Running through Gonzales Canyon

Gonzales Canyon

It’s actually amazing Gonzales Canyon exists. It’s located right in the middle of suburban North County. There isn’t a lot of open space in the area due to multimillion-dollar homes built. It’s a desirable area, so there are far more homes than open space.

If you live in the area, you are lucky to be so close to such a wide array of trails.

Gonzales Canyon

About Gonzales Canyon:

Gonzales Canyon features three canyons and coastal sage. The park itself is quieter than many open spaces in the area, and I only saw a few people during my entire run. I saw a couple of mountain bikers, hikers, and runners.

It’s named after the landowner, Levi Gonzales.  In the 1800s, he plated several crops. The Gonzales Canyon Open Space was preserved in the 1980s and is part of the City of San Diego’s Multiple Species Conservation Program.  The entire program includes nearly 900 square miles of open space.  You can see a map of all of the open spaces here.

Gonzales Canyon
Wide almost rails to trails

Running and Hiking in Gonzales Canyon:

Getting into Gonzales Canyon can be a little bit of adventure. It’s a steep decline that takes a few seconds of careful walking. Both sections to get into the canyon are nearly 30% decline.  There is no “easy way” to get down into the canyon, but once you do, you’ll be rewarded with relatively flat and smooth terrain. There are both single tracks as well as wider fire roads.

Gonzales Canyon

A few trails include: 

  • Torrey Pines Loop (5.8 miles)
  • Gonzales Canyon Loop (1.8 miles)
  • Carmel Valley Canyon Loop (5.9 miles)

Gonzales Canyon

I opted to make the Torrey Pines Loop. At Gonzales Canyon, there is more foliage and shrubs than most parks I’ve seen. The trail is singletrack for a while and the shrubs almost come to the side of the trail. The trail opens up and becomes more of a fire road the further towards the coast you go.

Gonzales Canyon
Up the power line hill

After descending into the canyon, the trail is almost completely runnable, with no major uphills or downhills. There are a few challenging and technical sections, but there isn’t anything like the original descent in. You can also get several of miles of easy, almost rails to trails through the park.

As many saw, one of the toughest hills I’ve personally climbed was getting out of Gonzales Canyon. It took a slightly different route near the Torrey Pines High School, which has a wider road for climbing but it’s 26.8% grade.

Gonzales Canyon

In all, it’s a beautiful park, and if you are local or stop in San Diego, I highly suggest taking a trip to Gonzales Canyon.

You can see more hikes here.

Questions for you:

What is the steepest hill you’ve climbed? 

Have you been to Gonzales Canyon? 

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  1. Hi Hollie — Next time you’re in San Diego just go a little be further south to Penasquitos Canyon Preserver. I think you’ll be really surprised by the trails and terrain in the canyon. (BTW you can actually access PQ from Gonazales. All the trails in this general area are connected. But it would be a longish run.)

    1. Thanks, Michael! I’ll be down there again and I can’t wait to check out more of the trails. Do you live locally to Gonzales?

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