Clevenger Canyon is a steep, twisting canyon carved out by Santa Ysabel Creek just east of San Pasqual Valley and the Wild Animal Park. Trails climbing up to the rim of the canyon are easily accessible from the north and south side of Highway 78. The trail offers a steady workout, ocean views, and panoramic views of the mountains to the east (when not obscured by clouds).
Distance: 5.3 Miles
Elevation Gained: 1,400′
Every day I go to work, I have a one hour commute there and then back. Fortunately, this commute spends only part of its time on the freeway and the rest of the time on country roads. The two chief benefits of having this commute through windy canyons and shady oak woodland is that I’ve been able to listen my way through the first five Harry Potter books, and I am able to stop off at any number of hiking spots on the way home.
Of all the places located between Ramona and my apartment in Oceanside, Clevenger Canyon is the most accessible. The two trailheads sit on the side of 78, presenting instance access to trails. Additionally, the trailhead for Boden Canyon is nearby, leaving three trailheads within two miles of road sitting smack dab in the middle of my commute. I knew this job would have unexpected perks.
This hike offers a good workout with good views. The trail itself is pretty fun to hike too, despite the seemingly tedious switchbacks that too many people have shortcutted. The views expand as you rise up to the canyons rim, opening out across Ramona to take in the Cuyamaca Mountains, Volcan Mountains, and El Cajon Mountain in the distance with the wide, grassy plain of Ramona shimmering in the foreground.
The trail commences by dropping a fast 200 feet to the bottom of the canyon where Santa Ysabel either roars, trickles, or sits bone dry. This shady section currently has a modest trickle of water, which pools up in certain nooks and crannies to provide a habitat for frogs that croak vociferously as the sun descends. After the creek, the trail begins ascending unremittingly through grassy slopes punctuating with chaparral shrubs and granite boulders.
As you wind your way up the moderately graded switchbacks, please be sure not to contribute to the shortcuts that run directly up the slope. I can never understand why somebody would wish to walk straight up a mountain, which is excruciatingly tedious and difficult work. More likely, the shortcuts are created by people coming down, which sounds like torture to my knees. At any rate, shortcutting exacerbates erosion and diminishes natural beauty. So don’t.
You’ll also be hard put to avoid the abundant graffiti on various boulders. This appears to be a popular hangout for miscreants and ruffians, or at least kids who are bored and want to deface property. One graffiti artist seems to have a fondness for Thelma and Louise, as the names are tagged repeatedly over the first mile. You’ll also see an astonishingly polite warning, which is still “kept real” that states “Watch your step, bitch.”
At least until inland temps hit the 90’s, I’ll have this and a number of other options to take the sting out of my commute. Clevenger is a handy little trail to have around. The good workout and views are the perfect anecdote for a stressful day in the office.