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Explore Lopez Canyon, a serene minor member of the canyon system in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve.

A sparrow hawk alights upon a sycamore limb, then launches with outstretched wings to catch a puff of sea breeze moving up the canyon. A mule deer bounces across the pathway, pausing to take your measure with a wary stare. The yellow-brown, desiccated leaves of the sycamores of Lopez Canyon chafe and break free of their moorings and spin toward the gravelly canyon floor.

As a minor member of the canyon system in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, Lopez Canyon is serene compared to the main Los Peñasquitos Canyon. The sights and smells of sage and chaparral and the stately sycamores down along the creek bed echo the long period when vaqueros herded cattle through this and many other San Diego canyons. Cattle grazed this canyon until the late 1980s, a tradition that stretched back to the Spanish and Mexican periods.

Today, the Los Peñasquitos Preserve serves as a buffer between the speading suburbs of north San Diego and as a place for self-propelled visitors to "recreate." Although mountain-bike travel is allowed on the popular, six-mile-long dirt roadway through Los Peñasquitos Canyon, Lopez Canyon itself is reserved for travel on foot only.

From Los Peñasquitos Preserve's west-side parking lot, off Sorrento Valley Boulevard a mile east of the I-5/I-805 merge, start walking east on a former dirt road following Lopez Canyon's broad floor. On the scenic stretch ahead, you'll spot an enormous, multitrunked sycamore tree on the right covering an area about 100 feet across. Make your way along the cobbled canyon bottom, which will harbor a shallow stream if and when the winter rains arrive.

A short mile east from the parking lot, the Old Lopez Road (now a trail), descending from Pacific Center Boulevard, intersects on the right. The Lopez family homesteaded this section of the canyon a century ago and built a cabin on a little flat just north of the canyon's stream. You can look for the cabin's remains next to an old pepper tree and, higher up, discover an old concrete cistern.

After traveling about 1.7 miles up Lopez Canyon, you'll reach the last of the scattered trees -- just short of the towering Camino Santa Fe concrete bridge. This is a good place to turn around. Beyond, the going gets rougher on a cobble-strewn stretch of canyon bottom.

Whenever heavy rains come, muddy trails are the result. In this instance, Los Peñasquitos Preserve closes until the trails become firm again. For more information, call the preserve at 858-538-8066.

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A sparrow hawk alights upon a sycamore limb, then launches with outstretched wings to catch a puff of sea breeze moving up the canyon. A mule deer bounces across the pathway, pausing to take your measure with a wary stare. The yellow-brown, desiccated leaves of the sycamores of Lopez Canyon chafe and break free of their moorings and spin toward the gravelly canyon floor.

As a minor member of the canyon system in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, Lopez Canyon is serene compared to the main Los Peñasquitos Canyon. The sights and smells of sage and chaparral and the stately sycamores down along the creek bed echo the long period when vaqueros herded cattle through this and many other San Diego canyons. Cattle grazed this canyon until the late 1980s, a tradition that stretched back to the Spanish and Mexican periods.

Today, the Los Peñasquitos Preserve serves as a buffer between the speading suburbs of north San Diego and as a place for self-propelled visitors to "recreate." Although mountain-bike travel is allowed on the popular, six-mile-long dirt roadway through Los Peñasquitos Canyon, Lopez Canyon itself is reserved for travel on foot only.

From Los Peñasquitos Preserve's west-side parking lot, off Sorrento Valley Boulevard a mile east of the I-5/I-805 merge, start walking east on a former dirt road following Lopez Canyon's broad floor. On the scenic stretch ahead, you'll spot an enormous, multitrunked sycamore tree on the right covering an area about 100 feet across. Make your way along the cobbled canyon bottom, which will harbor a shallow stream if and when the winter rains arrive.

A short mile east from the parking lot, the Old Lopez Road (now a trail), descending from Pacific Center Boulevard, intersects on the right. The Lopez family homesteaded this section of the canyon a century ago and built a cabin on a little flat just north of the canyon's stream. You can look for the cabin's remains next to an old pepper tree and, higher up, discover an old concrete cistern.

After traveling about 1.7 miles up Lopez Canyon, you'll reach the last of the scattered trees -- just short of the towering Camino Santa Fe concrete bridge. This is a good place to turn around. Beyond, the going gets rougher on a cobble-strewn stretch of canyon bottom.

Whenever heavy rains come, muddy trails are the result. In this instance, Los Peñasquitos Preserve closes until the trails become firm again. For more information, call the preserve at 858-538-8066.

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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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