Visitor Center Loop Trail is a 1.56-mile trail with 174 feet of elevation gain and is part of Mission Trails Regional Park located in San Diego, CA. This is a great beginner hike you can bring the whole family with you.
Parking & Getting There
Parking for this trail is on the easier side, but depending on the time and day can fill up quickly. Since this is a loop you have two options for parking. They both connect to the loop and will get you on and around the trail.
Make sure to pay attention to the signs when you enter. Both of the locations have hours and the gates will close. I have almost been locked in the past and had to run back to my car because of poor planning on my part. The last thing you want is to get back from a hike and not be able to leave because your car is locked in.
Visitor Center Parking & Father Junipero Serra Trail Road: This parking lot is dirt and has about 50 spots depending on how people park. This parking section is shown to the top right on the map above. It is located right next to the visitor center. If this location is full you can park on the road that you drove in on Father Junipero Serra Trail. Finally, If all of this parking is full you can drive over to the Mission George Lot.
Mission George Road Lot: This is another dirt parking lot that has another 50 or so spots depending on how people park. This lot can also fill up fast during the weekend so it is advised to get there earlier to avoid the crowds. After a good rain, this lot is typically closed because the entrance to the lot floods and has too much-standing water for cars to pass through.
The loop is a great one if you are new to hiking, looking for something casual, or just want to bring the kids. I recommend doing this trail clockwise from your starting point. This will allow you to walk down the steep fire road and make a gradual incline for the rest of the hike. Going up the fire road is not very fun, but might be a nice challenge if you want to make the hike a little more difficult. If that’s the case, go counter clock-wise.
At the bottom of the fire road, you will find the San Diego River. This can be a cool spot to hang out for a bit. It is important to remember that moving water can be dangerous. There have been many incidents here so practice caution. While you don’t need to cross on this hike, it is a common way people access the various trailheads, if the water is deep and moving quickly, find a different route.
Going through the trail you will find many great views of the park. From the river to the beautiful mountains, and cool tree coverage. Make sure to look around, listen to the birds, and just enjoy the surrounding scenery.
The trail is very wide and easy to follow for the most part. There is shade on the trail and lots of tree coverage, but also plenty of spots exposed to the sun. Make sure to bring plenty of water. If it’s going to be a hot day, try visiting earlier in the day or evening.
Overall Visitor Center Loop Trail is a great entry-level hike to bring friends and family. While I love the challenge of longer hikes with more elevation gain, I also love this as a casual adventure. I hit this trail several times a year with friends, family, and even the pup!
Is there a specific hike that you would like to see next? Leave a comment down below or reach out via the Contact Form and hopefully I will be able to get a recap and virtual hike posted soon! Thanks for stopping by, enjoy your adventure.