The Great Urban Escape -> Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego, CA

Million dollar views from the peak

In San Diego it’s easy to get lost in beach and sea, but just ~15 miles inland is a whole other world which is equally absorbing….in a whole other way. The spot is Mission Trails Regional Park and it’s one of my fav places for hiking in the entire city! When we stay at Santee Lakes we’re just a hop and a skip from the park and this week we headed out there for a change of scene and some outdoor fun.

The gorgeous trails in Mission Trails Regional Park

At 5,800 acres Mission Trails is actually one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Originally traditional grounds of the Kumeyaay indians, it was transformed by building of the Old Mission Dam in the 1800’s (the very dam that supplied Mission San Diego De Alcalá…and pretty much founded the growth of modern-day San Diego), which is still preserved within the park boundaries today. The park encompasses rugged mountains, natural valleys and the Mission Gorge. For the outdoor-minded there are over 40 miles of hiking, as well as Lake Murray and equestrian areas.

Oh, and let’s not forget the fabulous Visitors Center which is well worth the visit all for itself. It showcases traditional Kumeyaay history, a wonderful overview of natural flora/fauna of the park and hosts exhibits as well as kids and adults programs. It also hosts free music concerts which are über-cool -> for a taste DO check out the Native American Flute Players on 2nd Sunday of each month.

Oh, there is just Sooooooo much to see and do!

Top o’ the world on Kwaay Paay

But we come here mostly for the hiking. And most other folks do too. The most popular hike in the park is Cowle’s Mountain, which also happens to be the highest point in San Diego. During the week it’s a hot-spot for fitness freaks and on the week-end it becomes a family go-to. We like the hike….but….we prefer our privacy so we tend to go off-the-beaten path. Our fav mountain hike is Kwaay Paay and it’s the perfect morning walk for family and pooch topped-off with a perfect 360-degree view of San Diego.

We hit the trail after several days of rain with the sun still baking off the moisture from the ground. It’s a lovely, and shall we say vigorous, uphill walk through chaparral thickets and yucca through to the open views of the city. If you’re in the mood for an all-day affair you can drop-off half-way up and head west to the Old Dam and onwards to miles of unused trails from there.

Total urban escape just around the corner from downtown San Diego. Not a bad deal at all….:)

Showcase of Kumeyaay trade routes and crafts at the Visitor’s Center
View from the Kwaay Paay trail
Coyote shown at the Visitor Center
The lovely Visitor Center
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. says

    Not too many people write about the awesome Visitor’s Center. Good job! Would have never guessed there was such a beautiful hiking area right outside SD. Thanks for the tour. Enjoy your week. ~wheresweaver

    • libertatemamo says

      I always love a good Visitors Center. Sooo much great hiking around San Diego. It’s a unique city in that respect.

    • libertatemamo says

      There is a campground on-site for smaller RVs and Santee Lakes (very nice county park with sites for any size RV) is right next-door. The whole areas feels very green. You’re definitely well out of the urban setting here.

  2. Steve C. says

    Nina something appears unusual about that coyote at the Visitor’s Center.
    It could just be the flowers coming out of his head, or maybe it his expression… I’m just sayin’
    I understand that women can read a cats expression, so am I reading the coyote’s expression correctly?

  3. Karl says

    Hi Paul & Nina. I stumbled onto your site while searching for info on 24v solar panels. I apologies for posting here, but was not sure you would see a post on your page on your old write up on your solar project. To keep this short, I have a very small trailer, 1966 Serro Scotty (12ft leaving space). I’m installing a single panel on my trailer; I have a 24v 200w panel. I will be using a MPPT Morningstar controller. I’m looking for what battery monitor to get, still researching. I was looking at the battery monitor that Morningstar makes, and a few others. My question, why did you pick the Xantrex battery monitor, over say the monitor that Morningstar makes for their controller?
    Enjoy San Diego, it looks like you both are having a good time !

    • libertatemamo says

      Hi Karl,
      I may be confused about what you’re asking. As far as I know Morningstar doesn’t make a true battery monitor? In our system we have BOTH the Morningstar monitor (which links to our MPPT controller) PLUS a separate battery monitor. They measure different things. The Morningstar monitor measures what’s being generated from solar and going into the batteries. So it measures everything to do with our panels, but it doesn’t measure what’s being used FROM the batteries. That’s where our Xantrex battery monitor comes into play. The Xantrex is our “gas gauge” for the batteries and measures in/out flow from the batteries on a constant basis (for example if I flip on a light switch it’ll measure that usage going out of the batteries). Trimetric also makes a battery monitor which is equally nice.

  4. Karl says

    OK, the light went on,… thank you so much. I didn’t pick up that you had both monitors; I thought you just had the xantrex. When I was reading over the specs for the xantrex I noticed it provided some the information like battery voltage and such, but could not find it giving more detailed info about the input from the solar panels like: solar input voltage, charging current, as well as keeping the last 60 days of the battery high/low, daily charge, daily load,.. etc. I will probably get both monitors eventually but will start with the Morningstar monitor first, I want to know what output I have to work with from the solar panel. I know that is a little bit backwards, usually you estimate your requirements first, then build the system to meet them. But I have a very small trailer, limited real-estate on the roof, so I went with one big 24v 200w panel that fits and I will work my use around that.
    Thanks again, I only read a little bit of your site so far but I enjoyed it, and will follow along now :-)

    • libertatemamo says

      Sounds great Karl.
      Should be a sweet little system for your trailer! I’m sure you already know to do this, but make sure to install the remote temp sensor that comes with the MPPT controller. Having an accurate voltage (and temp) reading *at* the battery terminal will be key to proper charging.

    • libertatemamo says

      So true. We lived here for 2 years before taking off fulltiming and didn’t see half of what we’ve visited in our winter back here. Something about “visiting” a city makes it so different from “living” there. We re-discover everytime we visit!

  5. Theresa says

    Hi Nina – Ran across your blog on Mission Trails. Am trying to get the word out and let everyone know that there is a power plant being proposed for construction on the north side of highway 52, across from the equestrian staging center and in full view of Mission Trails park. Website provides all info. Apologies for intruding but you clearly love the park and all park lovers need to know. I was lucky enough to live right next to the park for two years; it’s just beautiful. Thanks fo much – Theresa


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