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Bring the kids along for a mini-hike at Stelzer County Park, tucked amid the bouldered hills near Lakeside.

Stelzer County Park features 314 acres' worth of trails, campsites, picnic tables, and a small "Nature Studies Interpretive Center" set alongside Wildcat Canyon Road northeast of Lakeside. The park's core area was designed to accommodate persons with disabilities, though all visitors and hikers are welcome. In recent years, narrow, steep Wildcat Canyon Road has become almost congested with a steady stream of fast traffic heading toward the Barona Casino. If you're heading to Stelzer Park from Lakeside, be prepared to make a right turn at the park entrance after traveling Wildcat Canyon Road two miles uphill from Mapleview Street in Lakeside.

Two trail routes of different character are of interest to hikers in the outlying parts of the park. The Riparian Trail parallels the stream bottom of Wildcat Canyon for 0.7 mile and ends at a secluded picnic site. It's mostly shaded by a stream-hugging canopy of live oaks, some draped with filigrees of wild-grape and poison-oak vines.

The Stelzer Ridge Trail, on the other hand, zigzags 0.6 mile toward the ridgeline south and east of Wildcat Canyon. Once on top, there are two choices for those who wish a better view: you can go 0.3 mile to the right on a powerline access road to reach "Kumeyaay Promontory," or go 0.5 mile to the left on the same road, up a very steep pitch, toward "Stelzer Summit." At Stelzer Summit, you can turn right (south), climb toward the rock pile atop the nearby hill, and discover a hidden boulder-cave with an opening that overlooks a rural stretch of the San Diego River Valley. When the sea breeze blows up the valley, this becomes surely the coolest spot within the park. Off in the distance, down the valley toward the west, sprawl the suburbs of Lakeside and Santee.

Stelzer Park's day-use hours are Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends 9:30 a.m. to dusk. Phone: 619-561-0580. Go soon to enjoy the best wildflower season the park has seen in years.

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Stelzer County Park features 314 acres' worth of trails, campsites, picnic tables, and a small "Nature Studies Interpretive Center" set alongside Wildcat Canyon Road northeast of Lakeside. The park's core area was designed to accommodate persons with disabilities, though all visitors and hikers are welcome. In recent years, narrow, steep Wildcat Canyon Road has become almost congested with a steady stream of fast traffic heading toward the Barona Casino. If you're heading to Stelzer Park from Lakeside, be prepared to make a right turn at the park entrance after traveling Wildcat Canyon Road two miles uphill from Mapleview Street in Lakeside.

Two trail routes of different character are of interest to hikers in the outlying parts of the park. The Riparian Trail parallels the stream bottom of Wildcat Canyon for 0.7 mile and ends at a secluded picnic site. It's mostly shaded by a stream-hugging canopy of live oaks, some draped with filigrees of wild-grape and poison-oak vines.

The Stelzer Ridge Trail, on the other hand, zigzags 0.6 mile toward the ridgeline south and east of Wildcat Canyon. Once on top, there are two choices for those who wish a better view: you can go 0.3 mile to the right on a powerline access road to reach "Kumeyaay Promontory," or go 0.5 mile to the left on the same road, up a very steep pitch, toward "Stelzer Summit." At Stelzer Summit, you can turn right (south), climb toward the rock pile atop the nearby hill, and discover a hidden boulder-cave with an opening that overlooks a rural stretch of the San Diego River Valley. When the sea breeze blows up the valley, this becomes surely the coolest spot within the park. Off in the distance, down the valley toward the west, sprawl the suburbs of Lakeside and Santee.

Stelzer Park's day-use hours are Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends 9:30 a.m. to dusk. Phone: 619-561-0580. Go soon to enjoy the best wildflower season the park has seen in years.

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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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