Mission Trails Regional Park

One Father Junipero Serra Trail
San Diego, CA 92119

General Information
Nestled between San Diego, Santee and La Mesa, Mission Trails Regional Park covers almost 5,800 acres of mountains, lakes and valleys. The park contains over 50 miles of hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails, boating on Lake Murray, and a state-of-the-art Visitor's Center.

Rates & Fees
Free to the public

The Visitor and Interpretive Center is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is free to the public.

Visitor Center parking lot closes - 5:00 p.m daily throughout the year.

Father Junipero Serra Trail gates close -
5:00 p.m. November thru March
7:00 p.m. from April thru October

Visitor Center
The focal point of Mission Trails Regional Park is the spectacular Visitor & Interpretive Center. A large outdoor terrace overlooks the park with a magnificant view of the gorge.

State-of-the-art exhibits make learning fun for everyone. Interact with exhibits about flora, fauna and geology found at Mission Trails Park.

A beautiful library with large windows is housed within the Visitor and Interpretive Center. The Center also contains a 94 seat theater where educational slide and video shows are presented.

The Visitor and Interpretive Center has a gift shop specializing in Native American crafts and environmentally oriented educational toys. The Gift Shop is open all of the same hours as the Visitor Center.

The Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor and Interpretive Center is in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Mission Trails Regional Park was established in 1974. The history of inhabitants in the area goes back more than 10,000 years. The San Dieguito Culture lived in the region dating as far back as 10,000 years. The La Jollan Culture has been dated as far back as 6000 years and the Kumeyaay have been dated between 1000 and 2000 years.

More than 30 archaeological sites have been identified within the park, including dwelling sites, work areas and spiritually significant areas. The Kumeyaay were small game hunters and gatherers and were the first inhabitants to live extensively in the region.

They remained there until 1900 to 1910 when ranchers and farmers purchased the land.

In 1769 a group of missionaries, lead by Father Junipero Serra, arrived and settled on the hill above the San Diego River. Their goal was to establish a series of missions in the California region to bring Christianity to the native people. The Mission was established as a compound called Royal Presidio and was shared by the missionaries and the soldiers who escorted them from Mexico. In 1774, the Mission was moved approximately 6 miles upriver from the Presidio and was renamed San Diego Mission de Alcala.

The San Diego Mission de Alcala needed a source of water to sustain the residents, thus the Old Mission Dam was built in Mission Gorge. Built across the head of Mission Gorge the 244-foot long, 13-foot thick, 13-foot wide dam was constructed of stone and cement on exposed bedrock. The construction of the Mission Dam was completed in 1815.

Shortly after the dam was finished, Mexico took control of the California territory during the war of independence from Spain in 1822. Mexico sold the land to Santiago Arguello prior to the war with the United States in 1846. California changed hands again during the Mexican/American war of 1848. The United States granted California statehood in 1850.

In 1889 the Mission's lands were opened up for settlement. Ranches and farms were purchased in the area. Some of the notable ranches include the Rancho Fanita, owned by the Scripps family and the two ranches owned by George Cowles, the Woodside Ranch and Magnolia Ranch. George Cowles helped San Diego gain nationwide attention for its farm land. His crops included fruit groves, olives, grapevines, grains and potatoes.

The area of Fortuna Mountain was used as a military training ground during the years of WWI, WWII and the Korean War. Unexploded ordinance was a problem in the region after the training grounds were transferred to the ownership of the city in 1960. In 1993 a sweep of the area was made and tons of unexploded materials were removed.

Things To Do

Mission Trails Regional Park contains a variety of multipurpose trails. Hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails range in difficulty from easy to difficult. The park offers Ranger and Trail Guide led hikes each week. These excursions cover most areas in the park. To find out when and where each hike is being conducted, contact the Mission Trails Regional Park Web site at www.mtrp.org or call the Park at (619) 668-3275.

The Old Mission Dam is a nationally registered Historical Landmark. A viewing terrace at the Dam contains beautiful vistas and exhibits. The Dam is also the starting point for a number of hiking trails. An audio tape tour of the Old Mission Dam is available at the Visitor's Center.

Lake Murray provides boating and fishing recreation from November through Labor Day. Fishing and boating is permitted on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and some holidays.

During the boating and fishing season the lake is stocked with large mouth bass, bluegill, channel cat-fish, black crappie and trout. Check with the park for information on limits.

The lake is also popular for bicycling, rollerblading, walking, jogging and picnicking. There are 10 BBQ's and 64 picnic tables located at the lake. Food, beverages, bait, tackle and fishing permits are available at the concessionaire. The concessionaire also offers outboard motor rentals, paddle boat and canoe rentals. For more information on these services contact the concessionaire at (619) 390-3600.

In April 2000, the park opened the Kumeyaay Lake Campground with 46 campsites. More information on the campground can be found on the park's web site at https://mtrp.org/campground/.


The Park is divided into five regions: West Fortuna, East Fortuna, Mission Gorge, Cowles Mountain and Lake Murray. Each region contains unique features, points of interest and numerous trails.

The various regions contain a variety of soft and hard dhaparral, riparian and some grasslands. Chamise, Ramona lilac, scrub oak, redberry, Mission manzanita, and mountain mahogany are some of the flora found in the higher elevations of the park.

California sagebrush, black sage, laurel sumac, chaparral broom, San Diego and California sunflower, lemonadeberry and flat-top buckwheat are abundant in the lower elevations. Lizards and small animals hide in the sage scrub to avoid the heat as well as predators. Many birds rely on this drought resistant plant community for survival.

The San Diego River runs through the park creating a riparian community of wildlife. Sycamore, cottonwood, willow and mule fat grow along the river. The lake shore habitats of Lake Murray and Kumeyaay Lake attract an array of birds, insects and other animials. Cat-tails, bulrushes and other plants thrive along the shorelines of the park.

Numerous birds, lizards and too many insects to count, live in the park. Mule deer, cougars, coyotes, and the gray fox are a few of the mammals that live in the region. Snakes are also abundant, so watch out for those rattlers.

Map & Directions

From Interstate 8 - Take 8 to the Mission Gorge/Fairmount exit. Turn north onto Mission Gorge Road. Proceed down Mission Gorge Road for 4.2 miles. Just past the Jackson Drive intersection, look for the large wooden park sign on Mission Gorge Road. Turn left onto Father Junipero Serra Trail.

From Route 52 - Take 52 east to the Mast Blvd. exit in Santee. Turn left on Mast Blvd., go under the freeway to the first traffic signal (West Hills Parkway) and turn right. Take West Hills Parkway to Mission Gorge Road and turn right. Proceed down Mission Gorge Road 2.4 miles (past the Father Junipero Serra Trail entrance to Old Mission Dam and Kumeyaay Lake and Campground). Look for the large wooden park sign on Mission Gorge Road. Turn right onto Father Junipero Serra Trail. Father Junipero Serra Trail is a one way road after you get to Old Mission Dam. Probably the best way to enter the park is off of Mission Gorge past Golfcrest, turn at first right on to Father Junipero Serra Trail. That will take you to all the car destinations. The Visitor Center, Old Mission Dam and Kumeyaay Campground.


San Diego, California - Monthly Climate Normals
   Year  Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec
 High °F 70.4 65.0 65.6 66.2 68.0 69.1 71.3 75.4 77.0 76.4 73.6 70.4 66.3
 Low °F 56.6 48.1 49.7 51.8 54.8 58.2 60.9 64.5 65.9 64.2 59.5 52.9 48.7
Average °F 63.5 56.6 57.7 59.0 61.4 63.6 66.1 70.0 71.5 70.3 66.6 61.7 57.6
 Rain 10.39 2.06 1.98 1.81 0.75 0.20 0.07 0.2 0.07 0.19 0.42 1.08

Rules and Regulations

1. All plants and animals are protected. The hunting or collecting of any natural feature is prohibited. SDMC 63.02.4 and 63.02.10 Fishing is permitted under California Fish and Game Codes.

2. Dogs must be fastened to a suitable leash under eight feet long. SDMC 63.0102 (b) (2)
3. Possession of firearms or weapons of any type is prohibited. SDMC 63.08

4. Motorized vehicles permitted on paved roads and parking areas only. Motor vehicles are not permitted on dirt roads, trails or paths. CVC 38280

5. Open fires are prohibited. SDMC 63.02.11

6. Overnight camping prohibited without a permit. SDMC 63.02.12

7. You are responsible for knowing all the rules and regulations. Questions regarding park use can by answered by staff at the Visitor & Interpretive Center (619)-668-3275 or Lake Murray at 619-463-4015.

Source - Photos and Content - Mission Trails Regional Park


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