Penasquitos Canyon Hike

  A hike to a local scenic area

Trip Report 20160303

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The Experience

I have lived in San Diego for almost 40 years and have never hiked in Penasquitos Canyon.  Penasquitos (or PQ as the locals call it) is a neighborhood in northern San Diego between Del Mar on the coast and Poway on the inland side.  The main canyon works its way from the mountains through Poway and then PQ on its way to Pacific south of Del Mar via Sorrento Valley.  When our friends Jerry and Robin invited us to join them on a brief hike, we packed our stuff and headed out.  Our destination for the day was the "waterfall" in Penasquitos Canyon.

These photos were shot using my circa 2006 Leica M8 camera and a Voightlander 35mm manual lens.

The photos below are what we saw.

The path we chose to the waterfall required we park in a residential area to reach the trail head.  There were some very nice homes in the area.

Northern San Diego has some nice homes, but we had never been in this specific area before and was surprised by the sizes of some of the dwellings.  The whole structure is not visible because the trail is heading into a side canyon, but just based on the roof line, this is a big home.

As we followed the trail we got restricted views of the homes in the are, but what we could see was impressive.  Many of the homes had large, ground-mounted solar arrays.

Further into the upper reaches of a side canyon allowed us to see some isolated homes with nice landscaping.

The distant ridges to the northeast had homes on the canyon rim.  The canyon is part of the reserve.

Near the bottom of the side canyon we spotted this yucca in bloom.

There was a man-made retaining pond at the bottom of the canyon.  The existence of any standing water in this area is surprising.

Looking north up the side canyon we could see the large homes on the canyon rim.  Note the ducks on the pond.

Robin, Kathleen and Jerry finish looking at the ducks and we continued on toward the main branch of Penasquitos Canyon.

When we reached the main canyon we could see Mount Woodson to the east.

The recent rains caused most of the plants to be happy.

I was surprised by the amount of rocks in the bottom of the canyon.  This is rather atypical for canyons in this area.

There was a reasonable flow of water in the creek.

The amount and type of the vegetation near the creek attests to the persistence of water in the stream.

Photos seemed to be the sport of the day.

Stone steps had been laid on the south side of the canyon wall.

The depth of the canyon can be estimated from the fellow climbing up from the water.

I later photographed the same fellow in a different part of the canyon.

The water made a pleasing sound as it poured over the rocks.

The foamy chud at the base of this little cascade is a testament to the questionable quality of the water in the creek.  Much of this water is "urban runoff" which comes from streets and storm sewers and is usually laced with automobile drippings, animal droppings and dish washing detergents.

The water flow level was small now, but note the erosion in the pocket of rock in the left center of the photo above.  This erosion is the result of powerful hydraulic action over extended periods of time.  Clearly, this steam carried much more water in the past to cause this level of erosion.

Below the set of cascades was a tranquil pool.

It was nearly sunset so we headed out toward our car.  The return path was uphill the whole way and we had several near-collisions with high-speed mountain bikes descending from the rim of the canyon.

PQ canyon is remarkable because there is water.  While this might seem normal to anyone from an area with rain, it is rare indeed in the arid southwest, particularly the coastal regions.  It is good that the city of San Diego had the foresight to declare the area a park and keep it in its natural state.  PQ has many miles of hiking trails and it is worth a visit if you are in the area.

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