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Open Space Parks

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

Photo of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Waterfall

A Resource Based Park

Los Peñasquitos (meaning little cliffs) Canyon Preserve lies between Rancho Peñasquitos and Sorrento Hills to the north and Mira Mesa to the south. It stretches approximately seven miles from the I-5 and 805 merge to just east of I-15. It encompasses some 4,000 acres of both Peñasquitos and Lopez Canyons. The Preserve is jointly owned and administered by the City and County of San Diego.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve attracts people with its natural beauty and abundant natural resources -- both today and in the past. Native American history within the Preserve dates back as far as 7,000 years ago.

Remains of the prehistoric culture can still be found. More recently the area was part of the first Mexican land grant in San Diego County. The historic Santa Maria de Los Peñasquitos Adobe (ca. 1823) operated by the County of San Diego (located at the east end of the Preserve off Black Mountain Road on Canyonside Park Driveway), has been restored and tours are available for school groups and the public.

For more information, please call the County Park Rangers at 858-484-7504.

The ruins of another Adobe, the El Cuervo (ca. 1857), sit at the west end of the Preserve.

Los Peñasquitos Canyon and its tributary, Lopez Canyon, are characterized by varied natural resources. Evidence of the rich biodiversity of the canyon include over 500 plant species, more than 175 types of birds, and a great variety of reptiles, amphibians and mammals. Many of these species are rare or endangered and are protected within the Preserve.

For safety and the protection of the park's resources, please adhere to Park Rules & Regulations.

Many different geologic formations and soil types make up the steep slopes, riparian stream corridors, flat mesa tops and grassy hillsides of the Preserve. The varying terrains and soil types, in conjunction with continually flowing water, form more than 14 habitat types and support a diverse collection of flora and fauna.

The scenery of the canyon inlcudes:

  • a waterfall cascading through volcanic rock;
  • a streamside forest of giant California live oaks;
  • groves of majestic sycamore trees;
  • a year-round stream populated by Pacific tree frogs, crayfish and largemouth bass;
  • a freshwater marsh hosting a variety of aquatic birds including great blue herons, egrets, mallard ducks and more;
  • mule deer, bobcat, coyote and raccoon are just a few of the mammals that can be observed throughout the Preserve.

Volunteers are always welcome to help with the maintenance and operation of the park. Park Rangers offer interpretive walks and programs.

To report suspected illegal activity including transient encampments, encroachment onto City property or other maintenance needs, please call 858-538-8066. In an emergency, please call 911.

For general Park & Recreation information, see the Frequently Asked Questions, call 619-525-8213 or use the My Park web comment form.