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Level: Beginner
Length: 17 mi (27.4 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Network
Elevation: +450/ -278 ft
Total: 83 riders

Mountain Biking Tecolote Canyon Natural Park

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#141 of 1,003 mountain bike trails in California
#1,975 in the world

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.

First added by Xerien on Jun 20, 2009. Last updated May 1, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there

Main trailhead: From I-5, exit at Tecolote Rd./Sea World drive. Head east on Tecolote Rd. until it dead-ends in the parking lot for the trailhead.

Northern trailhead: From 805, exit Clairemont Mesa Blvd, heading west. Turn South on Genesee, and West on Bannock Ave. Park at North Clairemont Community Park, and locate the trailhead at the far southern end of the paved bike loop in the park.

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Jim Herrick (on Jun 13, 2023)
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Dusty (on May 12, 2020)
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Mountain Bike Trails Near San Diego, California

Easiest | 7 mi
Intermediate | 15 mi
Beginner | 8 mi
Beginner | 10 mi

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  • BryanBaird

    Side note Battle trail is a fun little side trail at East end, bike bridges easy lumps bumps tiny jumps, a few cutback turns. Nice little break from trail and some shade

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  • ifabig

    This was a fun trail, although as you get into the trail it gets a bit hilly. The Battle Trail right near the beginning is a fun little loop, and the downhills are great. It is right in the middle of the city but it doesn't feel like it! Our family would definitely do it again, although we didn't get all the way to the end.

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  • C-Lo

    Not bad. My first time riding in California. Not to far from the hotel I was staying in. Trail has a nice mix of gravel, rocks, and sand. Some portions were double track, but the trail did not disappoint. There are enough hills to get a good workout. I would come back if I had the time.

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  • EndlessShred

    Not amazing, but right next to my house, so can't complain.

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  • willaim kifer

    This is my home go to trail network, I ride here once a week or more. There is a great downhill off of September street to start out your ride. You can link quite a bit of single track throughout this canyon with some street riding. My normal sunday morning ride is 20 to 30 miles and 75% trail, linking san clemente canyon and rose canyon.

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  • AZBrainDoc

    This review is mostly for MUni riders. I did the route as suggested in this ride description on a KH24 unicycle and found the trail description spot on. A 26" unicycle would have been better suited, but I didn't have it with me.

    When I started out, I did not expect much, but this is a real gem for an urban trail. Nothing technical (aside from a few short sections of River stone, which you can session) but some impressive climbs, especially on a unicycle. On a couple of the side climbs up power line cuts, I ran out of leg long before I ran out of trail. I had fun going down these inclines.

    The only negatives are the two stretches on the road to get from one section of the park to the next. An underpass below Balboa Ave would be especially nice.

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  • Craig Yarnold

    Rode part of this last weekend. Starting at trail entrance just off Osler/Wheatstone Streets, followed singletrack until it joined up with truck road, then followed road down towards golf course, then back to singletrack before meeting up with the main truck road that takes you straight down to the nature center. I skipped the singletrack down there this time as it was getting late in the day. Headed back on a slightly different route up the canyon which I regretted as I ran into very steep sections of truck road. Overall was about 5 miles there and back. Nice short ride for an afternoon.

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  • maniqz

    went there on 7/29/12. great trails and not crowded. some trails are a bit sandy, lost my balance on one of them. multi use trails for both the novice and experienced. there are steep trails that can be challenging climbing up but fun riding down. knowing that the seaworld is just around the corner amazes me how the park makes me feel I am so far away. look to your left as you enter the trail and surprise, there's a stream. love it.

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  • RappAttack

    first west coast ride, trail needs work(lots o work), still a good experience one very cool down hill very touph uphills* Review edited 8/22/2010

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