Forget that ‘to do’ list; hit the trail!

San Elijo Lagoon Preserve
May 31, 2013 | 4:28pm

If you need an excuse to get out of all those weekend chores - and who doesn’t - Saturday is National Trails Day and it’s your duty (your duty!) to get out there and celebrate the event.

County Parks and Recreation is making it easy by revealing five ‘hidden gems’ among the many trails located throughout the region. Do you like waterfalls or bird watching, the mountains or coastal areas? Parks has them all. The hikes themselves range from easy to difficult and can take as little as half an hour in some areas to a daylong adventure in others. So read below, grab your hiking boots, hat and sunscreen and head on out. Pretty soon, you’ll be singing “happy trails to you.”

Los Peñasquitos Canyon
City: San Diego
Hike length: 4.7 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Check out waterfalls, river views and other great scenery, all without heart-failure-inducing elevation changes. Perfect for a nice stroll, Los Peñasquitos makes for an awesome family hike.   

William Heise County Park
City: Julian
Hike length: 10.75 total
Difficulty: Various
You’ll find a wide variety of trails at William Heise County Park. At more than 4,000 feet above sea level, the 929-acre park truly has a mountainous, forested feel. This park is so pretty, hikers want to camp out there, literally! Cabins, campsites, restrooms, showers are all available but call ahead to make sure they haven’t been reserved. 

Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Open Space Preserve
City: Poway
Hike length: 10 miles total
Difficulty: Various
Discover more than 10 miles of trails, grand vistas and abundant wildlife. Find out how people lived there in the past and how the Open Space Preserve came back from the devastating 2003 wildfires.

San Elijo Lagoon Preserve
City: Encinitas
Hike Length: 6 miles total
Difficulty: Easy
Not only is San Elijo Lagoon one of the few remaining coastal wetlands in San Diego County, the mix of ocean water and fresh water creates a diverse habitat that is home to more than 300 species of plants and 300 species of birds.  

Wilderness Gardens Open Space Preserve
City: Pala
Hike Length:  4 miles
Difficulty:  easy to moderate
Wilderness Gardens Preserve is the oldest County parks open space preserve and was acquired in 1973. The trails are located in the San Luis Rey River watershed and one trail meanders along the river. The Wilderness Gardens Preserve is known as a birdwatcher’s paradise so remember to take your binoculars.

While these trails are some of the hidden gems in the San Diego County Parks and Recreation system, the department offers hundreds of miles of trails throughout the region. Check them out and see which one appeals to you. Happy National Trails Day!  

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