Trail History

Historical Map of the La Playa Trail
US Boundary Survey 1850

The European Beginning

The La Playa Trail follows the lee shore of Point Loma starting at Ballast Point and continuing north along Rosecrans to Old Town, across the Mission Valley Nature Preserve to Frairs Road and eastward to Mission San Diego, and beyond. The La Playa Trail has witnessed most of the early history of San Diego.

Early European references to the Trail are found in the accounts of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (1542) and Sebastian Vizcaino (1602). The La Playa Trail has been in continual daily use by the Europeans since April 1, 1769, when the Spanish packet San Antonio arrived from La Paz as part of the advance party of the Serra-Portola Expedition, which colonized Alta California for Spain.

Californian Literature

  • Alfred Robinson in Life in California (1846), describes the ride from Hide Park in La Playa to Old Town.,
  • In 1840 Richard Henry Dana in Two Years Before the Mast tells of riding horses with his shipmate, Stimson, to the Mission along the Trail.
  • The New York Tribune journalist Bayard Taylor, on his way to the gold diggings in 1849 noted that San Diego harbor was: "...the finest on the Pacific with the exception of Acapulco." Taylor later wrote the epic poem El Paseo Del Mar, which was a romanticization of the La Playa Trail.
  • George Derby noted in the August 26, 1853 edition of The Alta California: "Leaving the Playa in a wagon drawn by two wild mules, driven at the top of their speed, Mac and I were whirled over a hard road, smooth and even as a ballroom floor, on our way to 'Old Town'."

Registered Historic Sites

Much of the history of San Diego has happened along the La Playa Trail. Seventy registered historic sites have been designated on this path.