Oak Canyon in Mission Trails Regional Park

Santee, California

based on 1 reviews



3.22 miles

Elevation Gain

249 ft

Route Type



Added by Alex Seger

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, particularly Oak Canyon.

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. (Note: if you explore this trail in the winter months or after rain, the river flows pretty nicely and there and there can even be some small waterfalls!) 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, downloading the GPX map or following along with phone's GPS is always recommended.

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Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

Oak Canyon in Mission Trails Regional Park Reviews

We went out on this trail in early March and the San Diego river was full! It might have been a bit too early for wildflowers, but we've heard if you time it right this is an amazing place to see them bloom. All the big trees and native CA plants along the trail are super beautiful. We pulled into the parking lot right around 6:30am (just before sunrise) and found parking pretty easily - although on our way out around 8am the small lot next to the river was full. Plenty of parking on Father Junipero Serra Trail road leading up to the small parking lot in case it is full!

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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