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Stories by Jerry Schad

Big Bend Loop

Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is just one component of south Orange ­County’s 20,000-acre swath of coastal open-space parkland that is open to all kinds of non-motorized travel. The Big Bend Loop trail route (which takes ...

San Clemente Canyon

Eastbound in the right lane of Highway 52, the San Clemente Canyon Freeway, you can look down upon a long, slender, almost unbroken swath of natural vegetation: massive sycamores, stately live oaks, swaying willows, climbing ...

Mulholland Ridge

Los ­Angeles’s scenic and storied Mulholland Drive/Highway skims across the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains from the Hollywood Hills all the way to Ventura County. If Mulholland were ever extended farther eastward from its ...

Lakeside-Poway Bike Ride

Two of inland San Diego ­County’s most important east-west highways, Scripps-Poway Parkway and the Tierrasanta-to-Santee stretch of the Highway 52 Freeway, have been designed to carry bicycle as well as auto traffic. They can be ...

Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary

Silverwood. The name comes from the glittering effect of sunlight upon the dark-green leaves of the coast live oak. Scores of these trees, some of them two-century-old giants scarred by wildfire, shade the canyon floor ...

Mason Valley Truck Trail

Two hundred thirty-eight years ago, a small party led by the Spanish Colonel Pedro Fages chased after army deserters from the Presidio of San Diego, trekking through a narrow declivity known as Oriflamme Canyon on ...

Indian Creek Loop

Spring is finally arriving in upper-elevation San Diego County. At mile-high elevations you can find lingering bursts of wildflower color amid the somber pines and bright-green black oaks. For a wide-ranging introduction to this mountain ...

Fisherman's Camp Loop

After the series of rainstorms we experienced this past winter season, Riverside County’s San Mateo Canyon is brimming with a cold, sparkling stream. The surrounding hillsides (all a part of the Cleveland National Forest) have ...

Los Peñasquitos Lagoon

Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, one of San Diego County’s largest coastal wetlands, spreads far and wide in Sorrento Valley, between La Jolla and Torrey Pines. Nearly all of this marshy area belongs to Torrey Pines State ...

Where to find an Easter Sunrise in San Diego County

You trudge ever upward with steady footfalls, steering clear of barely seen rocks and roots. Night vision rules, monochromatic and flat, supplied by the light from a three-quarter, waning moon sinking in the west. As ...

Caliente Wilderness

North of Warner Springs, a several-miles-long segment of the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) traverses Cleveland National Forest land that may one day be designated the “Caliente Wilderness Area.” Certainly the area is remote enough ...

Upper Hot Spring Canyon

Silent, except for the gentle gurgle of water over stone, upper Hot Spring Canyon is an easy-to-reach hideaway in the Santa Ana Mountains, not very far from a pair of Cleveland National Forest campgrounds. Those ...

Tubb Canyon

Big Spring, tucked in a tributary of Tubb Canyon on the west side of Borrego Valley, is one of the more reliable water producers in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. As such, it’s an important ...

East Canyon Loop

Verdant East Canyon tucks into steep, north-facing slopes just below the crest of the Santa Susana Mountains. The canyon receives an average of about 20 inches of rainfall annually — just enough, in an environment ...

Arroyo Seco & Monument Loop

"In Memory of Col. F. C. Marshall and 1st Lt. C. L. Webber who fell at this spot Dec. 7, 1922.” Without this inscription, the presence of an old 12-cylinder engine permanently mounted in stone ...

O'Melveny Park

O’Melveny Park spreads over 672 acres, second on the list of largest parks within the City of Los Angeles, right after the much-more-spacious Griffith Park. Noted for its picture-perfect picnic grounds with white fences and ...

Smoke Tree Canyon

Stark and barren, yet glorious in their nakedness, Anza-Borrego’s skeletal mountain ranges conceal more than they reveal to casual passersby. If you want to know them better, you must leave the security of the automotive ...

Sycamore Canyon/Puente Hills

The name “Sycamore Canyon” in California geography plays a rather redundant role. How many canyons have specimens of native sycamore, and how many of those were named (either in English or in Spanish) after that ...

Vital Link Trail

The practically straight-up Vital Link Trail connects popular Wildwood Canyon Park in the Verdugo foothills with the Verdugo Mountains crestline. Almost every step on the trail yields a higher vantage for the panoramic view of ...

Flat Cat Canyon

Flat Cat Canyon is the curious name given to a rugged gorge southwest of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park visitor center and not far outside the community of Borrego Springs. Park rangers once found a ...

Mount Zion Loop

On the Mount Zion loop hike, you get to discover plenty of wild territory tucked back into the steeply rising “Front Range” of the San Gabriel Mountains. Why Front Range? Because these fortress-like ramparts form ...

Rockhouse Canyon and Valley

Straddling the San Diego–Riverside county line, Rockhouse Canyon and the broad, sloping alluvial basin drained by it — informally known as Rockhouse Valley — constitute one of Southern California’s truly forgotten places. Not much more ...

Las Virgenes Canyon

Upper Las Virgenes Canyon, near Calabasas at the edge of the San Fernando Valley, is one of those places where you can make the sight and sound of a huge metropolitan area simply disappear after ...

Sunrise, Sunset

An observer’s guide to the best sunrises and sunsets around San Diego.

Winter is an often-ideal time for watching the sun rise or set in and around San Diego. Picture yourself on a clear late afternoon, perched atop a seaside bluff or on one of the hills ...

Harper Canyon

A long and leisurely ramble up the sinuous course of Harper Canyon in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park leads hikers to Harper Flat, a four-square-mile valley hidden from casual view by rock-strewn ridges and peaks. The ...

Punta Mesa Loop

Clear, late-autumn skies and cool temperatures inland beckon you to visit southwest Riverside County’s premier ecological showplace: Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve. The leisurely half-day Punta Mesa loop hike will introduce you to virtually every ...

Dos Picos Park Nature Trail

Serene Dos Picos County Park, outside Ramona, nestles into East County’s sweet-smelling chaparral hillsides like a dewdrop caught in the hollow of a leaf. The name refers to two prominent mountain peaks nearby, though which ...

Devil Canyon

Southern California abounds with duplicate place names such as Devil Canyon, Devil’s Canyon, Devil’s Peak, Devil’s Punchbowl, and the like. In the particular Devil Canyon described here, which lies at the northwest corner of the ...

Sombrero Peak

Sombrero Peak rises head and shoulders above the southern precincts of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, its summit overlooking a hundred-square-mile expanse of rock-strewn mountains and gorges, sun-baked valleys, and shimmering badlands. Conversely, the peak ...

Black Canyon Bike Ride

Several back roads, some paved and some unpaved, strike off in various directions from Ramona, each offering splendid bicycle touring that doesn’t have to include tangling with snarling traffic on major roads. Black Canyon Road ...

Bedford Peak

The no-nonsense climb (2200 feet of elevation gain) to Bedford Peak, one of the principal summits along the Santa Ana Mountains’ “Main Divide,” is both physically demanding and scenically rewarding. The latter is especially true ...

Mine Canyon

Tranquil Mine Canyon and its several tributaries slash deep into the Pinyon Mountains of central Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Day after day, year after year, the parched ravines and boulder-splintered hillsides lie open to the ...

Piuma Overlook

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area encompasses a broad range of parks and publicly owned open space areas, ranging from 10,000-acre-plus state parks to tiny parcels situated to protect unusual natural habitat, or to ...

Indian Flats Bike Ride

With summer’s heat subsiding throughout San Diego’s backcountry region, now’s the time to think about fat-tire-biking adventures on the back roads of the Cleveland National Forest. One great option is a looping ride of 25 ...

Charmlee Wilderness Park

Charmlee Wilderness Park (a.k.a. Charmlee Natural Area), 590 acres of meadow, oak woodland, sage scrub, and chaparral, was first opened to the public in 1981 as a unit of the Los Angeles County park system. ...

Cowles Mountain to Pyles Peak

Pyles Peak is just one bump in a series of several distinct high points stretching between Cowles Mountain and Fortuna Mountain in East County’s Mission Trails Regional Park. Collectively, the high points make up a ...

South Fork Trail

The easygoing descent of the South Fork Trail doesn’t take much effort. You simply put one foot in front of the other and let gravity do the rest. The well-graded trail descends (or ascends if ...

Hook Up to Hike

You’re new in San Diego — or maybe just new to walking and hiking — and you want to hit the local trails with other individuals. How do you get plugged into the hiking community ...

Harry Griffen Park

Harry Griffen Park, quietly tucked away in the Grossmont Summit area where La Mesa and El Cajon adjoin, has for years remained one of East County’s well-kept secrets. As the largest park within La Mesa’s ...

Inspiration Point

Long gone are the days when tourists traveled to Inspiration Point — high above Pasadena in the San Gabriel Mountains — by way of the Mount Lowe Railway. The railway, Southern California’s premier tourist attraction ...

Point Loma Bike Ride

The Point Loma peninsula has a split personality. In the north, block upon block of houses spread over the peninsula’s broad spine. Military land and park space (Cabrillo National Monument) encompass the peninsula’s narrower south ...

Crest Canyon Open Space

Crest Canyon, an open-space park within the city limits of San Diego, helps separate the woodsy City of Del Mar from the bustling sprawl of inland Del Mar and Carmel Valley to the east. The ...

Barnett Ranch & Luelf Pond

In the past couple of years, San Diego County has opened two new flora- and fauna-rich open-space preserves just south of Ramona. Both are key links in the county’s Multiple Species Conservation Program, which aims ...

Whitney Canyon

Few areas along Interstate 5 in California are as desolate and as traffic-dense as the stretch immediately north of the San Fernando Valley, where a zillion traffic lanes and ramps sort themselves out in the ...

The Ponds at Daley Ranch

The “ponds tour,” suitable for hikers, runners, and mountain bikers, serves as a fine introduction to the City of Escondido’s Daley Ranch — a sprawling, 3000-acre open-space preserve in the hills north of town. The ...

Down the East Fork

Born from snow-fed rivulets, the many tributaries of the East Fork San Gabriel River gather together to form one of the liveliest streams in the San Gabriel Mountains. At “the Narrows” of the East Fork, ...

Dyar Spring/Juaquapin Loop

If water is an element essential to your hiking pleasure, then this hike in the Cuyamacas may be for you. Along Juaquapin Creek, you can sit in the shade and listen to the most peaceful ...

El Prieto Canyon

The quiet, shady interior of El Prieto Canyon seems impossibly remote given its stone’s-throw proximity to the edge of an Altadena subdivision. Majestic live oaks flank the canyon’s stream, casting dense pools of shade. A ...

Arroyo Trabuco

Decades-old O’Neill Regional Park near Rancho Santa Margarita has a newer “appendage” — a six-mile piece of the Arroyo Trabuco, a shallow, gradually descending canyon going south toward Mission Viejo. An old fire road along ...

Culp Valley and Pena Spring

While most of the Anza-Borrego Desert swelters, the temperature hovers as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler at the “high desert” locale of Culp Valley, 3400 feet above sea level. Culp Valley is the only ...