Climbers’ Loop (Mission Trails Regional Park)

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Climber's Loop, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, CA
Outcrop on the Climber’s Loop
Climber's Loop, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, CA
Looking south from the Climber’s Loop

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.

Climber's Loop, Mission Trails Regional Park
0:00 – Climber’s Loop trail head (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

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.

Climber's Loop, Mission Trails Regional Park, CA
0:09 – Heading south near the top of the loop (times are approximate)

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.

Climber's Trail, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, CA
0:15 – Looking down from the high point of the loop

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.

Climber's Loop, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, CA
0:18 – Beginning the descent


Cellular Service Difficulty PG Distance 0 to 2 miles Dogs allowed Hikes with free parking Rating: 4-6 San Diego - Coastal & Western County Season: All year

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