San Diego is well known for its big parks, but some of the county’s smallest can also be fun for a day with the kids, a picnic or a great view.

From South Bay to North County, the little, hidden parks sometimes require a bit of detective work to find, as locating a little green dot on a map can be easier than knowing the right turn to make. GPS can make things easier for your San Diego day trip.

Coronado is a good place to start a tour of small parks, as the island town has some of the finest. Bayview Park, First Street at I Avenue, is one of the best places to view downtown San Diego, just across the bay. The tiny park, like most of the county’s tiny green spaces, is just about the size of a residential lot. Benches and trees make it a private space.

Several other parks in Coronado are in the middle of intersecting streets. Palm Park, where Palm Avenue, I Avenue and Third Street meet, is surrounded by palms and has a nice lawn, perfect for picnicking. Wander around Coronado and you’ll find a number of other spots to stop and enjoy the town.

For those that have always wanted to spend time in somebody else’s back yard, Lincoln Acres Park is just the ticket. Located northeast of the I-805/SR-54 interchange, the community of Lincoln Acres is a county “island” — an unincorporated area surrounded by National City.

Its park takes a sharp eye to find. Located at 2717 Granger Avenue, access is through a path between the County Library and the Lower Sweetwater Fire Protection District office. A sign on the library announces the park.

Visitors find playground equipment, a lighted basketball court, picnic tables and barbecues in this park, which at one-half acre, is the smallest park under the jurisdiction of the county Park and Recreation Department, according to spokesperson Amy Harbert.

The agency’s next smallest park, at three-quarters of an acre, is Don Dussalt Park in Fallbrook. Located at 8320 Alturas St., it features a natural creek bed and views of adjacent open space, in addition to benches and a playground.

There are many coastal access points along San Diego’s shore; several are large enough to be a small park. La Jolla Hermosa Park has just .16 of an acre of usable space, according to the city’s Park and Recreation Department. Still, it provides coastal access and a little green space for the enjoyment of the neighborhood and folks passing by the intersection of Camino de la Costa and Chelsea Avenue.

Up the coast in Lecuadia is a throwback to the earliest days of the automobile. The Leucadia Roadside Park, just .2 of an acre, was once a popular picnic spot for drivers making the long trek from San Diego to Los Angeles on old U.S. 101. It’s at Leucadia Boulevard and Coast Highway.

Downtown also has two of the smallest parks; both are historically significant. Horton Plaza (the park with the fountain, not the shopping mall) has been the city’s focal point since Alonzo Horton developed the 960 acres of “New Town” beginning in 1870. It’s just a half-acre bounded by Broadway, Third and Fourth avenues. At one time, the back of the park was Plaza Street; it’s now a broad sidewalk and the front of the shopping center.

A quieter place in downtown is the park area surrounding the William Heath Davis House at 4th and Island avenues. There’s only .12 of an acre, but the trees and benches provide a much-needed green space in the hubbub of the Gaslamp Quarter. The preserved Davis house was one of the original structures in “New Town” and was once Horton’s home.

San Diego’s mountain areas are dominated by the huge Cleveland National Forest, but within its boundaries are small picnic and view areas.

One is just east of Palomar Mountain along county highway S-7 and is not much more than a wide spot in the road. The Firefighters Memorial, honoring the memory of Gregory Pacheco, a New Mexico firefighter who died in the 1999 La Jolla fire, also has a spectacular view of the Pauma Valley.

And the Inaja Memorial Picnic Ground is a great place to get out of the traffic on the way to Julian. Just up the hill from Santa Ysabel on SR-78/79, the picnic ground honors 11 firefighters who died fighting a fire here in 1957. Trails lead into the forest. This area was burned in the October 2003 wildfires.

Go around a corner in almost any San Diego county community and you’ll find one of these small parks. They’re well worth a visit.


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