Mission Trails Regional Park
One Father Junipero Serra Trail, Mission Gorge
One of the largest open-space urban parks in the continental United States, the Mission Trails Regional Park uniquely allows mountain bikers. Its 41 miles of hiking trails and 23 miles of mountain-bike trails have cool, easy rides on pavement to technically difficult, blazing hot dirt and 1000-foot descents with plenty of single track and rocks upon which to split your face. Probably the biggest danger is heat exhaustion and injury. "If you get hurt and you don't have a cell phone, there are almost 6000 acres, and you may be there a while," says the park's newest ranger, Luanne Barrett. High altitudes provide spectacular 360-degree views including the ocean, mountains, freeways, city, and Miramar pilots as they land and take off. The park is not overrun with bikers, but "don't scream around corners where you can't see people," Barrett says. Rattlesnakes are a danger, but 98 percent of bites are from people harassing the snakes. "Only 2 percent are an 'Oops, I stuck my hand or foot where I wasn't supposed to.'" Two hundred years ago, the Spanish used Native-American labor to build the Mission Dam -- its broken remains are still there. Later the northern section of the park was a military defense-training range. Ranger Rick Thompson is the mountain-bike guru in the park.