The City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department manages and maintains the trails of San Pasqual and Clevenger Canyon, located east of the San Pasqual Valley. These trails offer great hiking and bird watching, and are part of the San Dieguito River Park. Note that bicyclists and equestrians are not allowed.
Many years ago, these trails were used by the Kumueyaay Indians who found ample food and medical resources along the trails. Historians believe the trails allowed them to collect more than 12,000 native plants. Spanish settlement in 1769 began a process of drastic change for the Kumeyaay people. Missionaries introduced new social and religious practices, and settlers claimed land for agriculture and cattle ranching, which became the area's economic mainstay.
When Mexico ceded California to the United States in 1848 following the Mexican-American War, most ranches were dissolved. Years later, a man named John Clevenger and his family settled in the San Pasqual Valley and began farming dairy and wheat which proved to be a major source of income for them, and for those who followed them. In recent years, avocados and citrus have become profitable for people in the area.
This area is known for its peaks and steeply sloped canyons. The valley itself actually developed over a local fault, and an immense amount of granite lies under most of the region. Reddish, coarse, sandy loam covers the hillsides as a result of weathered remains from exposed batholith. These hillsides support a unique plant community known as southern mixed chaparral, which is dominated by chamise, ceanothus and scrub oak. Clevenger Canyon also contains many specimens of rare Englemann Oak which provides food and shelter for an abundance of wildlife. Although poison oak berries are noxious to humans, many species find them to be a valuable food source.
Each trailhead has a paved parking area. There are no rest room facilities and overnight camping is not allowed in the parking areas or in the canyon. Carrying plenty of drinking water is recommended since it is often hot in the canyon. The south trail head is the shorter of the two trails at 1.5 miles. From the parking lot, the west trail climbs gently up open slopes to a trail fork. The west branch of this trail fork gradually ascends through the flower strewn hillside to an overlook of San Pasqual Valley. The east trail extends 2.3 miles from the parking lot. It descends to a ravine that is shaded by oak and sycamore trees. From there, the trail climbs through chamise and black sage, joining a trail that reaches a summit of 1,755 feet. The main trail veers north and along the ridge through deerweed to a 1,635 foot summit that also provides a beautiful view of the San Pasqual Valley. The north trail head is approximately 20 miles round trip, and while it is more challenging than the south trail head, it also offers more variety and solitude. The trail is in need of maintenance and several miles in, the trail is so overgrown that it is no longer a trail and there are no directional markers. (We are currently trying to find where the original trail is and map it.) We recommend hikers to stop when the trail is no longer defined. Maps are available upon request by calling the park ranger office.
To get to San Pasqual and Clevenger Canyon from downtown San Diego, take state Route 163 north and continue onto Interstate 15 north. Exit at Via Rancho Parkway and travel east. Turn right on San Pasqual Valley Road and follow signs to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The southern trail head is located 5.3 miles from San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the northern tail head is 5.8 miles ahead. Parking lots are open from sunrise to sunset.
For more information on San Pasqual and Clevenger Canyon, call the office of the park ranger at 858-538-8082.
To report suspected illegal activity including transient encampments, encroachment onto City property, or other maintenance needs, please call 858-538-8082. In an emergency, please call 911.