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South Clevenger Trail Guide

South Clevenger Trail Guide

In This Guide
  • Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions for the South Clevenger Trail
  • How to Get to the South Clevenger Trail
  • Insider Hike Tips and Recommendations
Total Distance (?)5 miles (8.1 km)
Hike Time2-3 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)1,400 feet (427m)
Highest Elevation1,680 feet (512m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)San Pasqual - Clevenger Canyon Open Space Park
Park Phone858-538-8082
Weather & ForecastLatest Conditions
Stay SafeCopy this webpage link to the clipobard and share with a friend before you hike. Let them know when to expect you back.

The South Clevenger Trail has gained popularity because of a unique attraction: a pair of lawn chairs perched on a boulder, offering epic views down into San Pasqual Canyon. Visiting the chairs is fun, but there’s also much more to enjoy on this hike in the San Pasqual – Clevenger Canyon Open Space Park. You have a moderate climb that provides spectacular views of the valley and then the final summit, where you get sweeping views of high peaks like El Cajon and Cuyamaca Peak. It’s a fun hike with lots of natural eye candy and photo opportunities.

Where is South Clevenger Trail?

The South Clevenger Trail starts just of CA-78, a spectacular windy road up the valley. Use this trailhead address:
South Clevenger Trail, 18259-18313 CA-78, Escondido, CA 92025

South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 2
The drive to the trailhead is spectacular. The only downside is that this road is usually busy.
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There’s a small parking area on the south side of the road.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 1
Theoretically you’d get trail information from the board here, but today I only get gang tags.

There are no toilets or water fills at the trailhead.

Gear For the Hike

This is a “hike hike” and I recommend using hiking clothing. You can also hike in fitness clothes.

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Garmin Inreach Mini 2

Garmin InReach Mini 2
I’m a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don’t. I use a Garmin InReach which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I’m okay or if my plans change when I’m out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS subscription built-in so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what’s the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it’s a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.

Latest Prices: Amazon | REI

Lone Peak 6 Yellow

Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they’re reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here’s why. The downside of this shoe is that it won’t last as long as something like the Terraventure 3 or Moab 2 (see alternate footwear choices at the bottom of my gear page). I’ve been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.

Women’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REI | Amazon 

Black Diamond Ergo Poles 2

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I’ve gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I’ve had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.

Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon 
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon 

Gregory Zulu 30

Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day-pack. First off, it’s very comfortable, and the mesh “trampoline” back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It’s hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it’s not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.

Women’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 
Men’s Latest Prices: REIAmazon 

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated June 2022.

My June 2022 Top Gear Picks

No company pays me to promote or push a product, all the gear you see here is gear I use and recommend. If you click an a link and buy gear, I get a small commission that helps keep the website ad and promotion free. There is no cost to you.

South Clevenger Trail Maps

This hike is on a trail in a City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department’s park and is actively maintained. Yes, you are in the City of San Diego here! The trail is in decent condition and easy to follow.

Click Here To View

Explore Map on CalTopoView a Printable PDF Hike MapDownload the Hike GPX File

If you try to download the GPX file and your browser adds a “.txt” or “.xml” extension to it, simply rename it as a “.gpx” file.


How Are You Going to Navigate This Hike?
Here’s what I use. If you are a hardcore hiker and/or hike in extreme conditions, I recommend getting a dedicated GPS like a GPSMAP 66sr or 66i, or a wrist-based GPS with maps like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Epix. If you only hike in fair weather and a touchscreen is fine, or just want a solid tool, I highly recommend downloading the smartphone app, Gaia GPS. It’s a piece of cake to use and very powerful, just make sure your phone is in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get a big discount here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

To access this guide when out of cell phone range on the trail, simply save the webpage on your phone ( iPhoneAndroid ).

Elevation Profile

South Clevenger Trail Guide Elevation
Here’s the one-way profile to the top. It’s a steady climb to the high point by Peak 1755, then you’ll follow the ridge to the chairs and Peak 1635.

3D Map

South Clevenger Trail Guide 3d Map
From the start you’ll climb up the ridge, and then wind around to the left where the ridge ends at Peak 1635.

Hike Brief

Engleman Oak
Clevenger Canyon is home to the rare Engelmann Oak, found primarily in San Diego County’s hill country. This oak’s range once extended into Arizona but today is confined to San Diego / Northern Baja because of climate change. Fire damage from the 2018 Pasqual Fire along this hiking route means that you probably won’t see Engelmanns, but you might spot a few as you glance around the surrounding landscape. Photo Wikipedia

South Clevenger Trail Hike Directions

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Video Directions

Watch This Video In 360/VR Why 360/VR Is Great

Turn by Turn Directions

South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 4
The trail starts a short way up from the parking area.
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Head through the gate to start the hike.
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After passing the gate you’ll get the usual warning signs.
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The trail starts off as a gradual uphill with some wide switchbacks.
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Some sections get steep, but the trail doesn’t have any long steep sections.
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In the spring the trail can get colorful. I recommend doing the hike in the winter and spring when it’s green and lush.
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Pass the face rock.
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At the junction, go straight. To the right is what people call the Clevenger Canyon South-West Trail.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 12
The trail levels off and you hike into the gully, which has some trees that survived the 2018 Pasqual Fire. Maybe there’s an Engelmann Oak in there somewhere.
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The vegetation in this section can be overgrown as you cross the middle of the canyon, which also has an intermittent stream.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 14
Now you start to climb again. That boulder in the distance is where you’re going, and will be the high point on this hike.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 15
There are some steep switchbacks that wind up before the trail levels out as you approach the high point.
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You’ll start to get some views along the ridge here. The final peak, Peak 1635, is the end of the trail.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 17
The major climbing is over and you just have some small rises as you approach the high point.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 18
Some sections here have stairs as you tackle a few short uphills.
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And soon you’ll pass by the big boulder that you’ve seen for the last mile or so.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 20
Now it’s downhill to Peak 1635.
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When you get to the big clearing by the building site (will be off to the right), follow the trail to the left.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 22
And shortly you’ll see the chairs in the distance.
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Look for the hard right turn just below the chairs.
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And here you are at the chairs.
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Climb up the boulder and have a seat. The chairs rock and move a bit, which can be a little unnerving until you get used to it.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 26
This is the view that you get from the chairs. Not too shabby….
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When you’re done, head toward the final peak on the trail that continues from the back of the chairs.
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Soon the end of the trail, Peak 1635 is in front of you.
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There are a few areas with boulders to climb around, but the official peak is a hard right.
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You’ll find a bench and trail register here.
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You get great views into the San Pasqual Valley.
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And views up Boden and Clevenger Canyons. In the distance on a clear day you’ll see Cuyamaca Peak and El Cajon.
South Clevenger Canyon Trail Directions 33
From here, just turn around and head back down the way you came. That’s the hike, thanks for using my guide!

This guide last updated on March 29, 2021. Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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