Old Mission Dam – Mission Trails Regional Park

The Old Mission Dam in Mission Trails Regional Park is a bit of early San Diego history set in a remarkably serene setting.

This was my first visit to Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) and I’m sorry that I haven’t explored it earlier. It’s a 7,220 acre (2,922 hectare) park with plenty of hiking trails on the hills, through the valleys, and along the San Diego River. Some of the warning signs at the trail heads instill a sense of caution and concern for a brief moment—beware of rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and unexploded ordnance—but it was nice to be informed.

The Old Mission Dam along with an aqueduct system were built by Kumeyaay laborers and Spanish missionaries around 1813–1816 to provide a reliable source of water to the Mission San Diego de Alcala, nearly six miles away. The dam is constructed from bricks, stones, and mortar.

Getting to the dam is a short walk from the parking lot, and there are a number of smaller paths off the main trail that allow you to have different perspectives. In the parking lot, there were two chemical toilets available, but no running water. Along the trail, there are a few concrete picnic tables for use, but they’re out in the wide-open, with no shade over the tables at all.

As I wandered along some of the trails, I was struck by how quiet it was given Mission Gorge Road and CA 52 are nearby. You could hear critters scurrying away as you approached, and a few lizards even made their presence known. I missed out on seeing any mountain lions or rattlesnakes, most likely because I was there at the height of the day (around 1 p.m.) and it was a warm 83° F / 28° C, so I suspect both were smarter than I was, hiding from the midday sun.

MTRP has a lot more to offer than just the Old Mission Dam, and it’s something that warrants further exploration.

What You Need To Know

Location: One Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, CA 92119

Hours: 8 a.m.–5 p.m. (Nov.–Mar.); 8 a.m.–7 p.m. (Apr.–Oct.). Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Cost: Free

Phone: 619.668.3281

Website: www.mtrp.org

Tips: Parking at the Old Mission Dam is rather limited. Trails are sandy and rocky, so good hiking shoes are in order. Bring plenty of water if you’re going to be hiking any distance. It gets quite warm in the park during the summer.


Click to see full-sized photos.

Visited: 30 July 2016

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