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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. Stretching 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 rich 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. Over 500 plant species, more than 175 types of birds, and great variety of reptiles, amphibians and mammals evidences the rich bio-diversity of the canyon. 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 includes:

  • 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 fresh water 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 than 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.