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Becoming a Mission Trails Regional Park Trail Guide is No Easy Feat

Post Date:03/22/2024 1:52 PM

Submitted by Mission Trails Regional ParkMission Trails Regional Park Volunteer Aida Silva leads a nature walk through the park

Submitted by Taylor Crowley, Communications and Operations Assistant, Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation


There are many ways to engage with Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP), but a very special one is to join in on a guided nature walk led by the park’s volunteer Trail Guides.

The park’s Trail Guides are City of San Diego volunteers and have provided walks at Mission Trails for nearly 30 years. Becoming a MTRP Trail Guide is no easy feat – one must complete an extensive course and pass a final exam to earn their title as “Trail Guide.” These folks show up every Wednesday night and Saturday morning over a span of 12 weeks and in return, serve as educational leaders for our community.

Mission Trails Regional Park Volunteer Phil Hwang“The annual training is pretty extensive and involved,” says Phil Hwang, longtime MTRP enthusiast and Trail Guide, “There is a weekly course lecture and a weekly field lab. There are tons of awesome guests from San Diego rangers, geologists, botanists, and members of the scientific community.”

Trail Guides lead a variety of hikes throughout the park. They are offered free to the public and no registration is required. By volunteering at Mission Trails, these trail guides help encourage the community to get involved in learning not only flora and fauna of the park, but also the cultural history of the Kumeyaay people.

“We are trained to be aware of all aspects of life sciences, native uses, modern history, and the park itself. I especially love stories and lore and legends and there’s plenty of those, too! The park is alive and changing with us so we’re always learning,” says Phil. 

In 2023, Trail Guides reached almost 4,800 people with 360 events for the public including interpretive walks from the Visitor Center and Kumeyaay Lake Campground, special request walks, summer twilight walks, bat walks, bird walks, wildlife tracking walks, family walks, discovery tables, and birding basics classes.

With Earth Day approaching, and in celebration of April being National Volunteer Month, it is only fitting that Trail Guides get the praise they deserve for teaching park users of all ages how to protect and embrace the beauty of Mission Trails Regional Park.

To learn more about upcoming guided walks, visit

If you’re interested in next year’s Trail Guide program, email Ranger Steven Blankenship at to be added to an interest list.

We hope to see you at the park soon!


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