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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 city limits, its 53 acres encompass grassy fields, sidewalks and dirt trails, a eucalyptus-shaded picnic area with barbecues, an amphitheater with seating for up to 360 persons, a kids’ playground, and a fenced enclosure for unleashed dogs.

The park’s main drive-in entrance is on Milden Street, off Water Street, just north of Grossmont High School. Two additional pedestrian-only entrances can be used during daylight hours along Poppy Street in La Mesa and at the end of Blackthorne Court in the Fletcher Hills district of El Cajon.

Griffen Park is one of East County’s best destinations for parents with small children. On the park’s east side, an almost perfectly flat expanse of grass, devoid of trees and other obstructions, serves as one of the finest inland sites for kite flying. The usual summer-afternoon sea breeze picks up speed here as air flowing from Mission Valley squeezes through a wind gap and falls toward the El Cajon valley. The flat expanse of grass itself conceals the underground Grossmont Reservoir, which stores drinking water for residents in a wide area of East County.

Below and to the west of the big grassy expanse, a “natural area” of partly native vegetation, small trees, and looping dirt paths serves as a perfect place to teach a youngster how to ride a bike. A nearly flat inner loop measuring 1/3 mile is about right for that.

Here are two other imaginative ideas to keep the little ones and their parents or older siblings busy: Build stacks of balanced rocks using the rounded cobbles found in the park’s drainage channels. Discover the sound-channeling properties of the underground system of drainage pipes that underlie the park.

Harry GriffEn Park
Discover La Mesa’s spacious Harry Griffen Park, where kids and dogs can roam.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 14 miles
Hiking length: Less than a mile
Difficulty: Easy

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