The trails at Louis Stelzer County Park begin at the entrance on Wildcat Canyon Road with the .7-mile looped Riparian Trail which passes through a beautiful, shaded tract of oak woodland strewn with boulders. The path here is wide, paved and flat with a rest area and picnic table surrounded by trees and sage shrubs near the entrance. The trail soon emerges, however, into a virtually shade-less route that parallels Wild Canyon Creek, hidden by overgrown poison oak and other plants and provider of a fresh-water habitat for deer, raccoons and other small mammals as well as bobcats. Intermittent seasonal streams cross your path, some with small footbridges, as you approach the picnic area called Cinthia's Corner. If you're hiking with small children or just looking for a short walk, this is a good place to stop and have a snack before heading back to the parking lot.
After Cinthia's Corner, the trail circles back toward the entrance, but a short stretch called the Wooten Trail arises beyond a wooden boardwalk and connects the Riparian with the Stelzer Trail and an observation deck where you and Fido can scan the sky for the resident Red-Tail Hawks, or look downward for animals on the ground. The .28-mile Wooten Loop traverses a lush meadow with furtastic wildflowers and is a moderately uphill climb, though peaceful and quiet.
When you reach the .6-mile Stelzer Ridge Trail and hike to the Kumeyaay Promontory and Stelzer Summit, you'll be treated to vistas of the mountains to the east and the valleys spread out below. The trail becomes a series of switchbacks to attain the junction where short, steep trails lead to the 2 high points. Rocky and somewhat slippery with gravel, they're worth the effort. At the Stelzer Summit, you'll find a jumble of huge boulders that form a kind of crevice where you can sit in the shade and rest while you look out on the rural land below. This trail also boasts a small seasonal waterfall.
A mixture of easy and semi-difficult, this set of trails offers challenges for those who relish them, and a sense of remoteness to all in spite of its convenient proximity to Wildcat Canyon Road. Arf!