The Highland Valley Trail parallels Highland Valley Rd. on the south side of the San Dieguito River valley. The trail is never far from development, and the sites and sounds of civilization are omnipresent, yet this is an enjoyable and tranquil trail through grasslands, oaks, and along a stream.
This trail was a marker of one way in which I’ve grown over the last year. In the past, I would look at a trail close to civilization as inferior and likely avoid it, which is likely why I haven’t hiked this trail yet in spite of its ease of access. Such trails provide ever-present awareness of how much has been lost, and I could never quite shake that sadness on a trail such as this.
What’s also lost with that attitude is what still remains. Sure, this trail parallels a road. Sure, you can hear the I-15 from start to finish. And yes, there were tractors doing construction on the tail end of the trail, drowning out the sounds of Sycamore Creek. There were also oak trees, granite boulders covered in lichen, mountain views, and beautiful early morning October light and cold, clean air and on my skin. Focusing on the negative skews perspectives and forces an incomplete view of the world.
That’s not to say that I would classify Highland Valley Trail as a destination hike to drive more than half an hour for. This trail has its best valley as a community trail providing easy access to natural beauty. It’s not Palomar or Mt. Laguna, nor is it Daley Ranch or Mt. Woodson. That doesn’t mean it isn’t special, and I really enjoyed this trip, particularly when it reached Sycamore Creek and bent away from the freeway.
The trail is neither difficult nor remote, which makes it a good trail for beginners or children. This would not be a bad place to start for a novice hiker, and even for a guy who spent two days beneath towering cliffs and fiery foliage, this was enjoyable and relaxing from start to finish.