10 HIDDEN GEMS IN CHULA VISTA
Chula Vista is the second-largest City in San Diego County. Translating to "beautiful view," it boasts many scenic trails and viewpoints to enjoy. The oldest site of human settlement within the modern boundaries of Chula Vista, was named Otai by the Spanish in 1769, and had been occupied as far back as 7,980 years ago. The Kumeyaay built a village known as Chiap (or Chyap) which was located by mudflats at the southern end of South Bay.
In January 1916, Chula Vista was impacted by the Hatfield Flood, which was named after Charles Hatfield, when the Lower Otay Dam collapsed flooding the valley surrounding the Otay River, up to fifty people died in the flood. There are many legends and hidden gems in Chula Vista and we have taken the time to visit some of them. Check out our list of Hidden Gems in Chula Vista:
Living Coast Discovery Center
The Living Coast Discovery Center is definitely one of Chula Vista’s hidden gems. Not only do the grounds come with a unique history but you also get up-close experiences with wildlife! They are an environmental education center with marine animals, bird exhibits and other wildlife located in the Sweetwater Marsh Unit of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge. Permanent displays at the Living Coast focus on native animals and plants found in Southern California and San Diego Bay.
U.S. Olympic Training Center
The U.S. Olympic Training Center is an all-weather, 150-acre complex trains 4,000 athletes per year, supporting their efforts to excel in Olympic archery, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, soccer, softball, field hockey, tennis, track and field, and cycling. Facilities here include North America's largest permanent archery range, an artificial all-weather field hockey surface, four soccer fields, a 15,000-square-foot canoe/kayak and rowing boat house, four tennis courts, a 400-meter track and a cycling criterion course.
Free guided tours are conducted from the Visitor Center when a tour guide is available - otherwise, you can pick up a map and take a self-guided tour.
The Salt Mines, also known as the South Bay Salt Works, are the 2nd oldest business in San Diego. In the late 1800's, the salt works were the only company producing salt in the U.S. and supplied salt to all of Southern California.
This is a very quick adventure unless you somehow manage to talk to staff here and they let you tour the place. We just admired it through the gate, snapped a few photos and were on our way. Still, really cool to see in person. I'd like to come here during one of our magnificent sunsets.
Balensi Spa is one of San Diego’s beautiful, resort-style spas. Most people probably have no clue it even exists, being tucked away in an inconspicuous location behind downtown Chula Vista. Once you visit, you will immediately feel as though you’ve been transported to a luxurious day spa in the Mediterranean. And there is a reason for that.
The owners have spent much of their lives both living in and visiting France and other European countries. Here they have taken notes on what the most prestigious spas have done to create the ultimate, luxuriating experience. They then took all the inspiration they gathered and created Balensi Spa.
Morrison Pond is a scenic loop trail located inside Sweetwater Regional Park. This park is part of an extensive network of trails along the Sweetwater River. You will come across plenty of intersections to extend your hike if you choose to go further.
Proctor Valley is an extremely large, dry and mostly deserted area with one lone, dirt road taking you from Chula Vista to Jamul (UPDATE: It appears MUCH of this poor road is falling victim to development). The ghost stories of this area date back to over a century ago, with tales ranging from a large ape-looking beast to a screaming banshee to a hitchhiking lady dressed in blue. You will also hear stories of a demon car chasing after you, small hand-prints on your car and your car mysteriously breaking down or crashing out here.
Upper Otay Reservoir & Dam
We stumbled upon this lake during our exploration of Proctor Valley Rd. What a neat surprise to come across two lakes and the 2nd coolest dam I've discovered so far in San Diego (the only one better would be the dam in Lake Hodges). The hike was nice and we found what looked like an abandoned commune on the way although it's quite possible that somebody lives in one of the homes. There looked to be at least 5 or 6 homes, some obviously run-down and abandoned. Made for some cool photos.
Montgomery Waller Park
Silver Wing monument at Montgomery-Waller Park is a monument that was dedicated on May 21, 1950, to the pioneering aviation achievement of John J. Montgomery and his early glider flights in the 1880s at Otay, California. This is a nice place to have a picnic or relax and watch the sunset. If you are a fan of planes and history I would say this is definitely a spot you should put on your list to visit.
The dam was originally completed in 1897 by the Southern California Mountain Water Company. It was a rock-fill type but due to heavy rains in 1916, (rumored to have been created by the infamous rainmaker Charles Hatfield) the dam burst, killing 14 people.
Fenton Pond is located within Otay Valley Regional Park. There are many hiking trails within this area and multiple ponds which you will quite likely come across. We came here specifically for Fenton Pond but ended up finding a lot more than expected, including some very interesting history tied to these ponds!