Cottonwood Grove Park
San Diego River Bikeway
San Diego, CA 92110
Where to park: 32.761480, -117.191327
Trailhead: 32.761508, -117.193260
Dog-Friendly: Yes Kid-Friendly: Yes
Hike: .8 miles 1 way Level: Easy
Park at the Presidio Little League baseball fields and then head south to find the trailhead
I found out about this unique gem one day while looking around Google satellite to see if anything caught my eye. Sure enough, there was a tiny trail in Mission Valley running along the San Diego river titled “Cottonwood Grove Park”. Although the San Diego river doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for safety, I was intrigued and decided to explore this trail.
We ventured out in late spring when the bursting blooms and colors were in the early stages of fading. It made me wish I had gotten out here a month earlier which I definitely plan on doing next year! There are many different trails you can take here which will twist and wind you around the river bank. They pretty much all either lead to dead-ends or intersect you back to the main trail.
Be mindful that you may run into an occasional homeless camp. Just keep on moving and mind your own is my recommendation. Even better, come with some old clothes you want to donate in case you do run into someone in need. No better time than helping those struggling the most!
The trail is scattered with some beautiful details. We spotted a huge heart made out of rocks, cute benches to sit on in the thick of the greenery and several beautiful murals painted along the bike trail. You will eventually connect with the bike trail which leads all the way to Ocean Beach. We did not hike to OB though. That will be another day and given a separate page.
I read that the Cottonwood Grove Trail was cleaned up and the path was created by a local New School of Architecture and Design volunteer group. This is part of a much larger bike trail that will eventually take you from OB all the way to Julian!
I didn’t get a good photo of this, but the rocks are shaped like a giant heart:
Careful of snakes!
At this point you will now intersect with the River Valley Bike Path. This mural was so beautiful!
There’s a lot of what I consider talented graffiti underneath the bridges:
We came across a beautiful memorial for someone’s pet. If you happen to find this, please be respectful and don’t even touch it. Whoever created this makes that pretty clear in some of their signs:
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