Lopez Canyon (San Diego)
Though it has no seasonal waterfall, Lopez Canyon is an attractive, usually more quiet alternative to its neighbor, Los Penasquitos Canyon. This nearly level walk through rolling hills and groves of sycamores, conveniently located to I-5 and I-805, is a nice place for a stroll and to enjoy some solitude. Be careful however of ticks in the high grass surrounding the trail; there’s also a good amount of poison oak. For these reasons, while dogs are allowed, I don’t recommend them for this hike (if you do decide to take your dog, bring a tick key.) Keep in mind too that the trail is popular with cyclists, so while you may not have much company on two feet, remain watchful of those visitors on two wheels.
From the staging area, follow the trail across a seasonal stream to a staging area with an information board. Head right (the left fork leads to Los Penasquitos) into Lopez Canyon, following the trail for a pleasant 0.7 miles through vegetation that includes a few groups of prickly pear cacti, buckwheat and poison oak. As you head deeper into the canyon, the noise from the freeway vanishes.
At 0.7 miles, the main trail heads uphill while a secondary trail heads deeper into the canyon. Continuing west on this trail, you soon enter an attractive grove of sycamores. As the vegetation thickens, a few wild palms help give this part of the canyon a jungle-like feel. The trail also crosses seasonal Lopez Creek several times. At about 1.6 miles, you enter a wide floodplain where the trail becomes somewhat vague. You will see the Camino Santa Fe bridge in the distance.
You reach one last grove of sycamores at about 1.8 miles from the start; this is a good turnaround point. Beyond, the trail continues to fade into the flood plain and becomes difficult to navigate past the bridge. A few low-to-the-ground branches make for natural benches where you can sit and enjoy the shade before returning. If you want to explore further, back at the junction you can climb the other path to the trail head on Pacific Mesa or you can continue on into Los Penasquitos Canyon.
Text and photography copyright 2015 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.