Difficulty G Distance 2.1 to 5 miles General information: Cellular Service General information: Dogs allowed General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 4-6 San Diego - Coastal & Western County Season: All year

Buena Vista Park (Vista)


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Buena Vista Park (Vista)

  • Location: 1601 Shadowridge Drive, Vista, CA. From the east, take Highway 78 to Sycamore Ave. (exit 9). Turn left and go 0.3 mile to Shadowridge Drive. Turn right and go 1.9 miles to the park entrance, on the left. From Carlsbad, take Highway 78 west to Melrose Drive (exit 6A). Head south on Melrose for 2.5 miles to Shadowridge Drive. Turn right and go 0.3 mile to the park entrance, on the left.
  • Agency: City of Vista
  • Distance: 2.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Suggested time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty Rating: G
  • Best season: All year
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: None
  • Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: San Diego County
  • More information: Trip description here; AllTrails report here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 4

Here’s a nice little hike tucked away in Agua Hedionda Canyon in the middle of some affluent neighborhoods in northern San Diego County. It makes a perfect nature walk before or after work and provides a fix for San Diego hiking junkies when they don’t have time to drive to the Cuyamacas or Julian. Considering how close it is to suburbia, Buena Vista Park often feels surprisingly isolated. There are several unofficial trails but the main route, a narrow 2.3 mile loop, is usually pretty obvious.

From the parking area, follow the fire road south along the banks of Hedionda Creek. The trail soon splits, where you can take a detour (or shorten the route with some climbing) up to a vista point. The main trail curves west, crossing under Melrose Drive and passing behind some homes under Green Oak Road. You then drop into a pleasantly shaded pocket of oaks alongside the creek. Poison oak, while not encroaching the trail, does grow abundantly so be careful if you are with pets or small kids.

At 1.1 miles from the start, cross a footbridge and begin heading back on another trail that parallels the creek. Other than a water treatment plant and the distant sounds of traffic on Melrose Drive, this part of the hike offers a nice amount of solitude. After crossing underneath Melrose Drive, you reach another footbridge leading back to the north banks of the creek. A final stretch through a grove of oaks, sycamores and eucalyptuses brings you back to the parking area. The non-native eucalyptus trees haven’t taken over to the extent that they have in other nearby open spaces, such as Hosp Grove.

After completing the loop, allow a little extra time to visit the duck pond – sure to be a hit with young hikers especially. Don’t be surprised if you see a goose or two roaming the parking lot.

Buena Vista Park, Vista, CA
Vegetation near the north end of the Buena Vista trails
Buena Vista Park, Vista, CA
Agua Hedionda Creek
Buena Vista Park, Vista, CA
Footbridge over Agua Hedionda Creek
Buena Vista Park, Vista, CA
Meadow on the south side of the park

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.

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