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For decades the argument has been made that San Diego’s Balboa Park is the jewel of the city and region. As the nation’s largest urban cultural park, it is home to 15 museums, historic performing arts facilities and the world famous San Diego Zoo. But, what most visitors and native San Diegans don’t realize is that Mission Trails Regional Park is San Diego’s hidden treasure.

As one of the nation’s largest urban natural parks at 5,800 acres, Mission Trails offers visitors and residents alike the chance to explore the cultural, historical and recreational aspects of our city. Located eight miles northeast of downtown San Diego, north of I-8 and south of State Highway 52 in the cities of La Mesa and San Diego, the park offers a 46-acre campground, two lakes, over 40 miles of trails for hikers, bikers and equestrians, the Old Mission Dam, a state-of-the-art Visitor & Interpretive Center and Cowles Mountain, the highest peak in the city of San Diego.

Inside the Visitor & Interpretive Center one will learn about the parks history, geology animal community and plant life. Presentations within the center capture the park’s natural beauty and the people who once inhabited the land and created its historical

value and tradition. At the Kumeyaay Lake campground, campers can enjoy fishing along the lake and have their choice of 46 sites for tents or recreational vehicles. The campground offers water, bathrooms and hot showers as well as a fire box at each site.

The Old Mission Dam, a man-made structure, is a nationally registered historic landmark, registered on October 15, 1966, and offers a gateway into the parks hiking trails and is an excellent area to capture the animal and plant life that call the park home. The Equestrian Staging Area gives the region’s horse and mountain biking communities an area to enjoy their love of the outdoors. And, for those who desire a long, intense, uphill and challenging hike, trekking to the top of Cowles Mountain offers a panoramic view of the city to the Pacific Ocean.

Mission Trails Regional Park is a treasure even Captain Jack Sparrow would enjoy finding. Its recreational, cultural and historical contribution to San Diego is a treasure chest worthy of exploring, understanding and sharing with generations to come.

JOHNNIE PERKINS

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