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Lake Murray's paved (closed to cars) perimeter path is near East County's most pleasant and most popular place to gulp some fresh air on a summer morning or late afternoon. Unfortunately, the recreation path ends at a point about three miles around from the reservoir's main entrance, and it is not possible to traverse the vintage 1918 concrete dam and complete a shoreline loop.

You can, however, circle the lake on foot by means of the following circuitous route involving back streets through San Carlos, Del Cerro, and La Mesa. Measuring six miles, with a couple of protracted uphill segments, this route is the shortest practical loop route on which you won't encounter "No Trespassing" signs.

Start at Lake Murray's main entrance, on Kiowa Drive, inside or outside the gate as you please. Pick up the perimeter path east of the parking lots and continue on near-flat pavement for two miles to the ball fields on the north end of the lake. Make your way north to Murray Park Drive, and pick up the left-side sidewalk. You soon cross Park Ridge Boulevard and commence a steep ascent that takes you out of the neighborhood of San Carlos and into lofty Del Cerro. At the top of the hill, turn left on Crystalaire Drive. After a short block make a right on Ridgemoor Drive, and after a long block make a left on Glenlea Lane.

On your left, a sign indicates public land ahead and to the right. Curve down and around to the right on a narrow, sometimes rocky, dirt path, enjoying stupendous views of the lake on your left. Squirrels and cottontail rabbits bolt for cover practically at your feet.

The path eventually joins Dwane Avenue. As soon as you get there, make a left on sharply descending Elaine Way, taking note of an elaborate front-yard cycad and succulent garden on the right. After a block, make a right on Del Cerro Boulevard, continuing the steep descent. The SDSU campus spreads over Montezuma Mesa ahead, and the Coronado Islands can be seen dimpling the ocean surface, clear air permitting.

When you reach the bottom of the hill, stay on Del Cerro Boulevard's left sidewalk. Just past Meredith Avenue (at 6475 Del Cerro Boulevard), veer left on a narrow asphalt path skirting Del Cerro Park and join Dartford Way. Continue down Dartford to Airoso Avenue, turn left, and endure a half-mile or so of freeway noise and fumes. You edge by Chaparral Canyon (the ravine below Lake Murray) on the left, where riparian habitat restoration is taking place and no entry is allowed. Bear left on Adelante Avenue, and make a forced right turn on Colorado Avenue.

It's uphill all the way on Colorado, through an isolated and obscure La Mesa neighborhood. When Colorado ends, follow a path on the right, down to the sidewalk on Lake Murray Boulevard and alongside the water-treatment plant fence. You'll pass a giant circular drinking-water tank in its final construction stages. Join Kiowa Drive and return to your starting point.

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