Difficulty G Distance 2.1 to 5 miles General information: Cellular Service General information: Dogs allowed General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 1-3 San Diego - Coastal & Western County Season: All year

East Shepherd Canyon (San Diego)


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Shepherd Canyon, San Diego, CA
Wildflowers in Shepherd Canyon
Shepherd Canyon, San Diego, CA
Trail through Shepherd Canyon

East Shepherd Canyon (San Diego)

  • Location: Parking is available on the corner of Remora St. and Gabacho Dr. in the residential Tierrasanta neighborhood of San Diego (nearest cross streets are Santo Road and Clairemont Mesa Blvd.) From the 52 Freeway, exit on Santo Road and head south for 0.9 mile. Just before Clairemont Mesa Blvd., make a left on to Remora St. (If you miss it, you can make a U-turn on Clairemont Mesa.) Turn right onto Remora and park where available on the corner of Remora and Gabacho or Montego. From I-15, take the Tierrasanta Blvd. exit and head east. Turn left on Santo, go half a mile and turn right onto Remora and park where available.
  • Agency: City of San Diego
  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 250 feet
  • Suggested time: 1.5 hours
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season:  All year (best for wildflowers during the spring)
  • USGS topo map: La Mesa
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: San Diego County
  • More information: Articles about the trail here and here; Map My Hike report here
  • Rating: 3
Start of the Shepherd Canyon Hike in the Tierrasanta area of San Diego
0:00 – Start of the hike on Remora St. (Click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Tucked into a shallow canyon between two residential streets, Shepherd Canyon is an example of how open space and suburbs can co-exist, offering local residents a taste of nature. East Shepherd Canyon is one of several trails that lace the neighborhood.

Shepherd Canyon, San Diego, CA
0:03 – Entering Shepherd Canyon (times are approximate)

From Remora St., turn right on Santo Road and follow it a short distance to the East Shepherd Canyon sign. Follow the trail into the canyon, which is dominated by eucalyptus trees, with a few sycamores, willows and even some prickly pear in the mix. After a quarter mile, bear right as the trail merges with another route. Continue east, crossing a footbridge and passing through a clearing with a couple of benches.

Shepherd Canyon, San Diego, CA
0:11 – Benches in the shade

You enter the open, walking past hills dotted with chaparral wildflowers in the spring. Soon you reach Dishwater Pond, the approximate halfway point, where you may be able to spot a mallard or two in the cat tails.

Dishwater Pond, Shepherd Canyon, San Diego, CA
0:24 – Dishwater Pond

Past the pond, the trail splits briefly, rejoins and continues another half mile, mostly under the shade of the eucalypti, before reaching a junction. Bear right and follow the last leg of the trail as it makes a moderate ascent to its ending at Via Valarta, 1.4 miles from the start. You can return either by retracing your steps through the canyon or using residential streets.

Shepherd Canyon, San Diego, CA
0:42 – Turnaround point at Via Valarta

Text and photography copyright 2016 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.

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