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

Pleasant (if small) surprises in Mission Trail Regional Park

Rain reveals the most pleasant surprises

Rim Trail bridge
Rim Trail bridge

Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) is one of San Diego’s many treasures. It is one of the nation’s largest natural urban parks — one with a long history of use from Native Americans and Spanish missionaries to ranching and mining. Currently, the park has over 5800 acres and approximately 40 miles of trails. Of these trails, one that is a favorite with runners and mountain bikers is the Rim Trail, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding canyons and San Diego.

Place

Mission Trails Regional Park

One Father Junípero Serra Trail, San Carlos, CA

The Rim Trail starts at the West Fortuna staging area at the end of Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Starting from the parking lot, cross the bridge and head northeast to the mesa. Along this section, the trail is steep with a gain of about 300 feet in elevation, but once on top of the mesa it levels out. The main hazards to watch out for along the trail are rattlesnakes, mountain bikers, and the lack of shade. Ensure that you bring plenty of water and a good shade hat, because in the summer it is blazing-hot with no shade along the trail. As you hike around the rim loop, chamise, black sage, California sagebrush, and dozens of other chaparral plants will guide your way.

Rim Trail map

The best time of the year to hike the Rim Trail is spring. The weather is cooler and the seasonal rains from our Mediterranean climate will begin to renew the life within the chaparral — wildflowers will be blooming and shrubs will green up, bringing a richness of color and fragrances to the mesa. The rain will also reveal the Rim Trail’s special attraction — vernal pools.

Rim Trail dirt trail

As the rains begin, seasonal pools known as vernal pools begin filling. These pools are shallow basins that form due to the unique geology of the area. The pools vary in depth and size. Most are less than a foot deep and can cover an area no bigger than a puddle to that of a large car. Why do the pools form? Geology is the short answer. The hard volcanic rock found within the park along with thick layers of clay and silt creates the perfect conditions to retain the seasonal rain. However, the silt holds more than just water — there is something magical waiting patiently for the rain.

Almost overnight, the vernal pools spring to life. Eggs that have stayed dormant throughout the drought in what is known as “aestivation” (think of it as a type of drought hibernation) react to the rain and spawn into fairy shrimp — a species endemic to Southern California. Along with the shrimp, the spadefoot toad, which some scientists believe can sense the rain as it falls, hatches. Historically, there may have been hundreds of these microcosms scattered throughout the region. However, today there is only a handful of vernal pools found around the county due to habitat loss from encroachment of development.

Where can you find these puddle treasures? The best area to find them is along the top of the mesa. Follow the main trail northeast. The trail will make a large loop along the mesa and eventually head back to the trailhead. To find the pools, take the side trails that cut across the center of the loop. Look for sections of wooden fencing that have been erected along the pool edges making them more visible and that add protection for this endangered habitat.

Note: Bicycles only allowed on the main trail — not the side trails.

Rim Trail's gravel road

Mission Trails Regional Park Rim Trail

Distance from downtown San Diego: approximately 15 miles. Allow 20 minutes driving time. Take I-15 north to Tierrasanta Blvd. then turn east and continue to Santo Rd. At Santo Rd., turn north and drive until Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Turn east on Clairemont Blvd., continue to the end of the street, and park in a large gravel parking lot that serves as the trailhead.

Hiking length: 4.5-mile loop.

Difficulty: Moderate with elevation of +/- 300ft. The trail has no shade and is open all year to mountain biking, trail running, and hiking. Dogs are allowed on leashes. There are no facilities at this trailhead.

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

Previous article

Motherhood unvarnished: Andrea Yates, Prozac, Pine Valley

Crown Point, barf city, miscarriage, Legoland, how big I am, emptied breasts
Next Article

International Smoke and a $29 lunch

Giving in to celebrity chef culture and hoping the bang’s worth the buck
Rim Trail bridge
Rim Trail bridge

Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) is one of San Diego’s many treasures. It is one of the nation’s largest natural urban parks — one with a long history of use from Native Americans and Spanish missionaries to ranching and mining. Currently, the park has over 5800 acres and approximately 40 miles of trails. Of these trails, one that is a favorite with runners and mountain bikers is the Rim Trail, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding canyons and San Diego.

Place

Mission Trails Regional Park

One Father Junípero Serra Trail, San Carlos, CA

The Rim Trail starts at the West Fortuna staging area at the end of Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Starting from the parking lot, cross the bridge and head northeast to the mesa. Along this section, the trail is steep with a gain of about 300 feet in elevation, but once on top of the mesa it levels out. The main hazards to watch out for along the trail are rattlesnakes, mountain bikers, and the lack of shade. Ensure that you bring plenty of water and a good shade hat, because in the summer it is blazing-hot with no shade along the trail. As you hike around the rim loop, chamise, black sage, California sagebrush, and dozens of other chaparral plants will guide your way.

Rim Trail map

The best time of the year to hike the Rim Trail is spring. The weather is cooler and the seasonal rains from our Mediterranean climate will begin to renew the life within the chaparral — wildflowers will be blooming and shrubs will green up, bringing a richness of color and fragrances to the mesa. The rain will also reveal the Rim Trail’s special attraction — vernal pools.

Rim Trail dirt trail

As the rains begin, seasonal pools known as vernal pools begin filling. These pools are shallow basins that form due to the unique geology of the area. The pools vary in depth and size. Most are less than a foot deep and can cover an area no bigger than a puddle to that of a large car. Why do the pools form? Geology is the short answer. The hard volcanic rock found within the park along with thick layers of clay and silt creates the perfect conditions to retain the seasonal rain. However, the silt holds more than just water — there is something magical waiting patiently for the rain.

Almost overnight, the vernal pools spring to life. Eggs that have stayed dormant throughout the drought in what is known as “aestivation” (think of it as a type of drought hibernation) react to the rain and spawn into fairy shrimp — a species endemic to Southern California. Along with the shrimp, the spadefoot toad, which some scientists believe can sense the rain as it falls, hatches. Historically, there may have been hundreds of these microcosms scattered throughout the region. However, today there is only a handful of vernal pools found around the county due to habitat loss from encroachment of development.

Where can you find these puddle treasures? The best area to find them is along the top of the mesa. Follow the main trail northeast. The trail will make a large loop along the mesa and eventually head back to the trailhead. To find the pools, take the side trails that cut across the center of the loop. Look for sections of wooden fencing that have been erected along the pool edges making them more visible and that add protection for this endangered habitat.

Note: Bicycles only allowed on the main trail — not the side trails.

Rim Trail's gravel road

Mission Trails Regional Park Rim Trail

Distance from downtown San Diego: approximately 15 miles. Allow 20 minutes driving time. Take I-15 north to Tierrasanta Blvd. then turn east and continue to Santo Rd. At Santo Rd., turn north and drive until Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Turn east on Clairemont Blvd., continue to the end of the street, and park in a large gravel parking lot that serves as the trailhead.

Hiking length: 4.5-mile loop.

Difficulty: Moderate with elevation of +/- 300ft. The trail has no shade and is open all year to mountain biking, trail running, and hiking. Dogs are allowed on leashes. There are no facilities at this trailhead.

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

Tsai Ming-liang bathes Days in pink moments

There’s nothing left inside him to justify an enthusiastic awakening.
Next Article

Robert Graves: among the best poetry in English literature

A novelist, and classicist best known for I, Claudius (1934) and its sequel, Claudius the God
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town 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 Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new 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 Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves 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 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