This Walk Rocks

Hike Along the San Diego River at Walker Preserve in Santee

Woman walking and looking at Covid-19 Rock Snake in Santee's Walker Preserve

Go on a 2.5-mile out-and-back hike along the San Diego River in Santee’s Walker Preserve. It’s home to the colorful “Covid-19 Rock Snake,” a project initiated and managed by Santee Rocks, encouraging people to spread joy and kindness by adding to the chain of stones. Currently composed of hundreds of individually painted geological canvases, the rock snake can entertain for hours and provide a brighter outlook. Bring one of your own to add to the community creation.

Park along the street and find the entrance to the preserve (and trailhead), marked by a beautiful wooden portico, gazebo, and picnic area (there’s also a bike repair station). The manicured dirt trail is pristine throughout, and the wide, fence-framed path remains flat but has constant riparian views, convenient benches, and interpretive signs detailing the preserve’s history and ecosystem. We recommend reading about the sand mining that existed before the park’s recent restoration.

Continue on and enjoy the serene river vistas—you can get close to the river via a spur trail at the half-mile marker. Look for resident coots and ducks, but also search for the Santee Drive-In theater wall on the south side of the water. 

At the mile marker, take a lightly ascending spur trail to the left to find a shady picnic spot under a small grove of willows. The trail ends in a quarter mile, offering views of El Cajon Mountain to the east as you reach a neighborhood baseball field. This is where the Walker Preserve ends; however, you can continue on the Lakeside Trail here if you want further mileage. 

Painted rocks on the trail at Santee

Otherwise, turn around, get one more look at the rock snake. Remember, as three simple rocks in the snake advise, “have hope, love yourself, and wash your hands for 20 seconds!”

BEER BONUS: Comfort and joy sometimes come in a pint! There are five breweries within just 3 miles of the preserve, but the closest watering hole is newcomer Three Frogs Brewery (try the Drunk Monkey Golden or Chocolate Pretzel stouts!).

To get to the Walker Preserve trailhead, take the I-15 or the I-5 to the CA-52 east. Exit at Magnolia Dr. (just before the CA-67) and turn left, heading north. After 1.3 miles, the trailhead and street parking will be on your right. Dog-friendly!

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