Exploring USD’s Backyard: Tecolote Canyon

Two hawks circle overhead, crying out for sweet vengeance (or for other bird reasons).  A bunny rabbit scampers, twitching its nose and wiggling that adorable rump-lump as it hops into the brush.  Tiny flies congregate around your out-of-breath and thoroughly disgusting sweaty body.  The dog chomps feces begotten from a species of unidentifiable origin.  A paranoid stoner holds his breath and remains motionless in the brush.  Just another day at Tecolote Canyon Natural Park.


Tecolote Canyon is connected to USD right by the McNamara Fitness Center and the baseball field.  The park consists mainly of a series of large trails suitable for walking, running, and mountain biking.  The park is also home to resident wildlife, some cute and some terrifying.  If you’ve never been, get out of the air-conditioning and go for a stroll in beautiful, cordoned-off nature as the weather warms. 

Steep oppressive hills, unforgiving sticker bush, cacti, and omnipresent power lines come on strong at first glance.  But Tecolote has a softer side as well.  For instance, the canyon is especially beautiful in early morning on the hillside, where dew glistens off innumerable previously camouflaged funnel webs, now briefly alighted by the sun’s treachery.  The deserty landscape’s starkness appeals to some, and there is plenty of that to be had wandering in the canyon, especially on the south side nearest USD.  On the other side, about a mile north of USD on the Tecolote Trail, there is a wetter landscape with a somewhat pathetic creek, some meadows, and a nice, shady wooded area.  It is a great shade refuge on a sunny day.  Unfortunately, the nearby driving range pelts the area with the occasional golf ball, leaving part of the landscape pockmarked by generations of wicked slices.

My favorite aspect of Tecolote is the wildlife.  It is not too populated, but I am in the canyon daily walking my dog, so I have been able to spot some cool stuff.  The most common animal seen around the canyon is definitely the rabbit.  They are all around the canyon, and in springtime they come in even cuter miniature versions.  I’d take one home if my Rottweiler were amenable.

If you don’t spot a rabbit hiding in the brush, you might catch a raptor.  Not the shrieking, highly merchantable, reptilian kind, but rather the shrieking, bird-of-prey, slightly-less-merchantable kind. 

“Tecolote” translates to “owl” in some language, though I have only spotted one once.  I guess it is hard considering the nocturnal thing.  You are more likely to see a hawk or kestrel or some such giant beast.  They soar around the canyon and sometimes will perch on trees or power lines.  Contemplating their size up close is an awesome experience, though keep your small dogs on a leash.

Coyotes are also running wild in the canyon.  I spotted two together in the early morning on a weekend while writing this story.  They are surprisingly delicate-looking and have big, fluffy tails.  In my experience, they have kept their distance and have never followed nor threatened me, whether I am with my dog or alone.  It seems that the best time to look for coyotes is in the early morning and early evening—at least that is when I have seen them.  Though seldom seen, their elusiveness adds to their beauty.

Unfortunately, not all the wildlife is cute and fluffy; the Tecolote Canyon hiker has to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes.  Fortunately, the trails are wide and barren, making it easy to spot a nice, big snake in the trail, but, if you do go off the main trail, keep your eyes peeled.  Don’t be too scared to venture out on account of snakes, though.  I reckon I met dang near a half-dozen rattlers, but they wasn’t aggressive; they didn’t move a lick.  Stare too long though, and they’ll shake that moneymaker and send adrenaline coursing through your arteries.

The trail is also great for running and biking.  There are plenty of hills on which to challenge yourself, as well as several different routes that loop back to the same starting point.  There are mile markers every half mile starting at the Tecolote Nature Center and ending God knows where.

Creek in Tecolote Canyon a few miles north of USD

I’m probably biased because I venture out into the canyon daily, mainly at the incessant nagging of my pesky canine, but I love Tecolote Canyon.  It is a modest park but very accessible to us USD students and is practically deserted.  Check it out sometime!

For more information on Tecolote Park, visit:


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