I only recently discovered the Florida Canyon Nature Trails, on the far east lesser-known side of Balboa Park. I like how they are somewhat hidden, like little secret steps away from Interstate 5, the zoo, and bustling urban core of San Diego. Sure, it isn't nearly as challenging as Cowles Mountain or as large as Mission Trails Regional Park, but if you take full advantage of the network of trails that zigzag up and down both sides above Florida Drive, you can get in a good workout without the congestion of too many other hikers.
The natural vegetation of Florida Canyon may appear scruffy and unkempt by comparison with the lushly (and artificially) landscaped acres of Balboa Park's west side. The aesthetic differences between the two sides of the park, however, are minimized during the spring months, when the canyon sides wear a new coat of fresh green growth and blooming wildflowers.
The principal starting point for the Florida Canyon trail system lies just west of the Morley Field athletic complex in the northeast corner of Balboa Park. At the trail head parking lot you'll find a native plant demonstration garden, with a short trail looping through it. Nearby, there's a grassy space for dogs to roam. South of there, a somewhat intricate network of interconnecting trails clings to both sides of a wide ravine (called Florida Canyon), the floor of which is traversed by Florida Drive.
You can fashion your own route on the trail system, as I did, which contains interconnected pieces of old roads and trails. Though most of those pathways are easy to hike, several are technically challenging for mountain bikers. Be aware that depending on the level of trail maintenance and the amount of recent rain, the trails can quickly get overgrown with brushy vegetation.
Looks like she's gonna end up using all my band-aids. Good thing I always bring the first-aid kit.
Nearing the northern end of the west side of the canyon we can spot our Tahoe parked across the way.
So many options... which way next?
Back at the parking area. This looks like a great place to bring the rest of the family for a picnic.
Taking a break in the shade.
Looks like someone was tuckered out afterward.
Before heading home we made a quick stop at Fiesta Island on Mission Bay to relax on the sand and play in the water. It was a great day spent with my little hiking buddy.