This varied and enjoyable hike explores 314-acre Louis A Stelzer Park, named for the man who donated the land for public use. On warm days, a quiet stroll along the Riparian Trail is a peaceful and scenic way to experience some nature and in the cool, clear winter months, the steep climb to Stelzer Summit yields excellent views of the area.
From the attractive, oak-shaded picnic area, follow the Riparian Trail alongside a seasonal stream. Other than noise from Wildcat Canyon Road and a few overhead power lines, the sights and sounds of civilization are nonexistent. You cross a series of footbridges before arriving at another picnic area, just under half a mile from the beginning, known as Cinthea’s Corner (in honor of a former ranger).
The Wooten Trail heads uphill, climbing steadily along an exposed hillside for half a mile to another junction. The Stelzer Trail continues straight, heading back toward the campground (an option if you are short on time or it’s a hot day). However, to see the summits, make a hard right and follow the trail up a few switchbacks to a ridge line. To the right, you will find Kumeyaay Promontory, a scenic but antenna-covered knoll with a bench (one quarter mile from the junction). The best views come from turning left and climbing to a jumble of boulders known as Stelzer Summit. Follow the trail as it climbs steeply uphill for 0.3 miles to a saddle. Make a hard right on a use trail and follow it to the top, engaging in some light boulder-scrambling on the way.
At the south end of the summit, you can explore a “cave” formed by boulders that have fallen on top of each other. Two rock windows provide an interesting perspective on the rural lands below. After enjoying the views, retrace your steps to the junction and down the hill, back to the Stelzer Trail. Follow it 0.6 mile back to the campground, passing by a small seasonal waterfall.
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.