Tecolote Canyon Natural Park is located in San Diego just east of I-5, relatively near Mission Bay and Sea World. According to their website (linked above) the park has 6.5 miles of trails, however this number seems low as a full out and back of the entire park will clock about 17 miles, with approximately 12 under your belt by the time you reach the far end and return by the most direct route. Except for the two road crossings linking the South, central and Northern sections of the park, it's easy to forget you're in the middle of the big city. Most areas have little or no traffic noise. There is a ton of shade throughout the park so this one is a must on a hot day.
Suggested route: Park at the far east end of Tecolote Rd. at the nature center, grab a paper map and say hi to the rangers.
- Head east along the doubletrack trail (don't worry, it doesn't last for long.)
- As the trail slowly turns north, take note of the short spur on your right leading to the Via Las Cumbres trailhead.
- As you come within sight of the nearby golf course (*see warning below) the trail begins to climb along a powerline road. Look for the singletrack off to your left which parallels the course and powerlines. (Who wants to ride a powerline cut when you have sweet singletrack just 20' away?)
- Follow the singletrack along the entire length of the golf course, at which point it turns east. Continue following east until the trail T's. To the north is a climb up another powerline cut. Skip this for now, you'll be coming back to this a little later. Continue east generally following the creek until another T. The south fork leads to a trailhead, however this is currently completely blocked with poison oak a short way in. The North fork heads up to another trailhead along Genesee Ave.
- Return west to the 1st T you skipped a bit ago. Cross the concrete block lined ravine and climb the powerline cut until you reach the narrow access gate.
- A brief bit of road riding to reach the central area of the park. Take a left (westish) on the road and another immediate left on Mt Acadia Blvd. Follow the road down the 11% hill. Look for the next trailhead at the bottom, just before the guardrail begins.
- Head north along the singletrack while keeping an eye out for any sidetrails to explore. (According to the ranger, everything is fair game in this park.) In the middle of this central area are some BMX track style jumps and bumps to play around on.
- Continue north until the trail makes a 90 to the west and begins a climb up to Balboa Avenue. You'll exit through a park gate near a strip mall.
- Head west to the 1st light at Clairemont Drive. Cross Balboa and head back east on the other side of the street, locating the northern park trailhead at the bottom of the hill before the road starts climbing again.
- Pass the park gate and continue north on.. still more singletrack. :) Follow to the fork at the northern end of the park. The west fork leads to North Clairemont Community Park, east to Genesee Ave.
- That's that... Backtrack to the southern end.
*Warning: although a guidebook and other resources say it is kosher to use the shortcut past the northern end of the golfcourse to link the southern and central section, the numerous "no bikes/no hikers/private property" signs beg to differ. I do not suggest testing the issue. This trail system is too sweet to risk losing.