Go For Guajome
Hike Guajome County Park in Oceanside San Diego County
Like a good HOGO (hike one, get one)? Head to Guajome County Park in Oceanside for a hidden lake twofer via a 4-mile loop trail that traverses most of the 394-acre green haven and adds a bonus history lesson, too. Park in the paved lot ($3) or on the street along Guajome Lake Road (free), then find the trailhead right at the park’s eastern entrance. The peaceful path immediately flanks the namesake lake, which comes from the Luiseño word for “frog pond,” and its many resident waterfowl, including coots, ducks, egrets, and a flock of particularly large and healthy geese.
There are also red-winged blackbirds nesting in the trees along the shore, who are especially talkative during crepuscular hours, and you can even spot American kestrels hovering as they search for prey. Complete a full lake loop now, or at the end of your trek, to gain more picturesque perspectives of the watering hole. When you reach a junction with the Nature Trail (right path goes around the lake), head left onto the Nature Trail and across the charming bridge. The narrow path has interpretive signs covering the local flora, from fennel to live oak to sage, and crosses a stream and under tower palms. The path opens up to multiple outlets—to the left is the 33-site campground (and one cabin for rent!).
Head straight up the hill on the Willow Trail, gaining over 100 feet and some incredible views of the park and surrounding suburbia (look for a bench at the top). The trail gently descends to another junction—head left onto the Upper Pond Trail. This is where you’ll find your second lake, one that barely any of the park’s patrons visit. It is a truly tranquil loop around the cattail-surrounded smaller lake. Head back via the Luiseño Trail, which reconnects with the junction at the campground, after passing a picnic area with park amenities on your left (this is the park’s alternate west entrance).
BONUS HISTORY: Via a 5-minute drive, or a loop extension via a walk along the Santa Fe Trail (across from the west entrance of the park at Willowbrook Dr./Melrose Dr.), visit the Rancho Guajome Adobe, an incredibly well-preserved mid-19th century hacienda that sits in a pristine green park. This National Historic Landmark offers interpretive signs of the home’s and the region’s history, as well as a beautiful picnic setting. If you want even more California history, consider heading to the nearby and much more famous San Luis Rey Mission (founded in 1798).
To get to the east entrance to Guajome County Park and the trailhead, take the CA-76 to the Guajome Lake Rd. exit, heading south. The entrance and lot will be immediately on your right (street parking is just down the road). Dog-friendly!
Story and photos by Matt Pawlik.
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