While late-afternoon traffic snarls and tempers flare on North County's Interstate 5 and at the "merge," just inland lies an oasis of tranquillity: San Dieguito Park. Not to be confused with the huge San Dieguito River Park emerging along a 50-mile-long strip of wildland centered on the San Dieguito River, San Dieguito Park is a relatively small county-run regional facility with amenities such as ballfields, picnic tables, playgrounds, and spaces to rent for dances or weddings.
During a recent visit late on a Sunday afternoon the park seemed half deserted, despite perfect weather and an agreeable atmosphere: temperatures in the 70s, cooling ocean breezes sighing through the swaying branches of eucalyptus trees, and vistas of blue sky and brown-and-green earth in every direction.
A pint-sized network of trails, under various stages of repair or neglect, laces the sage- and chaparral-coated slopes on the park's north side. If you wander for a few minutes here, one way or the other you're likely to arrive at a high point called Activity Hill, which has an Indiana Jones assortment of lookouts, ladders, and swaying bridges fashioned from logs and steel cable. Ostensibly for kids, they're just as fun for adults. The light-beige rock picturesquely exposed on Activity Hill is Torrey Sandstone -- the same 50-million-year-old marine sedimentary rock you find in the upper parts of Torrey Pines State Reserve.
You can reach San Dieguito Park from I-5 by driving one mile east on Lomas Santa Fe Drive to Highland Drive. Use the park's upper entrance on Highland Drive, or continue farther on Highland to El Camino Real to reach the park's lower entrance. There are many fine sites for spreading a blanket on the grass and picnicking in the lower part of the park. Current hours at San Dieguito Park are 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays the park is open through sunset. For more information, call San Diego county parks at 858-565-3600.