Buena Vista Park is a typical urban park, with manicured grass, ball fields, man-made ponds, and picnic tables. The Arroyo Vista Trail leads from the south end of the manicured park into a semi-wild natural area along Agua Hedionda Creek and passes near or through a dense riparian forest consisting of coast live oaks, arroyo willows, and sycamores, with an occasional toyon or sugar bush.
In places the forest is heavily infested with non-native plants, particularly eucalyptus and fan palms. It isn’t a virgin forest. Despite this, it is a dense, overarching forest dominated by huge, beautiful oaks and sycamores that provide welcome shade for tired hikers on hot days. There is some water in Hedionda Creek year around, and the creek also flows through a marshy area. As a result, it is a haven for birds — over 80 species of birds, both year-round residents and migratory visitors can be seen.
Most of the surrounding hillsides are covered with typical inland sage-scrub vegetation, dominated by California sagebrush, black sage, and buckwheat. These shrubs react to summer drought by losing most of their leaves. However, once the winter rains appear, they come to life, producing new leaves and flowers. If sufficient rain falls, a large assortment of annual flowering plants appears on the hillsides as well.
Walk to the south end of the parking area and cross the pond dam on the paved road. The trailhead for the Arroyo Vista Trail is signed and begins on the left at the end of the road. The trail is obvious and easily followed with very little elevation gain or loss. The only drawback is that mountain bikers and cross-country runners make extensive use of the park and this trail. As a result, the trail is eroded in places, and there are many unofficial trails leading from the main trail. However, you cannot get lost.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 40 miles. Allow 45 minutes driving time. Take the I-15 north to Escondido, then merge onto westbound SR-78. Exit SR-78 at Sycamore, go south for two blocks., then make a right on Shadowridge. Continue for about 2 miles to Antigua Drive, then make a left into Buena Vista Park. Parking near the trailhead isn’t a problem, but the nearest facilities are on the other side of Shadowridge Drive in the main part of the park. There are no facilities or potable water on the trail.
Hiking length: 2.5 miles out and back.
Difficulty: Easy with little elevation gain or loss. It is a good place for a morning walk, a quick run, or a short hike. Good also for families with children. There is much here children will find interesting. The best time to go is from October through May.