Difficulty PG 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: Fall/Early Winter Season: Late Winter/Spring

Rim Trail (Mission Trails Regional Park)


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  • Location: 4198 Colina Dorada Drive, San Diego. From the south, take the 15 Freeway to the Tierrasanta Blvd. exit (9). Turn right and head east on Tierrasanta Blvd. for 1.9 miles. Turn left onto Colina Dorada Drive and follow it 1.1 mile to the trail head, on the corner of Calle De Vida. From the north, take the 15 Freeway to Clairemont Mesa Blvd. (exit 11). Turn left and follow Clairemont Mesa Blvd. east for 2.6 miles. Turn right on Rueda Dr., go 0.1 mile and turn left onto Calle De Vida. Follow Calle De Vida 0.3 mile to the trail head at the intersection with Colina Dorada Drive. Alternately, from the 52 Freeway, take exit 8 for Santo Rd. Head south on Santo Rd. for one mile, turn left onto Clairemont Mesa Blvd. and follow it 1.6 mile to Rueda Drive. From Rueda, follow the directions above to the trail head.
  • Agency: Mission Trails Regional Park
  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 500 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: October –  June
  • Recommended gear: sun screen sun hat
  • Dogs: Allowed on leash (exercise caution during warm months)
  • Cell phone reception: Good
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: The nearest campground is on the other side of Mission Trails Regional Park at the Kumeyaay Campground
  • More information: Trip descriptions here and here; AllTrails report here
  • Rating: 4

This hike explores the relatively lightly traveled northwestern corner of Mission Trails Regional Park. While it never really escapes the sights and sounds of nearby suburbia (notably noise from the 52 Freeway and hard-to-ignore power lines) it provides some nice views of the Fortuna peaks and has enough ups and downs to make for a decent workout, conveniently located to San Diego’s Tierrasanta neighborhood. It’s a good hike to keep in mind on days when it’s too hot to tackle the park’s major summits (although the route is entirely exposed, so plan accordingly).

From the trail head on Colina Dorada Drive, head northeast on a gravel service road, passing junctions with the 1.3-mile Quarry Loop Trail (an option if you want to extend the hike). At 0.5 mile, stay left at a Y-junction and ascend to a saddle (0.9 mile from the start) with views of North Fortuna Mountain. Turn left and head uphill toward some power lines and almost immediately bear right onto the Rim Trail.

The Rim Trail skirts the edge of Suycott Valley, heading generally north to a Y-junction at 1.75 miles from the start. Bear left and follow the northern leg of the Rim Trail toward a residential area. Keep an eye out for prickly pear and cholla cacti. As you reach the trail head at the end of Corte Playa Catalina, make a hard left and descend into a ravine. Though you are only a few hundred yards a way from the street, this is arguably the quietest stretch of the hike. The trail then rises back to the plateau where you continue south, staying right at each of the next two intersections.

At 2.7 miles, you reach an X-shaped intersection. Here your choices are to continue straight, returning to the saddle in 0.5 miles and retracing your steps, or for variety, you can bear right and follow a service road downhill past some power lines and into a ravine. After passing a footbridge connecting with the end of Clairemont Mesa Blvd., you drop to the bottom of the ravine and make a short but steep climb back out, soon arriving at Calle De Vida. Turn left and follow Calle De Vida 0.2 mile to the trail head at the corner of Colina Dorada Drive – your starting point.

If it sounds like there’s a lot to keep track of on this route, keep in mind that the trails are usually pretty clearly signed. Furthermore, as close as this corner of the park is to civilization, it’s hard to get too lost.

Rim Trail, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego
Heading uphill toward the Rim Trail from the saddle (0.9 mile from the start)
Rim Trail, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego
View of North Fortuna Mountain from the Rim Trail
Rim Trail, Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego
Prickly pear and buckwheat on the Rim Trail
Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego
Descending the service road toward Calle De Vida

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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