Mission Trails Regional Park is the Largest of San Diego’s Parks and is Great for Hiking

Phone: (619-668-3281)
Web: www.mtrp.org
One Father Junipero Serra Tr.
San Diego, CA 92119

Kumeyaay Lake at Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park is the largest of the City of San Diego’s parks and is the third gem of the city’s park system. Mission Trails is larger than Mission Bay and Balboa parks combined. At 5,800 acres, it is the largest open space urban park west of the Mississippi. It includes two lakes, a scenic stretch of the San Diego River and Old Mission Dam; a day-use campground for picnics; and Cowles Mountain, whose summit offers a panoramic view of the city clear to the ocean. Over 40 miles of trails accommodate hikers, mountain bikers, rock climbers, birders, and equestrians. There are about 600 different types of plants within the park, including over 300 varieties of wildflowers.

Take a view of the locations of the numerous habitats that exist within the park. Various interpretive walks and special programs afford visitors unique, exciting outdoor educational and recreational experiences throughout the park on a regular basis. There are a number of points from which you can enter Mission Trails Regional Park: going east on Mission Gorge Road enter at the west end of Father Junipero Serra Trail to reach the Visitor Center, at the east end Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in the community of Tierrasanta, The Equestrian Staging Area at SR 52 & Mast Boulevard, at Jackson Drive and Mission Gorge Rd., at Cowles Mountain at the corner of Golfcrest Dr. & Navajo Road or from Barker Way or from Big Rock Road in Santee, or the east entrance of Father Junipero Serra Trail to drive to the Kumeyaay Lake Day-Use Campground and the Old Mission Dam.

Mission Trails Visitor & Interpretive Center

The hub of these activities is the 14,575 square foot Visitor and Interpretive Center which is located just 20 minutes from downtown San Diego and is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day except New Years, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The park itself is open every day of the year. The Center features a rotating exhibition of works by local award winning artists, and in May of each year, photographs taken by shutterbugs in the annual amateur photography contest are on display.

The 4,000 square foot Visitor Center Terrace offers presents a spectacular view of Mission Gorge. The Amphitheater seats up to 150 people with a backdrop of Mission Gorge. The Visitor Center gift shop offers authentic local Kumeyaay Indian baskets, pottery and jewelry as well as unique photographic prints and books, each telling its own story about Mission Trails.

Enjoy the sights and sounds of the center’s state-of-the-art exhibits; they make learning about the park’s geology, plants, animals, and history fun and easy. The Visitor Center boasts a 94-seat theater featuring four films that run daily featuring captivating vistas of the park’s natural beauty, and the people who worked and lived here.

Featured Films Include:

Stewardship through the Ages
A film about the people… Native Americans, Spanish, Mexicans, Americans…that have been an integral part of the landscape that has become Mission Trails Regional Park.

Mission Trails Regional Park: A Natural Beauty,
An inspirational film shown through a high definition blu-ray projection system presenting the beauty that is Mission Trails.

Mission Trails Regional Park…Link with the Past, Experienced Today,
Explores some of the history and recreational opportunities afforded in Mission Trails.

Trails of the Kumeyaay,
A film highlighting the local indigenous people, their culture, traditions and beliefs up to the present day.

Visitor Center

Visitor Center Gallery

View from the Terrace


Events & Activities at Mission Trails

Free Guided Nature Walks Every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, Join an MTRP Trail Guide in the Visitor Center at 9:30 a.m. for a free guided nature walk and learn about the history, geology, plants, animals and ecology of the park.

Trail Guides choose from three trails:

1) The Oak Grove Trail leads to a small oak woodland with majestic coast live oaks and rare
Engelmann oaks.

2) The Visitor Center Loop Trail takes you through coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and riparian
woodland habitats.

3) The Riverside Grinding Rocks Trail leads to one of the archaeological sites in the park,
where Kumeyaay Indians historically ground acorns on the rocks for food.

Walks may also include the Native Plant Garden near the Visitor Center. These interpretive nature walks are offered to enhance your appreciation of our open space and the unique beauty of San Diego’s natural environment. Walks are free and open to the public, with no reservations required. Each walk lasts about an hour and a half. The trails used are easy, but have uneven surfaces and some involve steps, so be sure to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes and bring along water. A hat and sunscreen are also recommended.

Guided Nature Walk from the Kumeyaay Campground Entry Station Guided nature walks, led by Trail Guides start from the Kumeyaay Campground Entry Station on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month from 8:30 – 10:00 a.m.

Trail Guides choose from three trails:

1) On the Kumeyaay Lake walk, you are surrounded by cottonwood and sycamore trees growing along-side dense willow thickets, the habitat of the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo.

2) On the walk to Old Mission Dam, a registered historic site, you learn the story of San Diego’s early efforts to achieve a reliable water supply.

3) The Oak Canyon Trail takes you along a narrow streambed with seasonal waterfalls and colorful wildflowers.

Walks may incorporate a portion of the Grasslands Trail. These interpretive nature walks are offered to enhance your appreciation of our open space and the unique beauty of San Diego’s natural environment. The walks are free and open to the public, with no reservations required. Each walk lasts about an hour and a half. The trails used are easy, but have uneven surfaces and some involve steps, so be sure to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes and bring along water. A hat and sunscreen are also recommended. Walk canceled if it is raining.

Wildlife Tracking Walk:
The first Saturday morning of each month from 8:30 – 10:30 join an MTRP Trail Guide and Tracking Team member for an adventure in wildlife tracking! Learn the art of discovering signs left behind by resident creatures during two fun-filled hours of “dirt time.” These free tracking walks meet out in front of the Visitor Center and are suitable for the whole family! Don’t forget to wear long pants, for kneeling down on your knees. Rain cancels the walk.

Saturday, March 9, join MTRP Trail Guide and resident Star-Gazer, George Varga, at the far end of the Kumeyaay Campground’s Day Use Parking Lot, from 6 to 9 p.m. A telescope will be available to view the nighttime sky! In consideration of others, no lanterns or white-light flashlights near the telescope, please.

The Moon will be two days short of being New. Consequently it will not contribute to light pollution. Many open clusters in Auriga, Gemini and Canis Major will be up. The Orion Nebula will be to the west of the Meridian, the imaginary great circle that intersects with the North and South Celestial Poles and passes through the observer’s position. Jupiter will be in the Western sky.

The second Friday of each month from sunset to 10 p.m. join members of the San Diego Astronomy Association (SDAA) at the Kumeyaay Lake Campground Day Use Parking Lot for another opportunity to explore the universe through their telescopes.

Bird Watching:
Join Trail Guide and Birder Jeanne Raimond for a free adventure in bird watching on the 3rd Saturday of each month from 8-10 a.m. Link to events calendar for monthly location.

Join Trail Guide and Birder Winona Sollock for a free 90-minute class to learn 5 simple techniques for identifying birds in the field. You’ll also learn how to use a field guide, so bring one along if you have one. This free class meets the last Saturday of each month at 1 pm. in room “A” of the Visitor Center.

Art Classes: Children’s Art Classes with Nora Kearney-Johnson Nora’s Art Classes for children ages 5-12 are being offered from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. at the Mission Trails Visitor Center. Each class is a different topic and children may take home their art project each week. All art supplies are included. Each class is just $15. Save $5 by registering for an entire month of classes in any given month. The dates for the classes and weekly topics are on the website. Link for additional information and registration forms.

The third Sunday of each month there is a free concert in the 93 seat Visitor Center Theater.

Art Exhibitions:
The Visitor Center has an excellent art gallery. Under the direction of Vicky DeLong, the Art Show Coordinator for the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation, 10 individual or group shows are featured each year. Each exhibition is on display for one month. Link to the 2013 Art in the Park schedule. Each year we have an amateur photo contest, (entry deadline April 30) and the photos will be on display from May 4-31. Link to the amateur photo contest entry form.

Star Gazing

Red Tail Hawk

Children’s Art Classes


The Old Mission Dam, Camp Grounds, Hiking & Activity Areas

Old Mission Dam:
This man-made structure across the San Diego River is a California Historical Landmark, built by the Kumeyaay Indians was completed approximately 1817, under the supervision of the Spanish Padres to provide water for the Mission de Alcalá cropland downstream. Walk along the wheelchair accessible pathway and enjoy the touchable models of the dam and surrounding area, as well as the interpretive panels which discuss the history and habitat of this scenic location. The area is still popular as a picnic spot as it was 150 years ago and is great for bird watching and just relaxing.

Equestrian Staging Area:
FJST is actually the road you can drive/walk/or bicycle on through the park. When first built, it was the original Mission Gorge Road.

Hikers, joggers, equestrians, bicyclists, and all park visitors the park’s enjoy the entry facility at SR52 and Mast Boulevard. It is the best entrance to the Grasslands and the East Fortuna trail. It includes 18 pull-through spaces for equestrians, corrals, and separate parking for others. Picnic tables and barbeques are located throughout. The comfort station restrooms are open daily. Two areas are available for special events or for the cool down of horses after a good ride. Or just sit on a picnic bench and watch the hawks soar over San Diego’s Mission Trails park. This area is also the gateway to several trails including the Grasslands Loop Trail.

Kumeyaay Lake Campground:
Due to the City of San Diego’s budget restrictions, Kumeyaay Lake Campground is closed to overnight camping until further notice. The Campground sites are now available for Day Use only.

• Hikers and cyclists are welcome to walk into the Campground to utilize the picnic tables while
the park is open.
• The East Comfort Station restrooms will be available.
• No BBQs, grills, stoves or open fires are allowed.
• Existing BBQ grills in the day-use park log and at the adjacent amphitheater may be used.
• No overnight camping is allowed.
• Trash must be disposed of in the appropriate receptacles.

Lake Murray:
Murray Reservoir is located within the boundary of the City’s Mission Trails Regional Park. When full, the reservoir has 171.1 surface acres, a maximum water depth of 95 feet, and 3.2 shoreline miles. Murray Reservoir has a water storage capacity of 4,684.2 acre feet. Water levels are monitored weekly.

This lake is very popular for bicycling, jogging, walking, rollerblading, and picnicking. Patrons can walk on paved road only as far as the dam gate (approximately 3.2 miles) and then must return, making it a 6.4-mile round trip. There are 10 barbecues and 64 picnic tables located around the lake. Patrons can bring their own barbecues for use in designated areas only. No ground fires or glass containers are allowed. Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times and at least 50 feet away from the water. Dogs are not allowed on any boats. Smoking and alcohol are prohibited at Murray. Overnight camping is not allowed at Murray Reservoir.

They rent boats on a first come basis only, no reservations. They do have California state fishing licenses for sale. There is bait available – shiners, crawdads, nightcrawlers, meal worms and wax worms. Patrons can use credit cards for boat rentals and other purchases, but permits are cash only.

Murray is open for fishing, launching and general access seven days a week except for certain holidays. On days or times that the concession is closed patrons can purchase permits from the iron ranger boxes (envelope system) at the lake. The reservoir is stocked with Florida-strain largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, black crappie and trout. Minimum size limit for bass is 12 inches. Fish limits are five trout, five bass, five catfish and 25 crappie and bluegill in aggregate, with no limit on other species. Anglers 16 years of age or older must have a California state fishing license. Fish catch information is updated weekly.

Watercraft In addition to fishing from boats, patrons can use float tubes, waders, or simply fish from shore. Use of float tubes is restricted to within 150 feet or less from shore. Float tubers must wear chest waders and have a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device readily available at all times, and have 144 square inches of international orange visible at least 12 inches above the water line. They must also possess a horn or whistle to warn approaching craft. Any float tube that uses oars or has a motor must purchase a private boat use permit.

Directions From Interstate 8: take Lake Murray Boulevard exit, turn right onto Lake Murray Boulevard, and turn left on Kiowa Drive, which leads to the reservoir entrance.

Hiking & Bicycling:
There are 40 miles of trails to explore and enjoy and many are accessible to mountain bikes. It is recommended you have proper shoes, an adequate supply of water, a cell phone, and during the warm days, a hat and wear sunscreen anytime you are hiking in the park. There is an interactive trail map accessible on the Mission Trails website. This Link takes you directly to the interactive trail map for the entire park. Move your cursor over any of the trails and additional information will pop up with information about distance, level of difficulty, and if is hiking only, mountain biking only, or a multi-use trail. Stay on the designated trails at all times.

There are five primary peaks in Mission Trails: South Fortuna, North Fortuna, Pyles Peak, Kwaay Paay, and Cowles Mountain. The top of Cowles Mountain is the highest geographical point in the city of San Diego at 1,592 feet.

Hiking Categories
1 = Easy, mostly level or gradual inclines
2 = Okay for beginners in good physical condition
3 = Moderate, may require climbing over rocks and/or fairly steep inclines
4 = Difficult, for hikers/bikers with good stamina, involves extended climbs
5 = Very challenging, for experienced hikers/bikers in excellent physical condition only

Primary Hiking Trails at Mission Trails Regional Park:

Mission Gorge Region
Visitor Center Loop Trail (Category 2) 1.4 miles roundtrip.
Father Junipero Serra Trail (Category 1) 1.8 miles each way
Oak Grove Loop Trail (Category 1) 1.0 miles round trip
Oak Canyon Trail (Category 3) 1.7 miles each way
Climbers Loop Trail (Category 5) 1.0 miles roundtrip
BMX Loop (Category 2) 1.1 miles roundtrip
Kwaay Paay -from Old Mission Dam – (Category 5) 1.0 miles each way

Cowles Mountain Region
Climbers Loop Trail (Category 5) 1.2 miles each way. Bring your camera.
Cowles Mountain from Golfcrest & Navajo (Category 5) 1.5 miles each way
Cowles Mountain from Barker Way (via the service road) (Category 4) 1.6 miles
Cowles Mountain from Big Rock Park in Santee (Category 5) 2.5 miles each way
Cowles Mountain from Mesa Road in Santee (Category 5) 2.1 miles each way
Cowles Mountain Summit to Pyles Peak (Category 5) 1.5+ miles each way

West Fortuna Region
Fortuna Saddle from Visitor Center (Category 5) 2.7 Miles each way
Fortuna Saddle from Clairemont Mesa Blvd. (Category 4) 1.8 miles each way
Suycott Wash/S. Fortuna Mountain (Category 5) 1.2+ miles each way
North/S. Fortuna Mtn. Loop from the Saddle (Category 5) 4.1+ miles each way
Rim Trail Loop from Clairemont Mesa Blvd. (Category 3-4) 3.1 miles roundtrip
Quarry Loop Trail from Clairemont Mesa Blvd. (Category 2) 2.1 miles roundtrip
Shepherd Pond from Clairemont Blvd. (Category 3) 2.3 miles each way

East Fortuna Region
Grasslands Loop (Category 1) 1.2 miles roundtrip
N. Fortuna via Grasslands Crossing (Category 5) 3.0 miles
Fortuna Saddle from Mast Blvd. (Category 5) 2.4 miles each way
Kumeyaay Lake Trail (Category 1) 1.0 miles each way
Fortuna Mtn. Loop from Grasslands Crossing (Category 5) 7.1 miles roundtrip

Lake Murray Region
Lake Murray Hiking/Biking Path (Category 1) 3.2 miles each way

Old Mission Dam

Equestrian Staging Area

Mule Deer


Kumeyaay Lake

Kumeyaay Lake is adjacent to the Kumeyaay Lake Campground. From the parking area, walk north toward the lakeshore, past restrooms and picnic areas, where short paths lead either left or right. Interpretive signs here depict many of the bird varieties that can be found around the lake area, including the California blue-gray gnatcatcher, the common raven, the wrentit, California quail, the great blue heron, the great egret, mallard, American coot, great horned owl, Anna’s hummingbird, western scrub jay, red-winged black bird, black phoebe, California towhee, acorn woodpeckers, and the least Bell’s vireo. Also watch for birds of prey, including the osprey, white-tailed kite, American kestrel, red-shouldered hawk, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and the red-tailed hawk. The sounds of birds and running water are joined in the late afternoon with the sounds of crickets and bullfrogs. Waterfowl glide across the lake surface, making hypnotic kinetic ripples.

The trail to the left (or west) crosses over a cement bridge that allows water from the San Diego River to flow into the lake. Just beyond are a small amphitheater and a replica of a Kumeyaay ‘ewaa, a hut made from the branches of willows. Slightly further is the locked gate, beyond which there is no entry. However, just to the south of the gate is a 0.1 mile shaded trail that leads to a view from the center of the lake. Shade trees around the lake include cottonwoods, sycamores, willows, and mule fat. From this point, retrace your steps back to the interpretive signs, which completes one mile. For a second mile, explore the route to the right (or east) until you reach the second locked gate on the north side of the lake.

Plants that may be in bloom include the yellow Hooker’s evening primrose, the pink California wild rose, whitish-pink California buckwheat, a golden prickly pear, the white blooming yerba mansa (or lizard tail), yellow dandelions and mustard, and pink thistles. Also look for curly dock, white-blooming ceanothus and jimsonweed, horehound, and tree tobacco.
Signs around the lake indicate sensitive habitat. Bicycles are allowed only on paved roads and not on the paths around the lake. Fishing is allowed as well as dogs on leashes.

Kumeyaay Lake

Mountain Biking

California Poppy



Banquets at Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park
One Father Junipero Serra Tr.
Call: (619-668-3281)
Price: Call for pricing
San Diego, CA 92119
Size: Call for Availability
Events: Banquets
Type: Park
The Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor and Interpretive Center is a unique and beautiful venue for meetings and for after hour special events. During our regular business hours of 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., the Visitor Center can accommodate up to 65 people in our meeting room facility. For after hour events, the Visitor Center and Terrace can accommodate up to 350 people. The Visitor and Interpretive Center is managed by the City of San Diego in cooperation with Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation. It is not available for commercial use or private functions such as birthday parties, weddings, baptisms, and memorial services. For additional information about the facilities available for meetings during the day for up to 65 individuals and after-hour events for up to 350 people, click on this Link for a complete listing of our facilities, including photographs and rental rates for the various areas. For additional information, call the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation facilities booking office at 619.668.3280 or view our event booking information here.
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Mission Trails Regional Park: Visitor Center Amphitheater Visitor Center Amphitheater
Mission Trails Regional Park: Visitor Center Visitor Center
Mission Trails Regional Park: Visitor Center Visitor Center