The 4.92 mile paved service road has a variety of walkers, joggers, and bicyclists circling the reservoir seven days a week with cars allowed on the road Saturday through Tuesday. The dam and reservoir were finished in 1960 and are owned and operated by the City of San Diego. It is part of the second San Diego Aqueduct project, with water from both the Colorado River Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct. The reservoir’s water-storage capacity is 6682 acre feet. Dogs on leashes are permitted but must remain 50 feet or more from the water at all times.
Bring your binoculars to view cormorants or pelicans competing with anglers for bass, bluegill, or sunfish. Mallards, lesser scaups, redhead, gadwall, northern shovelers, and ruddy ducks are found on the lake, depending on the season. Turkey vultures or hawks can be seen catching the wind currents with the sound of European starlings, California towhee, California quail, and wrentits in the chaparral plants.
Chaparral plants include chamise, black sage, manzanita, monkey flower and California sagebrush, plus species that are hard to spot and rare. These include Zeltnera venusta or canchalagua, which is an annual with pink petals and white centers with yellow anthers. Look closely after pollen is harvested and note that the anthers are shaped like corkscrews. Another species called Adolphia california, spineshrub, or California adolphia is found in San Diego County and listed by the California Native Plant Society as rare, threatened, or endangered in California but is considered common elsewhere. The flower has five triangular petals with small folded petals between each triangular-shaped one.
The name of the reservoir has an interesting history. In 1890, newspaper publisher E.W. Scripps and his philanthropist wife, Ellen Browning Scripps, purchased land in the area now called Scripps Ranch. With no buildings to obstruct the view of Mount Soledad and the Pacific Ocean, the property was given the name Miramar, Spanish for “sea view.” Ellen Browning Scripps supported a multitude of institutions in Southern California, including schools, parks, and hospitals.
Miramar Reservoir is open to fishing and private boats and kayaks from one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.
- Distance from downtown San Diego: 17 miles. Allow 25 minutes driving time. (Scripps Ranch) From I-15, exit east on Carroll Canyon Rd. and keep left (north) as the name changes to Scripps Ranch Blvd. Turn right (east) on Scripps Lake Dr. and then left into the parking lot. Restrooms, chemical toilets, water, and picnic areas. Wheelchair accessible. Gates open from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Hiking length: 4.92 miles around the lake.
- Difficulty: Easy and level on either paved road or dirt trail near the shore for a portion of the walk.