Hello everyone! This is a friendly reminder that any of these fun places we may visit, we are a guest at. Please treat both businesses and trails with the utmost respect. We here at Hidden San Diego follow the 'Leave no Trace' mantra, meaning whatever you bring with you comes back with you. If you see trash on a trail, please do your part to help remove it. Remember, we are not picking up trash from another person but instead cleaning up for Mother Nature. Happy adventures!

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1521 Washington Pl
San Diego, CA 92103

Phone: (619) 525-8213
32.749053, -117.177526

Dog-Friendly: Yes    Kid-Friendly: Yes


About Pioneer Park

Over the years, Pioneer Park has become a popular spot for family picnics, summer concerts and various community events. It is not uncommon to see children from the school next door playing in the grass and families having outings. Take a stroll along the outskirts of the park though you will be in for an awful surprise.

A once prominent pioneer cemetery has now been reduced to a lone row of headstones which are displayed as a memorial for those buried at this park—yes, the bodies are still buried here. You can even find a plaque with the names of the 1800+ bodies whom are interred within, although it is rumored that there may be up to 4,000 bodies buried here.

While you’re in the area, make sure to visit Harper’s Topiary Garden nearby!

Pioneer Park, formerly known as Calvary Cemetery, served as a Catholic cemetery for almost a century, with the earliest grave dating back to the 1870’s.


Notable Families Buried Here

Important families such as the Bandini’s (who once owned the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town) and Couts (who once owned the Rancho Guajoma Adobe) were buried here as well as Roman Catholic Father Antonio Ubach.

The Couts came to San Diego shortly after the Mexican-American War to help map the boundary between the United States and Mexico. He also laid out and named some of the streets in the area of San Diego that is today known as Old Town.

Couts died in 1874 and his wife was buried next to him 24 years later. Father Antonio Ubach had been the parish priest of San Diego for 4 decades of the 19th century.

pioneer park


Turning Calvary Cemetery into a park

There are people who had rich and colorful lives buried here.  People whose relatives still remember them and visit them. You would hope that our city would have a little more respect, but apparently not.

In fact, in the 70’s, after years of neglect, the headstones were dumped into a ditch and the cemetery was turned into the community park that we know of today. It wasn’t until the early 80’s that anything was done about this issue.

It wasn’t until the trolley was put in that someone observed a headstone in the ditch and all hell broke loose. To mitigate the issue the city hired an historian who determined which stones were of importance.

Those stones were then hauled back to the park and in the row that we see today.

Cemetery layout from the 1940’s superimposed with an aerial view of the current Mission Hills Park by Joe St Lucas

One woman recounts how her and her brother used to play in the ravine, naïve to what they were climbing on. ‘So that’s what they were!’ the woman gasped, obviously horrified when she found out. She and her brother used to climb on the tombs as kids, thinking they were just piles of concrete-type blocks.

There is something so eerie about watching the children play in the grass knowing that thousands of bodies are laying right below them. If the spirit world exists, I can’t imagine this making any of them too happy.



Pioneer Park is a hotspot for ghost hunters who claim that the energy is thick out here–and it is not a happy energy either! See for yourself. Bonus points if you go at night, but please don’t go alone. This area is said to not be the safest after dark.


Old-school work-out bench:

It reads “Dedicated to the memory of those interred within this park”:

You can read a list of all the names of those still buried in the park:pioneer park

Pretty sure remnants of the original wall remain.  Keep your eyes peeled!

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11 Reviews

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11 Reviews


  • Mike
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    Have you been on the short yet interesting Robyn’s Egg Trail? It is located behind the tennis courts and runs down the canyon to Titus.

    March 27, 2014

  • Alain
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    Great little trail. Definitely not stroller friendly though, as I learned the hard way. Great short hike for little ones. My 3-year old really enjoyed “hiking”.

    November 10, 2015

  • stephanie
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    My family is buried here

    August 26, 2016

  • Droogles
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    One time I found money inside plastic eggs around those tombstones. Lucky me!

    December 14, 2016

  • Michael Freitas
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    That’s crazy!

    No cemetery should be thrown away

    May 12, 2017

  • claire
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    how do i look up the history off this tunnel if there is any

    May 21, 2017

  • David M. Habben
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    This is so sad and disrespectful. I can’t believe that someone didn’t protest when the markers were “thrown away.”

    July 9, 2017

  • SoCal Urbex
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    I’m going down here to film this cemetery out respect for those who burried here.

    The City of San Diego sucks !

    September 1, 2017

  • Anonymous
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    I grew up near this park. I went to Grant School. Some of the graves still had wooden markers. The story was that in the 40s a motorcycle group rode their bikes over the graves and tore up a lot of the wooden markers. Some of the wooden marker were still readable when I was a kid, but they are now all gone. There was a small park next to the cemetary. One day every week my grandmother would bring lunch and meet me at that park.

    October 21, 2017

  • Anonymous
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    Those adobe walls are original. The double row of Eucalyptus Trees bordered the road where the hearse carriages would use for funerals.

    June 13, 2019

  • Thomas
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    My family members are there. When I was a teen (late 60’s) I would take my mother and aunt there to place flowers on graves of her family. When they started to make it a park, some people protested but with no support from anyone of political importance. I called Holy Cross once and was told that most of the markers were in storage there. I an in my 70’s now and still go with my children to visit my uncles and great uncles. I do not remember where my great uncles are but I have one uncle and an aunt around where the rest rooms are.

    May 24, 2021

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