Up until 2009, there was no official trail for accessing the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve from the south. The creation of the Camino Ruiz Trail not only provided an easy way for residents of Mira Mesa to reach Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, but also established one of the few nature trails in the area.
The short 0.6-mile Camino Ruiz Trail takes visitors through an oak grove, the majority of the trail passing beneath a shaded canopy of evergreen leaves. At the termination of the Camino Ruiz Trail, hikers then have the option to continue another 1.9 miles to reach the waterfall are of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve or return back uphill to the Camino Ruiz Neighborhood Park.
The Camino Ruiz Trailhead picks up near the entrance of the Camino Ruiz Neighborhood Park. Even on weekends, it is easy to find a parking spot here. Before the start of your hike, feel free to use the relatively clean restroom facilities located at the end of the parking lot. Here, you’ll also find a very short trail that loops through a well-kept garden.
You’ll find the start of the trail by passing through a metal gate, walking towards a wooden kiosk. The trail from here is very straightforward, winding slowly downhill. You’ll soon find yourself beneath the shade of the abundant scrub oak trees, a nice reprieve from the sun during summer months.
Before you know it, the Camino Ruiz Trail will end and you’ll reach a “T” junction. To your left, you can continue 1.9 miles further to reach Los Peñasquitos waterfall. To your right, you will find the Los Peñasquitos Creek crossing. For us, we veered left, following the wide dirt path to get to the waterfall. Rattlesnakes are commonly seen here, but in the cold winter months we didn’t come across any.
The trail continues to be straightforward, the scenery alternating between lines of oak trees and open meadows. The area was much greener and beautiful than summer months after a decent amount of rain San Diego received over the winter. Wild flowers had already begun to bloom, with hues of blue and purple noticeable in the open meadows.
Although the trail is extremely easy to navigate, occasional signs ensured us we were heading in the right direction. At 2.5-miles into the hike, we knew we had reached the prize when we saw the sign reading “waterfall”. The water was flowing more than I’d ever seen before, cascading heavily over the creek rocks. In summer months, it is sometimes possible to cross the creek. This was not the case in winter.
Once you’ve had your fill taking in the sweeping views of the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, retrace your steps back to the Camino Ruiz Trail.
Camino Ruiz Trail Tips
Tip #1: Park your car near the entrance of the park for the closest trailhead access point.
Tip #2: Be wary of hiking this trail after rainfall. In winter 2017, it was closed for several weeks to let the trail dry out.
Tip #3: Visit in March through May for impressive flower bloom.
Tip #4: Be wary on the rocks near the waterfall. They can be slippery and dangerous.
Tip #5: Climb the rock before the “waterfall” sign. Here you’ll find the best sweeping views of Los Peñasquitos Canyon below.
Tip #6: Do not step off the trail. There is an abundance of poison oak in this area.
From downtown San Diego, take 163N for 9.9 miles. Take exit 10 for Kearny Villa Rd. Use the left 3 lanes to turn left on Miramar Road. Drive 0.8 miles and turn right onto Camino Ruiz. Continue straight for 3.2 miles. The Camino Ruiz Neighborhood Park will be on the right.
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Total Distance: 5 miles
Trailhead Address: 11489 Camino Ruiz, San Diego, CA 92126