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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 Distance5 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

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.
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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.

Moab 2 Mall

The Best All-Around Hiking Footwear
For most hikers, a hiking shoe is the great choice, and the Moab 2 is a winner. The ventilation is great, they last forever, offer good protection, and have a solid grip. There are sizing options for everyone’s foot in this really comfortable and reliable shoe. This shoe is also a favorite of thru-hikers. The only downside is that they are a little heavy. If you are looking for something more aggressive or lighter, check out the bottom of my gear page.
Latest Price on Women’s ShoeREI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men’s ShoeREI | Amazon

Garmin Inreach Mini Beacon

Stay Safe Out of Cell Phone Range
If you’re not familiar with the Garmin InReach technology, it allows you to send and receive text messages where you don’t have cell phone signals. You can also get weather reports and trigger an SOS to emergency responders. Even if you don’t have an emergency, sending a quick message telling a loved one that you’re okay or are running late is well worth the cost. The Garmin InReach Mini (REI | Amazon | My Review) fits in your palm and weighs next to nothing.

Gaiagps

Gaia GPS Mapping App
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS onboard. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn’t drain. GaiaGPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership (HikingGuy readers get up to 40% off here). Note that I also carry a paper map with me in case the phone dies or gets smashed.

Here’s my complete gear list that I personally use, have tested, and recommend, updated April 2021.

My April 2021 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 offset website expenses. 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 Map

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.

Fenix 6 Pro

How are you going to navigate this hike?
To start, you should always have a paper map and compass. And it helps to print this guide out or save it on your phone. I highly recommend a GPS as well. I use the Garmin Fenix 6 Smart GPS watch ( REI | Amazon | My Review) with maps (or the more affordable Garmin Instinct). The GPS smartwatch is nice because it’s rugged, works if your phone dies, and also has a billion other features like sleep tracking, workout recording, etc.

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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The major climbing is over and you just have some small rises as you approach the high point.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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