Louis A Stelzer County Park
- Location: 11470 Wildcat Canyon Road, Lakeside (San Diego County). From the north end of the 67 Freeway, take a right onto Mapleview St. In 0.3 mile, turn left onto Ashwood St. Follow it a total of 2 miles (it becomes Wildcat Canyon Road after one mile) to the park entrance, on the right. From Poway, take Highway 67 south for 8.5 miles. Turn left onto Willow Rd., go 0.9 mile to Wildcat Canyon road and turn left. Follow Wildcat Canyon Road one mile to the park entrance on the right. From Ramona, take San Vicente Rd. to Barona Rd/Wildcat Canyon Rd. and then head south for 11.2 miles. The park entrance will be on the left. Day use parking is $3 (checks accepted; cash accepted but no change given).
- Agency: San Diego County Parks & Recreation
- Distance: 2.9 miles
- Elevation gain: 650 feet
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Best season: October – June
- Dogs: Allowed on leash
- Cell phone reception: Good to fair
- Water: Available at restrooms; stream water may be fil
- Restrooms: Near main park entrance
- Camping/backpacking: Available; see link above for more information
- Recommended gear: hiking poles sun hat
- More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here; Yelp page here
- Rating: 6
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.
Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)
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.