Hidden in Mission Trails Regional Park deep inside of Oak Canyon is a small but beautiful waterfall. It only runs during the rainy season so in order to see it you have to get back there between February and May. Even if the falls are not flowing the run is a challenging and scenic course that allows you to see one of the prettiest trails in San Diego.
Start your run at the Mast Blvd. entrance to Mission Trails Park at the equestrian center. This is also the start of the Dirt Devil Racing’s Stairway to Heaven 15K in August and the Xterra 15K in February. Head out West towards the grasslands until you get to the 4 way intersection. Go North (right) out and under the 52 freeway. You will run into Spring Canyon as you pass beneath the 52 freeway. Follow the canyon until you get about 1.9 miles. Make sure to take the single track trail that runs right along the hills on your left. At mile 1.9 look for the slot canyon on your left guarded by 3 rusty bullet ridden barrels. Make a left (West) into the slot canyon and follow the single track all the way to the back of the canyon. The trail will bend to your right and take you up the ridgeline to the top of a jeep road. This jeep road provides access all the way to Miramar Naval Airbase. When you get to the top of the jeep road look for the single track trail directly across and slightly to your right. It is hard to see but it’s there. Go directly across the jeep road and start your Westward descent down the other side of the canyon. The switchbacks will eventually give way to nice flat single track trail. As you course through the canyon you will eventually bend to your left (North) heading back towards the 52 freeway. The trail will take you back under the freeway where you will pass a trailhead sign and double track on your right. Continue past this and hook to your left. You will see a double track heading uphill in front of you and a rocky entrance to your right. Go north into the rocky entrance of Oak Canyon. Follow the rocky trail and listen for the waterfall on your right. The fall is slightly off the trail and requires you to do a little bouldering.
Take time to play at the falls, have a snack and then continue into Oak Canyon. The trail will take you to a “T” intersection. To your right (West) is the infamous Hill of Torment which will take you up towards North and South Fortuna Mountain. Go left instead and stay on the single track trail that bears right and across a wood footbridge. Continue through rocky but scenic Oak Canyon. You will cross another wooden bridge and have a wooden fence on your left. Follow this trail towards until you cross another wooden bridge and head towards Historic Mission Dam. You will eventually cross the bridge over the dam and now have the San Diego River on your left. There is a water fountain and Port-o-Potty here if you need to stop. Run past the dam and up onto Father Junipero Road and go left on the pavement for about ¼ mile. Look for the entrance on your left and head down the concrete path over the stone bridge and back onto the trail dead ahead. The trail will take you back up into the grasslands. Once in the grasslands continue straight, you will see the 52 freeway in front of you. Look for the 4 corner intersection from the beginning of the run and make a right heading back to your car.
This is a great run and as many opportunities for adding more miles.
You can also download a map of Mission Trails Regional Park at www.mtrp.org
Dr. Runco is a U.S. Navy and Gulf War Veteran. Graduating as a Doctor of Chiropractic he began private practice in San Diego in 2000. He has been a professor of Anatomy, Physiology, and Biomechanics at various colleges and continues to teach continuing education in the fields of rehabilitation, custom orthotics and athletic taping. He is also a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.