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Explore Balboa Park's wilder east side on foot or by mountain bike.

Balboa Park has plenty of "tame" places to walk, such as landscaped sidewalks on the grassy west side, paved trails inside the San Diego Zoo, and a number of semiwild trails in canyon bottoms near the museums. But in the park's lesser-known eastern section, centered on Florida Canyon, you can find about four miles worth of relatively primitive trails for use by hikers, runners, birdwatchers, wildflower gazers, and mountain bikers.

Of course, the natural vegetation of Florida Canyon -- classified mostly as coastal sage scrub but with plenty of nonnative species mixed in -- may appear scruffy and desiccated by comparison with the lushly (and artificially) landscaped acres of Balboa Park proper. The aesthetic differences between the two sides of the park, however, will likely be minimized during the next three months, when the canyon sides wear a new coat of fresh green growth, wildflowers bloom, and the breeze bears the sweet/pungent scents of black sage and California sagebrush.

The principal starting point for the Florida Canyon trail system lies just west of the Morley Field athletic complex in the northeast corner of Balboa Park. At the trailhead parking lot you'll find a native plant demonstration garden, with a short trail looping through it. Nearby, there's a grassy space for dogs to roam. South of there, a somewhat intricate network of interconnecting trails clings to both sides of a wide ravine (called Florida Canyon), the floor of which is traversed by Florida Drive. That street may someday be permanently closed to automobile traffic at its northern end, an improvement for anyone using the trails and for the wildlife that maintains a tenuous existence in this minipatch of wilderness within the city.

Fashion your own route on the trail system, which contains interconnected pieces of old roads and trails. Though most of those pathways are easy to hike, several are technically challenging for mountain bikers. Be aware that -- depending on the level of trail maintenance and the amount of recent rain -- the trails can quickly get overgrown with brushy vegetation.

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Balboa Park has plenty of "tame" places to walk, such as landscaped sidewalks on the grassy west side, paved trails inside the San Diego Zoo, and a number of semiwild trails in canyon bottoms near the museums. But in the park's lesser-known eastern section, centered on Florida Canyon, you can find about four miles worth of relatively primitive trails for use by hikers, runners, birdwatchers, wildflower gazers, and mountain bikers.

Of course, the natural vegetation of Florida Canyon -- classified mostly as coastal sage scrub but with plenty of nonnative species mixed in -- may appear scruffy and desiccated by comparison with the lushly (and artificially) landscaped acres of Balboa Park proper. The aesthetic differences between the two sides of the park, however, will likely be minimized during the next three months, when the canyon sides wear a new coat of fresh green growth, wildflowers bloom, and the breeze bears the sweet/pungent scents of black sage and California sagebrush.

The principal starting point for the Florida Canyon trail system lies just west of the Morley Field athletic complex in the northeast corner of Balboa Park. At the trailhead parking lot you'll find a native plant demonstration garden, with a short trail looping through it. Nearby, there's a grassy space for dogs to roam. South of there, a somewhat intricate network of interconnecting trails clings to both sides of a wide ravine (called Florida Canyon), the floor of which is traversed by Florida Drive. That street may someday be permanently closed to automobile traffic at its northern end, an improvement for anyone using the trails and for the wildlife that maintains a tenuous existence in this minipatch of wilderness within the city.

Fashion your own route on the trail system, which contains interconnected pieces of old roads and trails. Though most of those pathways are easy to hike, several are technically challenging for mountain bikers. Be aware that -- depending on the level of trail maintenance and the amount of recent rain -- the trails can quickly get overgrown with brushy vegetation.

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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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