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

Oakzanita Peak & Descanso Creek

Nearly ten years after the Cedar Fire, Descanso Creek is showing many signs of life.

The trail gradually leaves the creek and takes you uphill among ceanothus, mountain mahogany, and scrub oak.
The trail gradually leaves the creek and takes you uphill among ceanothus, mountain mahogany, and scrub oak.

Although the 2003 Cedar Fire took its toll in this area, the chaparral is coming back beautifully. Visitors in late March into June will be met with a multi-hued display of California lilacs, manzanitas, winter currant, wild rose, the occasional peony or lupine, and a brilliant assortment of small annual wildflowers. Also the view from the peak on a clear day is inspiring.

The Lower Descanso Creek trailhead is about ten yards from the Oakzanita sign, just off the highway. The name is a give-away as to what you will be seeing in this area — lots of oaks and manzanita. Begin hiking south (to the right as you face the sign). The trail soon turns east and follows Descanso Creek, taking you past an abundance of arroyo willow, basket bush, wild rose, winter currant, eastwood manzanita, and California lilac, with occasional sycamores and oaks in various stages of recovery.

Shortly after crossing the creek and passing through an oak grove, you come to the East Mesa Fire Road (0.8 mile from the trailhead). Go right on the fire road for a short distance (0.11 mile) and find the Upper Descanso Creek Trail on your right (0.91 mile from the start). The Upper Descanso Creek Trail gradually but steadily takes you away from the creek and up the northwest facing slope of the canyon through vigorous growing ceanothus, mountain mahogany, and scrub oak. The skeletons of the pre-fire manzanitas protrude above the living chaparral but are only sparsely represented among the living here. After you have gone about 1.6 miles, the Upper Descanso Creek Trail ends at a low saddle where you meet the Oakzanita Trail.

Go to the right on the Oakzanita Trail for an easy 0.6 mile to reach the boulder-strewn, 5054-foot peak. Look for the peak register at the top if you want to sign your name. On a clear day you can expect dramatic vistas in every direction. Note both Cuyamaca and Stonewall peaks in the distance. There is even a hitching post to tie up your horse, if one brought you.

After descending from the peak via the Oakzanita Trail, continue east, past the junction with the Upper Descanso Creek Trail and through what must have been a beautiful stand of massive oaks and pines. Most of the pines are now charred stumps. Some scattered Jeffery and Coulter pine seed trees survived, so the area may eventually recover. Seedlings have been planted to help this recovery along, some of which have survived and are growing vigorously.

After hiking 1.5 miles from the peak along the Oakzanita Trail, you will arrive at the East Mesa Fire Road. Go left down the fire road. After 2.5 miles of easy downhill walking on this narrow dirt road, you will come to the well-marked Lower Descanso Creek Trail off to the left. Take it, and in 3/4 of a mile, you will be back at your car.

Distance from downtown San Diego: About 45 miles. Allow 1 hour driving time. Take I-8 toward Alpine and continue east to exit 40, signed as Hwy 79/Japatul Rd. Go north on Hwy 79 about 3 miles to Oakzanita, which is on the right. There is limited parking in a small gravel lot beside the road and no facilities or drinking water.

Hiking length: Almost an 8-mile loop.

Difficulty: This is a moderate hike over easily navigated, well marked trails with an elevation gain of about 1000 feet. A sign at the trailhead warns of mountain lions. Poison oak and rattlesnakes are also possibilities. Long pants are recommended for protection from chaparral plants that are beginning to encroach onto the trail in a few places.

Canyoneers are San Diego Natural History Museum volunteers trained to lead interpretive nature walks that teach appreciation for the great outdoors. For a schedule of free public hikes:

sdnhm.org

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

Previous article

Freemont cottonwoods along the San Diego River

Egrets, herons, terns start feeding in San Diego's wetlands
Next Article

The history of the San Diego Union’s James MacMullen and his Coronado home

He published architectural sketches of his as-yet unbuilt mansion in the Union
The trail gradually leaves the creek and takes you uphill among ceanothus, mountain mahogany, and scrub oak.
The trail gradually leaves the creek and takes you uphill among ceanothus, mountain mahogany, and scrub oak.

Although the 2003 Cedar Fire took its toll in this area, the chaparral is coming back beautifully. Visitors in late March into June will be met with a multi-hued display of California lilacs, manzanitas, winter currant, wild rose, the occasional peony or lupine, and a brilliant assortment of small annual wildflowers. Also the view from the peak on a clear day is inspiring.

The Lower Descanso Creek trailhead is about ten yards from the Oakzanita sign, just off the highway. The name is a give-away as to what you will be seeing in this area — lots of oaks and manzanita. Begin hiking south (to the right as you face the sign). The trail soon turns east and follows Descanso Creek, taking you past an abundance of arroyo willow, basket bush, wild rose, winter currant, eastwood manzanita, and California lilac, with occasional sycamores and oaks in various stages of recovery.

Shortly after crossing the creek and passing through an oak grove, you come to the East Mesa Fire Road (0.8 mile from the trailhead). Go right on the fire road for a short distance (0.11 mile) and find the Upper Descanso Creek Trail on your right (0.91 mile from the start). The Upper Descanso Creek Trail gradually but steadily takes you away from the creek and up the northwest facing slope of the canyon through vigorous growing ceanothus, mountain mahogany, and scrub oak. The skeletons of the pre-fire manzanitas protrude above the living chaparral but are only sparsely represented among the living here. After you have gone about 1.6 miles, the Upper Descanso Creek Trail ends at a low saddle where you meet the Oakzanita Trail.

Go to the right on the Oakzanita Trail for an easy 0.6 mile to reach the boulder-strewn, 5054-foot peak. Look for the peak register at the top if you want to sign your name. On a clear day you can expect dramatic vistas in every direction. Note both Cuyamaca and Stonewall peaks in the distance. There is even a hitching post to tie up your horse, if one brought you.

After descending from the peak via the Oakzanita Trail, continue east, past the junction with the Upper Descanso Creek Trail and through what must have been a beautiful stand of massive oaks and pines. Most of the pines are now charred stumps. Some scattered Jeffery and Coulter pine seed trees survived, so the area may eventually recover. Seedlings have been planted to help this recovery along, some of which have survived and are growing vigorously.

After hiking 1.5 miles from the peak along the Oakzanita Trail, you will arrive at the East Mesa Fire Road. Go left down the fire road. After 2.5 miles of easy downhill walking on this narrow dirt road, you will come to the well-marked Lower Descanso Creek Trail off to the left. Take it, and in 3/4 of a mile, you will be back at your car.

Distance from downtown San Diego: About 45 miles. Allow 1 hour driving time. Take I-8 toward Alpine and continue east to exit 40, signed as Hwy 79/Japatul Rd. Go north on Hwy 79 about 3 miles to Oakzanita, which is on the right. There is limited parking in a small gravel lot beside the road and no facilities or drinking water.

Hiking length: Almost an 8-mile loop.

Difficulty: This is a moderate hike over easily navigated, well marked trails with an elevation gain of about 1000 feet. A sign at the trailhead warns of mountain lions. Poison oak and rattlesnakes are also possibilities. Long pants are recommended for protection from chaparral plants that are beginning to encroach onto the trail in a few places.

Canyoneers are San Diego Natural History Museum volunteers trained to lead interpretive nature walks that teach appreciation for the great outdoors. For a schedule of free public hikes:

sdnhm.org

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

Tijuana's respect for the body, goodbye Revolucion flower sellers. Frank Lloyd Wright and Tecate

Why Mexico loves Abe Lincoln, cardboard shacks replace by cultural beauty, Tijuana River brings us sewage
Next Article

The history of the San Diego Union’s James MacMullen and his Coronado home

He published architectural sketches of his as-yet unbuilt mansion in the Union
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 Set 'em Up Joe — 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