A single-track, dog-friendly, 0.8-mile trail called Helix Flume Trail recently opened near Lakeside. The El Monte County Park trail starts near the historic El Monte Pump Station along El Monte Road. It is steep with several switchbacks on the way up to sweeping views of Lake Jennings, El Cajon Mountain and El Monte Valley.
The Helix Flume Trail follows the route of a redwood flume completed in 1889 to deliver water 35 miles from the Cuyamaca Mountains to a reservoir in La Mesa. The El Monte Pump Station was built in 1898 to push groundwater from the El Monte Valley up the hill and into the flume for delivery to La Mesa.
Heavy with coastal sage scrub, the trail follows the path of the historic water flume east where it connects to existing trails around Lake Jennings Campground and other open space areas. The path ventures along land owned by the Helix Water District.
There are shady areas and a parking area at the base of the trail in the 14000 block of El Monte Road.
The trail does not connect to a separate flume path that climbs above El Monte County Park, which is about a mile away. Property between the two trails is privately owned.
The Helix Flume Trail is part of the San Diego River Trail, a route that is planned to allow hikers, cyclists and equestrians to travel uninterrupted along trails near waterways from the mountains near Julian to where the San Diego River ends in Ocean Beach.
The San Diego River Conservancy and other conservation groups continue to work to connect the 52-mile trail.
An easement made it possible for the Department of Parks and Recreation to construct the trail, with help from the department's trails crew, the California Conservation Corps and workers from Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility.
The trail will be managed by Park and Recreation staff, including Charles Gailband from nearby El Monte County Park.
"A lot more people are hiking these days," Gailband said. "It's becoming more and more popular. If you go along Highway 67, you can look and see how many people are going up Iron Mountain and Mount Woodson.
"This is a beginner hike because it is a smaller area," he said. "But it has a great payoff with beautiful views of the surrounding area."
Trail hours are from 7 a.m. to sunset every day.