Climbers’ Loop (Mission Trails Regional Park)
- Location: Father Junipero Serra Trail, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego. From I-15, take the Friars Road exit (exit 7A) and head east for 0.8 miles (turn right if you’re coming from the south; left if from the north). Merge left onto Mission Gorge Road, follow it 3.2 miles and turn left onto Father Junipero Serra Trail. From Highway 52, take the Mast Blvd. exit (13) and head northeast on Mast Blvd (turn right if you’re coming from the east; left if from the west.) Make a quick right onto West Hills Parkway, go 0.7 miles and turn right onto Mission Gorge Road. In 2.5 miles, turn right onto Father Junipero Serra Trail. Note that Father Junipero Serra Trail soon becomes one-way northbound. The first trail head is on the right at 0.5 miles; there are a few spots to park in the dirt at the side of the road. A slightly larger parking area with an information board is on the right in another 0.2 miles.
- Agency: Mission Trails Regional Park
- Distance: 0.9 miles
- Elevation gain: 400 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 30 minutes
- Best season: Year round (note posted daily hourly access restrictions)
- USGS topo map: La Mesa
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
- More information: Trip descriptions here and here; Map My Hike report here
- Rating: 6
Not many trails that are less than one mile in length can lay claim to having emergency markers for visitors who find themselves in trouble to reference when calling for help, but Mission Trails Regional Park’s Climber’s Loop is one. The markers are likely more for the rock climbers who frequent the vertical towers of granite higher up on the ridge, but they also give the loop trail a flavor of adventure not often found in such short trips.
The loop can be hiked in either direction from either of two starting points. This post describes a clockwise route from the north trail head, where more parking is available. One advantage of going clockwise is that there are stairs on the descent, helping with stability. The ascent is a little less steep in this direction as well.
From the trail head, follow the steeply ascending route, climbing 200 feet in 0.2 miles. As the trail levels out, stay right at two junctions and head south, hugging the steep ridge above Father Junipero Serra Trail. The Fortuna Mountain ridge dominates the landscape to the west; to the south the nearby residential neighborhoods spread out.
The trail climbs at a more gradual grade but still requiring a little boulder scrambling, before making a sharp right and descending. Wooden beams set into the ground help establish stability on the steep slope. At 0.7 miles you reach Father Junipero Serra Trail. Turn right and head north back toward the trail head, using the lane of the paved road that is closed to vehicle traffic.
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.