West Sycamore Open Space is an extension of Mission Trails Regional Park that was opened to the public in December 2014. It is adjacent to Gooden Ranch Sycamore Canyon Reserve and has interconnecting trails with the reserve but not to the remainder of Mission Trails park at this time, with long-term plans to acquire land for a direct connection.
West Sycamore is located in Scripps Ranch at the east end of Stonebridge Parkway. There are 7 miles of trails in this 1372-acre park that offer easy strolling with views of La Jolla, Mount Woodson, Iron Mountain, the Cuyamacas, and Cowles Mountain. You can stay on the ridge-top service roads for little elevation change or plunge down into one of the canyons for a more challenging hike. If opting for the more challenging hike described here, the rewards are spectacular views, a variety of vegetation, and historical/educational experiences.
The habitat on the ridgeline is chaparral and, in the deep valleys below, a mix of coastal sage scrub and chaparral. Stand still on the ridgeline and turkey vultures can be seen sweeping up from below within a few feet to catch the thermals. Many nocturnal animals call this area home. After an evening rain, look for tracks in puddles, where tracks from deer, coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions are likely. During the day you may see mule deer, horned lizards, and southern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus helleri).
From the West Sycamore Staging Area, take the trailhead on the north side of the parking lot. There are maps on the side of the kiosk. Follow the service road for 1 mile through revegetated habitat. Soon the landscape turns to undisturbed vegetation. The road can be steep at times, but do not despair when there is a major climb in front. Look to the left for a narrow-track trail that goes around the hill. Continue north to the kiosk. An alternate hike to the left of the kiosk is the Beeler Canyon Trail, a 2.45-mile narrow-track trail that skirts down the valley’s wall to Beeler Canyon Road. If parked there before the hike, take the steeply paved fire road and Via Santa Pradera back to the road to bypass the West Sycamore staging area.
Continuing east from the kiosk on the service road, views of Mount Woodson and Iron Mountain will fill the sky. During the rainy season one can experience strong weather up close, as there is no cover from the elements up here. At the next intersection take the powerline road to the right. It is marked Gooden Ranch Preserve. It plunges down into a side canyon away from the elements in the Gooden Ranch valley when it levels out.
From here, go right to visit the Gooden Ranch Historical Visitor Center with information, picnic tables, and water. After a rest, return to the last intersection. Look around the valley for wildlife —roadrunners, hares, and birds. Continue north up to the Gooden Ranch staging area.
In the parking lot, take the narrow-track trail to the west/Northridge Trail. This is the east entrance to West Sycamore. Enjoy the gradual climb through thick laurel sumac, coastal sagebrush, and broom baccharis. At the service road, head right (west) for the return hike back to the trailhead.
Note: trails to the south stop abruptly at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar property line where no trespassing is allowed.
WEST SYCAMORE OPEN SPACE
Hike this “mesa of solitude in the sky” that is now part of Mission Trails Regional Park.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 21.7 miles. Allow 30 minutes driving time (Poway). Take CA-163 N to I-15 N and exit at Miramar/Pomerado Road. Go east on Pomerado Rd. and turn right (southeast) on Stonebridge Pkwy. Drive to the end of the road and into the West Sycamore Staging Area straight ahead. The park is open sunrise to sunset. Gates open April to October, from 8 a.m.–7 p.m., and from November to March, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Hiking length: 5.9 miles out and back, including option to stop at Gooden Ranch Visitor Center. Allow 3 hours. Difficulty: Easy to moderate with steep service roads. Elevation gain/loss up to 1000 feet. Equestrians, bicycles, and dog (on leashes) allowed. Facilities at West Sycamore and Gooden Ranch staging areas. No water at the West Sycamore Staging Area. Recommended time: October through May.