,700 acre park.

Starting on Father Junipero Serra Trail, drive 0.7 miles west to the Old Mission Dam parking lot on the left. The park closes the gates at 7pm, so make sure to park early, or plan your hike in such a way that you don't get locked in! If you think you'll need longer, you can park out on the main road, and walk in.

Starting at the parking lot, walk down past the bathrooms to the entrance for Oak Canyon Trail. Red signs throughout the trail will guide you, and keep you on the right path. You will pass a very cool dam and pond on your right that has a old stone wall acting as a barrier between them. Continue down the trail until you reach a iron bridge.This is the official trail entrance. From here you will head straight onto Oak Canyon Trail. Once you reach the dried up riverbed that used to be the San Diego River, you can either follow along the riverbed, or on the trail just off to the right for 1.2 miles. About half way through, there are beautiful massive live oak and sycamore trees around you. Take some time to admire and check out these behemoths! Follow the river/trail until you see highway 52 passing over the canyon. You cant miss it! Once you reach this point, you can continue up towards the road, and hike East back to your starting point, or you can turn around and head back the way you came. Be extra mindful of unstable rocks and ground. Always check your footing before putting all of your weight on a rock or boulder! The park has a dozen different trails and routes, having a trail map or phone with GPS is always recommended! 

Pack List

  • Water (if you go in the summer, bring extra!)
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat/Visor
  • Hiking Shoes
  • GPS/Trail map
  • Snack
  • Camera
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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