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SOCAL Dog Adventures, Hiking at Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Updated to include dog-friendly restaurants nearby and discuss trails in-depth

Happy small white dog hiking at Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Looking for dog-friendly hikes in San Diego? Get your tails on the trails and head to Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve. It’s a great place to bring your pup(s) for a hike in nature. The preserve encompasses 4,000 acres and features over seven miles of trails. Los Peñasquitos translates to “little cliffs” and Native American history dates back over 7-millennia.

There are a few entrances to Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, in this blog, we will be referring to the Black Mountain Road entrance in Rancho Penasquitos located on Canyonside Park Driveway, San Diego, CA 92129. Also commonly referred to as the main Penasquitos Canyon Trail Head.

So Much to See and Do at Los Penasquitos Canyon

Large Husky jumping over a log wearing a blue dog shirt

Once on those trails, you can see some amazing things including a waterfall, a historic adobe house, majestic forests of huge sycamore trees, various wildlife, and numerous streams with frogs, bass, and crawfish.

Adobe Ranch House

The Adobe Ranch House is a very short walk from the Canyonside Park Driveway parking (about a quarter mile). Conversely, there is an access road with plenty of parking that puts you right in front of the Adobe House. Just be sure to pay attention to the times they close the gates.

Two dogs in front of Cactus at Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve Adobe House

Once at the Adobe House, there's plenty to see. The first structure of the house was built in 1823 and was the first Mexican land grant in today's San Diego County. There is a small museum built into the house; however, dogs are not allowed in. But dogs are allowed on the grounds which offer plenty of shade and phenomenal photo backdrops. There's also a large deck on the back of the property where you can sit with your dog and take in a pretty spectacular view of the backfield.

Please note that there are some goats and chickens on the property and dogs are not allowed in the general vicinity of the coops.

Yes, a Waterfall in San Diego

It's a bit of a hike (about 6 miles round trip) from the Canyonside Park Driveway, but if you're up for it, it's a pretty amazing trail. And once you get there, you'll see a pretty cool waterfall. Not to get your hopes too high, it's nothing like what you'd see in the Appalachian Mountains. However, it's still a waterfall in San Diego and depending on the rainfall, it typically always has flowing water through the rocks. It's also a great place to have a picnic.

Because this is a longer hike, please be sure your dog is in shape and has been working up to this distance. Also, you should not be attempting to conquer this distance while your dog is a puppy and still growing. Lastly, if you do plan to hike, please make sure you schedule many breaks and bring plenty of water and food for you and your pup.

Over Seven Miles of Hiking Trails

Map of Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve highlighting three hiking trails
Courtesy of Google Maps

Even if you don't plan on a long hike to the waterfall and if scoping out the Adobe House isn't your thing, Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve still offers plenty of amazingly beautiful hiking trails. From the Canyonside Park Driveway parking lot, you can choose a few different trails to embark on.

1 Penasquitos Canyon Trailhead

Golden Retriever hiking on a trail at Los Penasquitos Canyon

My favorite trail at Los Penasquitos. Starting here, you'll almost immediately come across two splits. The first right will take you to a secluded area surrounded by trees. Great place to take an early water break and snap some photos. The second right will take you on a trail leading up to the Adobe House (3 on the map). I would recommend keeping straight on the trail and you'll come across some rocks, a small stream, and a bridge. Once across, you'll hit a few more splits, but if you continue straight it'll tee off on a main trail.

Two Huskies exploring a stream while hiking at Los Penasquitos Canyon

Going right on this trail will eventually lead you to the waterfall, but there are some amazing shorter hikes along the way. On this trail, you'll come across a couple of little ponds and streams. There are also numerous shaded areas to take breaks as well as lively local wildlife running around. While this trail extends pretty far as it goes to the waterfall, on a normal day, we typically take it about a mile in for a 2-mile roundtrip hike.

2 Canyon Trail

A decent, almost 1.5-mile loop from the parking lot at the Canyonside Park Driveway parking lot to Penasquitos Creek Park. Not our absolute favorite trail, especially during the summer. This trail does not offer a lot of shade and the trails are narrow. This is especially difficult with dogs if other dogs are coming in the opposite direction. Additionally, there is some rougher terrain making it tougher to hike in certain areas. And because of the rougher terrain, mountain bikers take to these trails pretty regulary. Granted you will find bikers on the other trails, but the narrowness and numerous blind corners make it more dangerous. While dogs are allowed on this trail, I avoid this route as there are so many other great trails here.

3 Adobe Ranch House Backfield Trails

Two dogs exploring Frog Pond at Los Penasquitos Canyon

Whether you plan to park at the Canyonside Park Driveway or right by the Adobe House, these trails are pretty close. The beginning takes you by the house, animal coops, community gardens, and through a large open field (about 1,000 ft) until you hit a nice shaded area. Keep going straight and it'll dead end at a small tree-covered area with a little body of water we named Frog Pond. In the winter and spring, you can see tons of frogs in this area. It's a nice place to rest, take a water break, or have a picnic.

From here, you can go left on a short trail that leads you back up to behind the Adobe House. Or if you go right, you'll hit a few other trails that will eventually lead you to the main trail leading to the waterfall. If on this trail, we normally take it about a mile in and then turnaround for a 2-mile hike.

Safety Tips & Best Practices

Pets must be leashed at all times. Deer, racoons, and rabbits are often sited, while less often, sometimes so are rattlesnakes, bobcats, coyotes, & mountain lions; please use caution and keep your eyes open while on the trails.

It’s a popular spot for mountain biking, so keep an ear/eye out, especially around bends in the trails. Additionally, there are active horse trails here so keep a heads up. It's always good practice to give horses a wide berth when hiking past.

It can get hot, especially in summer; always bring water for yourself and your pets. If you plan on a longer hike, don't forget to factor in the food you and your dog will need. And as always, please pick up after your pup(s).

How to get to Los Penasquitos Canyon

Centrally located in San Diego County, it sits in the backyards of Scripps Ranch, Mira Mesa, Rancho Penasquitos, Carmel Valley, Torrey Pines, and Sorrento Valley and it’s nestled between the 805 and 15 freeways. Easy to access and it’s a quick drive from pretty much anywhere in the county: 20 minutes from downtown and 15 minutes from Escondido. There are numerous entrances & parking areas along the trails so please check the trail map to find the best entrance to the part of the trail you’d like to explore.

Dog-Friendly Restaurants Nearby

If you're like me, you probably get hungry after a good hike. And if you have your pup in tow, you'll want some restaurants that allow dogs. Luckily, there's a few of these places near Canyonside Park Driveway. Here's a list of some of our local favorites.

Nutmeg Bakery & Café

10755 Scripps Poway Pkwy, San Diego, CA 92131. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, Nutmeg serves up local, organic fare. Best of all, their large outside dining area is dog-friendly. If you go for breakfast, I would recommend the Amazing Burrito.

Knotty Barrel RPQ

13211 Black Mountain Rd, San Diego, CA 92129. Open daily late morning to night, this dog-friendly establishment serves up everything from pancakes to meatloaf, to amazing burgers. My personal favorite is the panini grilled cheese.

Start Your Next Dog Adventures at Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Man and his dog taking a break from hiking at Los Penasquitos Canyon

Whether you’re looking for a short afternoon hike or longer full-day adventure, Los Penasquitos Canyon is the perfect place. With its variety of trails, easy access, and dog-friendly restaurants nearby, it's the perfect spot to explore with your pup. So what are you waiting for? Grab your hiking boots and leash up your pup!


Q: Are dogs allowed at Los Penasquitos Canyon?

Q: Are dogs allowed in the restaurants nearby Los Penasquitos Canyon?

Q: What should I bring for my hike?

Q: Are there mountain bikers at Los Penasquitos Canyon?

Q: Are there any dangerous animals I should watch out for at Los Penasquitos Canyon?


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