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Visit El Monte Park near Lakeside, where massive oaks spread below the stony gaze of "El Capitan" mountain.

Tucked against a rocky, sunburnt hillside in the San Diego River valley outside Lakeside, El Monte Regional Park is a shock to the eye on a bright summer day. The park spreads across 98 flat acres bright green with irrigated lawns and spotted black with dozens of massive, brooding coast live-oak trees. In the early 20th Century the oaks were a frequent destination of picknickers taking refuge from the hot summer sun and campers who regarded the locale as remote from San Diego and probably a little exotic. In the 1920s, spearheaded by local citizens, El Monte became one of San Diego's original county parks. With more than 100,000 visits a year today, the park has become one of the most popular, yet unsung, inland destinations within San Diego County.

To get to the park entrance from Interstate 8, exit at Lake Jennings Park Road, drive 1.5 miles north, turn right (east) on El Monte Road, and proceed 4 miles up along the valley of the San Diego River. As you approach the park, the granite-ribbed south face of El Cajon Mountain, nicknamed "El Capitan" in reference to the similar-looking El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, rears higher and higher in the sky. The mountain's presence arches over the park, shadowing it in early morning and glowing with the warm light of the setting sun by late afternoon. Parking within the fenced park boundary costs $2 per day.

Because El Monte Park is fenced, hiking opportunities are limited, though you may enjoy endless circuits of walking or running around its perimeter, which measures about two-thirds of a mile. Note that there is, as yet, no public easement for hiking from the park toward the face of El Capitan. Mostly, the park serves as a cool summertime refuge for family picnicking (there are seven reservable picnic areas on the grass), weddings, dancing (in an outdoor dance pavilion), and for sports such as volleyball.

El Monte Park's hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to sunset on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. For more information on this and the other regional parks operated by the County of San Diego, call 858-694-3049.

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Tucked against a rocky, sunburnt hillside in the San Diego River valley outside Lakeside, El Monte Regional Park is a shock to the eye on a bright summer day. The park spreads across 98 flat acres bright green with irrigated lawns and spotted black with dozens of massive, brooding coast live-oak trees. In the early 20th Century the oaks were a frequent destination of picknickers taking refuge from the hot summer sun and campers who regarded the locale as remote from San Diego and probably a little exotic. In the 1920s, spearheaded by local citizens, El Monte became one of San Diego's original county parks. With more than 100,000 visits a year today, the park has become one of the most popular, yet unsung, inland destinations within San Diego County.

To get to the park entrance from Interstate 8, exit at Lake Jennings Park Road, drive 1.5 miles north, turn right (east) on El Monte Road, and proceed 4 miles up along the valley of the San Diego River. As you approach the park, the granite-ribbed south face of El Cajon Mountain, nicknamed "El Capitan" in reference to the similar-looking El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, rears higher and higher in the sky. The mountain's presence arches over the park, shadowing it in early morning and glowing with the warm light of the setting sun by late afternoon. Parking within the fenced park boundary costs $2 per day.

Because El Monte Park is fenced, hiking opportunities are limited, though you may enjoy endless circuits of walking or running around its perimeter, which measures about two-thirds of a mile. Note that there is, as yet, no public easement for hiking from the park toward the face of El Capitan. Mostly, the park serves as a cool summertime refuge for family picnicking (there are seven reservable picnic areas on the grass), weddings, dancing (in an outdoor dance pavilion), and for sports such as volleyball.

El Monte Park's hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:30 a.m. to sunset on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. For more information on this and the other regional parks operated by the County of San Diego, call 858-694-3049.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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