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

Lake Jennings

Poppies near Lake Jennings
Poppies near Lake Jennings

Your impression of Lake Jennings may be strongly colored by the season in which you choose to visit it — a not-unusual circumstance in many of San Diego County’s inland, low-elevation locales. Summer’s heat and drought bleaches all vibrant color out of the vegetation, so that by July through the first rainstorms late in the year the only color you see besides beige and brown is the blue of the sky and of the lake itself. In most years, though, February through April brings an almost unbelievable wave of green to the hillsides overlooking the lake. Not only that; in wetter years the profusion of wildflowers can be astounding.

Lake Jennings stores mostly imported water that when filtered becomes drinking water for more than a quarter million people in the East County region. It also serves as a recreational magnet for local residents — fishing, boating, and camping are popular; hiking and bicycling less so.

To get there, exit Interstate 8 at Lake Jennings Park Road, just east of El Cajon. Go north for about 0.3 mile and turn right on Harritt Road, following the signs to Lake Jennings. Once past the entrance, stay right, pay the small day-use fee at the bait shop, and continue driving on the winding, paved Bass Drive along the lake’s south and east shorelines. After nearly two miles you reach a parking lot where the paved road ends and a hikers’ unpaved trail continues.

From the starting point, the nearly level trail continues wrapping around the shoreline of the lake. The vegetation on the slopes is primarily of the coastal sage-scrub variety, which goes almost completely dormant in drought. The plants pack their growth and reproductive phases into the space of a few weeks or months, depending on how much rain falls. By March, wildflowers such as paintbrush, wild hyacinth, monkeyflower, lupine, and owl’s clover splash the hillsides with color highlights of every hue.

Continue for just 0.8 mile to a point on the trail overlooking the lake’s “Half Moon Cove.” Notice the broad saddle in the ridge to your right. Leave the trail at that point and climb up about 50 yards to that saddle, where a gorgeous vista opens to the northeast. You look down upon the table-flat floodplain of the San Diego River, and in the distance spot rock-ribbed El Cajon Mountain, whose sheer south face is known as “El Capitan” in these parts due to its resemblance to El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

You can either retrace your steps, making this hike a mere 1.6-mile, round-trip stroll, or you can continue on toward Lake Jennings’ rustic campground on the north shore, where paved Bass Drive resumes. Another option would be to circle the lake using Bass Road, 4.6 miles for the entire loop. That option, of course, involves sharing the road with typically slow-moving automobiles.

Lake Jennings
As green as it gets at East County’s Lake Jennings
Distance from downtown San Diego: 20 miles
Hiking length: 1.6 miles (or more)
Difficulty: Easy

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Tijuana's Fotocolor, digital and Covid victim

Since the public events like weddings are forbidden, we’d struggle a lot
Next Article

The Golden Age of something

A direct correlation to the boringness of life
Poppies near Lake Jennings
Poppies near Lake Jennings

Your impression of Lake Jennings may be strongly colored by the season in which you choose to visit it — a not-unusual circumstance in many of San Diego County’s inland, low-elevation locales. Summer’s heat and drought bleaches all vibrant color out of the vegetation, so that by July through the first rainstorms late in the year the only color you see besides beige and brown is the blue of the sky and of the lake itself. In most years, though, February through April brings an almost unbelievable wave of green to the hillsides overlooking the lake. Not only that; in wetter years the profusion of wildflowers can be astounding.

Lake Jennings stores mostly imported water that when filtered becomes drinking water for more than a quarter million people in the East County region. It also serves as a recreational magnet for local residents — fishing, boating, and camping are popular; hiking and bicycling less so.

To get there, exit Interstate 8 at Lake Jennings Park Road, just east of El Cajon. Go north for about 0.3 mile and turn right on Harritt Road, following the signs to Lake Jennings. Once past the entrance, stay right, pay the small day-use fee at the bait shop, and continue driving on the winding, paved Bass Drive along the lake’s south and east shorelines. After nearly two miles you reach a parking lot where the paved road ends and a hikers’ unpaved trail continues.

From the starting point, the nearly level trail continues wrapping around the shoreline of the lake. The vegetation on the slopes is primarily of the coastal sage-scrub variety, which goes almost completely dormant in drought. The plants pack their growth and reproductive phases into the space of a few weeks or months, depending on how much rain falls. By March, wildflowers such as paintbrush, wild hyacinth, monkeyflower, lupine, and owl’s clover splash the hillsides with color highlights of every hue.

Continue for just 0.8 mile to a point on the trail overlooking the lake’s “Half Moon Cove.” Notice the broad saddle in the ridge to your right. Leave the trail at that point and climb up about 50 yards to that saddle, where a gorgeous vista opens to the northeast. You look down upon the table-flat floodplain of the San Diego River, and in the distance spot rock-ribbed El Cajon Mountain, whose sheer south face is known as “El Capitan” in these parts due to its resemblance to El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

You can either retrace your steps, making this hike a mere 1.6-mile, round-trip stroll, or you can continue on toward Lake Jennings’ rustic campground on the north shore, where paved Bass Drive resumes. Another option would be to circle the lake using Bass Road, 4.6 miles for the entire loop. That option, of course, involves sharing the road with typically slow-moving automobiles.

Lake Jennings
As green as it gets at East County’s Lake Jennings
Distance from downtown San Diego: 20 miles
Hiking length: 1.6 miles (or more)
Difficulty: Easy

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

San Diego's worst white collar crime these days

Dr. Jennings Ryan Staley, Geraldine and Clayton Hill, Shawn Heffernan, Charles Burruss and “Armani” Adams, Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein
Next Article

La Jolla’s Monkey House

“The site of many family weddings, 4th of July parades, holiday parties, and La Jolla Secret Garden Tours.”
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
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
Close