Where water, birds, and history all meet. The Tijuana River Valley Regional Park provides a wide variety of year-round recreational opportunities within its 1,800 acres that includes a bird and butterfly garden.
We recommend you park at the north trailhead off Dairy Mart Road where there is an informational kiosk and lots of trails to explore. You will see mixed-use trail markers indicating the developed trails. There are benches along the trails that provided plenty of spots to stop and rest, as well as bird blinds perfect for watching the many birds around North Dairy Mart Pond. A wooden boardwalk borders a non-native grassland and an area of coastal sage scrub. Be on the lookout for snakes and other reptiles.
This area is culturally and naturally rich. For centuries this area served as the fishing grounds for local Kumeyaay people before becoming the southwesternmost part of the United States. The political border between the U.S. and Mexico is only a recent development. There are signs that the ancestors of today’s Kumeyaay had been living in the area for over 9,000 years. Recent history includes the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) in which the United States gained control of California, and split the ancestral lands of Kumeyaay, locking half of the Kumeyaay Nation in the U.S. and the other half (Kumiai) in Mexico.
We’ve rated the difficulty for this hike easy, depending on length, with minimal elevation gain. Bicycles and horses are allowed on some sections. Before you go, check to ensure the trail is open. More detailed information about the area can be found at Tijuana River Valley Regional Park.
Birds, birds, and more birds make this an excellent spot for birders. The park is part of the Pacific Flyway and is bisected by the east/west flowing Tijuana River. The broad flat floodplain provides an ideal environment to study the diverse vegetation communities that attract transient bird populations as well as amphibians and reptiles—lizards, skinks, snakes, whiptails, frogs, and toads. The meandering trail system provides a lush environment ideal for exploring.
More than 340 bird species have been recorded here—that is two-thirds of all bird species recorded in the entire county! The ponds and surrounding riparian wetlands provide habitat for songbirds, rails, waterfowl, and shorebirds. The riparian woodland supports a major population of the endangered Least Bell's Vireo and the southernmost populations of the Downy Woodpecker and American Goldfinch. Ponds along Dairy Mart Road and agricultural fields offer more habitats, bringing the valleys bird list to over 340 species.
Be on the lookout for the Mexican black-throated magpie-Jay (Calocitta colliei), identified by its sharp contrasting colors of blue on top and white on the bottom, a long tail, and a black topknot. This is an exotic bird in San Diego County, originally having escaped from captivity but nesting in the Tijuana River valley since at least 1997. This species is endemic to western mainland Mexico from Sonora to Jalisco and does not occur naturally in Baja California.
From I-5 go south on Dairy Mart Road. Drive 0.2 mile to the parking lot on the right with a Parks and Recreation, County of San Diego, Tijuana River Valley Regional Park sign.
Trailhead GPS: N32.55427, W117.06300
Looking for more great hikes? Check out our Canyoneers page or purchase the book, Coast to Cactus: The Canyoneer Trail Guide to San Diego Outdoors.
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