City Heights Welcomes New Urban Hiking Trail System

When you think about hiking in San Diego, you likely plan to head away from the city, right?

You may drive northeast to conquer the towering peaks of Cowles Mountain, Mount Woodson or Black Mountain… or perhaps you head towards the coast to wander through the beachfront Sunset Cliffs or Torrey Pines.

But did you know that you don’t have to leave the city and can go on a hiking adventure in your very own urban backyard?!

City Heights Canyons Loop Trail System

That’s right. Simply dust off your hiking boots and head down to City Heights to explore the new five mile loop of trails that connect four canyons (Swan, Manzanita, Hollywood and 47th St./Olivia Canyon) throughout the neighborhood via “butterfly corridors.”

(Click here for official enlarged trail map)

The colorful name refers to the urban areas that link the canyons and consist of pocket parks, murals and native plant gardens. While the corridors serve as a walking path for hikers between canyons, it’s also thought that the extra touch of natural landscape will attract more butterflies and birds to the city.

A Trail For Everyone

The entire trail system offers a wide range of wildlife and plants that provide a variety of experiences throughout the year as different plants bloom.

“The trail in South 47th Street/Olivia Canyon from Euclid Avenue to Quince Street has the richest diversity of plants and wildlife, and makes a great loop trail hike for nature lovers during this time of year,” suggested Eric Bowlby, executive director of San Diego Canyonlands.

A Project Years In The Making

The trail project started in 2005 and took another step in 2009 when the San Diego Foundation gave San Diego Canyonlands a grant to build a Canyon Enhancement Planning program.

Community workshops held between 2009 and 2014 helped create plans to enhance the canyons, from trails to habitat restoration, as donations and grants were collected to fund the project.

After obtaining a grading permit in July 2016, construction began in February and the new trails officially opened on April 15th, 2017!

While four miles of the trail pre-existed as utility access paths, the group added an additional mile of trail along seven stretches to link the trails together and made existing pathways more easily accessible. The entire project cost $1 million, which was paid for by the government, grants and charitable donations.

Enhancing The City Heights Community

“This trail system is important to City Heights residents as it helps transform 90 acres of degraded, inaccessible open-space park land into a recreational resource for residents and urban youth,” said Bowlby.

Home to 80,000 people, City Heights is one of the most diverse communities in the country but it falls short in outdoor public space for residents. These trails will provide a much needed nature boost to the area and a safe way for people to access the great outdoors.

Hiking, jogging, biking, bird watching and more outdoor opportunities will now be available in City Heights, which has 27 percent of its population at or below the poverty level.

The area will also be used as a nature classroom for area schools.

What’s In Store For The Future

Of course, there’s always room for further improvement and San Diego Canyonlands already has plans for the future.  A new two mile trail system along the nearby Oak Park Branch of Chollas Creek will add extra outdoor space to the community soon.

“We will continue to enhance this urban nature trail system and the streets that link the trails together with murals, signage and native plant gardens along the streets, for years to come to further enhance the nature loop trail experience,” Bowlby said.

And hey, if you don’t live in the city, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in (or out, rather) on this awesome new urban-meets-nature escape. We’ll see you out there!