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Parks & Recreation

Rose Canyon Open Space Park

Photo of Rose Canyon Park Trail

Rose Canyon Open Space Park Trails Map (PDF)

The Kumeyaay Indians originally inhabited Rose Canyon thousands of years ago. There was a seasonal village in the canyon where the Kumeyaay would camp around the waterholes and streams, hunt game, gather acorns from the abundant coastal live oaks, and weave baskets from the arroyo willow trees.

The first recorded history in Rose Canyon begins with Juan Gaspar Portola's expedition to San Diego in 1769. By the early 1800s, the area was inhabited by Mexican ranchers. In 1853 Louis Rose, who the canyon is named after, purchased about 650 acres and built a ranch, a tannery, planted a vineyard, and mined coal deposits and clay. In 1882, the California Southern Railroad completed a track through the canyon and by 1912, the Elvira Station was a train stop near Gilman Drive. Subsequent landowners expanded on Rose's notion of using Rose Canyon commercially and the Sawday Ranch was maintained until the 1960s, when the last structures were removed.

Rose Canyon Park Signage

Rose Canyon Open Space Park contains many interacting habitats unique to Southern California. Coastal sage scrub and chaparral cover hills and fields, an oak woodland works along the north-facing hillsides, while a very rare riparian habitat runs the length of the park.

The Rose Creek watershed is local in nature extending no further east than Scripps Ranch. The creek naturally meanders around the canyon floor, which continues to deepen and widen until it drains into Mission Bay. Wildlife includes raccoons, skunks, rabbits, coyotes, foxes and mule deer. The raptors flying above Rose Canyon are some of the most majestic animals anywhere, including many varieties of owls and large hawks.

Volunteers are always welcome to help with the maintenance and operation of the park and 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) 581-9961. In an emergency, please call 911.