The Friends of Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and management of the preserve and the adjacent open spaces. We support educational and recreational activities that foster an appreciation of the natural environment.

San Diego's north county open spaces

Development of our open space canyons, streams and mesas is proceeding at a furious pace in the North City area of San Diego. One day a ridge line is covered with chaparral vegetation, the next its been graded flat, destroying in days what it took nature millennia to evolve.

What's at stake?

San Diego is one of the bio-diversity hot spots of the entire nation. There are more species of plants and animals found only in San Diego County than most of the U.S. east of the Mississippi combined. Climate, geology, and topography have all combined to support a variety of natural habitats not found elsewhere.

And what more wonderful a place to take a nature hike, ride a mountain bike, or ride your horse? And the North City area of San Diego is second to none in these respects.

In addition to the area’s natural resources, there are important cultural resources, including:

  • Native American sites many thousands of years old.
  • Rancho Santa Maria de los Peñasquitos, the oldest standing residence in San Diego County, an adobe ranch house first constructed in 1823 during San Diego’s Mexican period.
  • A 1920s era arsenic/gold mine located on Black Mountain, a future interpretive site for visitors.
How much of our open space and cultural resources are protected?

Between the communities of Mira Mesa and Rancho Peñasquitos, Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve stretches from the merge of I-5 and I-805 in Sorrento Valley into Sabre Springs east of I-15. Now about 4,000 acres, it is publicly owned by the City and the County of San Diego.

On the preserve’s northern border with Del Mar Mesa, various public agencies have been buying open space parcels to add to the Preserve. The Del Mar Mesa also includes Carmel Mountain Preserve, about 400 acres, saved from development after a 10-year battle by community and environmental groups, including the Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve.

West of Peñasquitos Canyon Preseve and the Del Mar Mesa, Torrey Pines State Reserve occupies a beautiful part of the coast, including Peñasquitos Lagoon. Unfortunately, it is largely isolated from other open space areas, connected only by crossings under freeways at two places. North of Rancho Peñasquitos, Black Mountain Open Space Park has recently grown to over 1,000 acres.

Farther north lies the San Dieguito River Valley Park, separated from Black Mountain Open Space Park by over 6,000 acres of old agricultural lands, some of which are now being developed.

Gaps and Connections

The list of open space parks sounds impressive until you look at a map and see the gaps that exist between them. The City of San Diego has a plan that shows connections that would link up these lands into an interconnected system of core preserves, wildlife and trails corridors. To make this plan work will require broad community support.

Role of the Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve

In the early 1980s the Friends of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve was formed as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit to protect as much of the old Peñasquito Rancho lands as possible. As the preserve became a fact in the 1980s and 90s, the Friends turned their attention to the other open space lands to the north and decided to organize to expand them and connect them up with wildlife and trails corridors. With broad community support the Friends were able to shift Route 56 out of Deer Canyon, San Diego’s last undeveloped coastal canyon, and up onto the old agricultural lands. Broad public support and a strong volunteer effort also stopped the City from building more roads across Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, leaving us at least one place we can escape the din of the city. As these lands are acquired, the Friends also began to help in managing and interpreting them through a wide variety of activities:

  • leading nature walks;
  • publishing a newsletter;
  • a Habitat Restoration team to remove invasive exotic plants and to restore native plants such as cottonwoods in their place;
  • conducting endangered plant surveys;
  • training volunteers in wildlife track and sign surveys;
  • sponsoring educational talks and seminars;
  • organizing public support campaigns to save and connect these open space areas.

There is still much to do and we need your help.

Join us, now!

hiker on trail