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North County Neighborhood Guide: Rancho Peñasquitos

View from Black Mountain

Rancho Peñasquitos, also known locally as PQ, is a North County neighborhood located in northeastern San Diego and served by the high-ranking Poway Unified School District. It is home to more than 50,000 residents and offers housing options that begin in the $200,000s and increase to about $1,000,000 for higher-end homes.

According to the City of San Diego Planning Department, Rancho Peñasquitos includes about 6,500 acres, including much of Black Mountain Regional Park. In the City of San Diego Progress Guide and General Plan, this Planned Urbanized Community’s land has been designated as about 51% residential development and 34% open space and parks.

Although the neighborhood is situated for easy access to downtown San Diego and the beach, there are plenty of shopping, dining and outdoor recreation options right in the community for residents to enjoy.


The earliest known inhabitants in the area that is now known as Rancho Peñasquitos were the Kumeyaay people, who began living in this area at least 7,000 years ago. It later became the first Mexican land grant in San Diego County. Rancho Santa Maria de los Peñasquitos was given to Captain Francisco Maria Ruiz in 1823. Captain Ruiz was the San Diego Presidio’s commandant between 1806 and 1827 and built an adobe home on the land in 1823. This adobe home is considered the oldest known residential structure in San Diego.

After several changes in ownership, acting as a way station between San Diego and Warner’s Ranch, and functioning as a ranch, the land was purchased by Peñasquitos, Inc. in 1962. Originally, the developer intended to build a residential development in the canyon next to the adobe, but the County of San Diego gained ownership of the adobe and the land near it, which is now part of the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. Ultimately, the development was built north of the canyon and became what we now know as the community of Rancho Peñasquitos.

Adobe Ruins


Residential development in Rancho Peñasquitos began in the 1960s and continues today. For potential home buyers, this means that you will find a variety of architectural styles and houses built during different decades. Because of this, you will also find a wide range of home prices that take into account size, style, age, renovations and area.

Housing options include condominiums, townhouses, tract homes and custom homes. At the time of this writing, the most affordable housing options that are not in foreclosure are a handful of condominiums on the market in the $200,000s. There are other condo and townhouse options available between the mid $300,000s and low $500,000s. Detached, single-family homes that are not in foreclosure start around $525,000.

The highest priced home I could find on the market at the time of this writing is a four bedroom, 3.5 bathroom, 3,415-square-foot home listed at $979,000.

According to, the median home value in Rancho Peñasquitos is $654,000, which is an increase of 4.4% over the median value at the same time last year. This is lower than Zillow’s reported median home values in the nearby neighborhoods of Black Mountain Ranch and Carmel Valley. It is higher than Zillow’s reported median home values in other nearby North County neighborhoods, including Sabre Springs and Rancho Bernardo. reports the median rent in Rancho Peñasquitos at $2,645, which is higher than the median rent across San Diego ($2,289).

Restaurants, Shopping & Entertainment

Everyday essentials are close at hand for folks living in this area, including grocery stores, gas stations, banks, dry cleaners, pharmacies, fast food restaurants, home goods stores and more.

One of the main shopping hubs in Rancho Peñasquitos is the centrally located Rancho Peñasquitos Towne Center located at the junction of Black Mountain Road and Paseo Montalban. In this shopping center, residents will find Chase Bank, Bank of America, Union Bank, Vons, Golden Bagel, PQ Donuts, O’Reilly Auto Parts, Express Tire, Black Mountain Road Pet Clinic, Deli Stop Sports Pub, Kahoots Pet Store, PostalAnnex+, Smashburger, Jack in the Box, State Farm, Golden Spoon and more.

Plaza Rancho Peñasquitos is another shopping center located in the neighborhood and offers more shops, services and eateries between Highway 56 and Carmel Mountain Road. In this shopping center, residents will find Stater Bros., The UPS Store, Armstrong Garden Centers, Discount Tire Store, Sushi Hana, Pho Saigon & Grill, 24 Hour Fitness, Domino’s Pizza, Khai Jewelers and more. In the area surrounding this shopping plaza, there is also Bad Ass Coffee, Pizza Hut, Pet Hospital of Peñasquitos, Spallon Spa and Salon, Carl’s Jr., and La Petite Academy.

Folks living in PQ are also just minutes from Carmel Mountain’s shopping hub, which is home to Carmel Mountain Town Center, Price Plaza, Carmel Mountain Home Center, Carmel Mountain Plaza and The Courtyard at Carmel Mountain Ranch. All of these shopping centers are close together and offer a great blend of shops, restaurants and services, including Trader Joe’s, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Petco, Staples, Costco, The Home Depot, Best Buy, Party City, Islands, Claim Jumper, Olive Garden, Sprouts Farmers Market, Nordstrom Rack, Ross Dress for Less, Barnes & Noble, Sears Outlet, Marshalls, Pier 1, The Habit, Panera, California Pizza Kitchen and much more. Carmel Mountain Plaza is also home to the Reading Cinemas Carmel Mountain 12 movie theater.

Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve

Parks & Recreation

Rancho Peñasquitos is in an ideal location for fans of outdoor recreation. You can jump on Highway 56 and head to the beach in Del Mar or Torrey Pines Natural Reserve, take advantage of the proximity of Interstate 15 to reach some of the most popular North County attractions, or stay close to home and enjoy one of the many parks and recreational areas within minutes of most of the homes in Rancho Peñasquitos.

The largest recreational area in this community is Black Mountain Open Space Park, which offers approximately 2,350 acres of natural beauty, including 1,554-foot Black Mountain, as well as miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. There are plans to expand the park even more, but the current trails and trailheads can be found on this printable map.

One of these trails — the Summit Trail — can be accessed near Hilltop Community Park at the end of Oviedo Way. Hilltop Community Park is also home to a playground, picnic shelters, basketball courts, a gazebo that can be rented for special events and the Hilltop Recreation Center. Canyonside Community Park, which is located at 12350 Black Mountain Road, also has a recreation center, as well as softball and baseball fields and the Rancho Peñasquitos Tennis Center, which offers tennis lessons and clinics, competitive tennis for adults, youth tennis programs and 12 lighted courts for its members.

There is also the Black Mountain Multipurpose Center, which provides community programming in a space shared with Black Mountain Middle School, as well as the Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park, which was renovated in 2014 and offers 22,000 square feet of concrete skateboarding with both ramp and street features.

Rancho Penasquitos Skate Park

Download the current program guide for Canyonside Recreation Center, Hilltop Community Park and Recreation Center, Black Mountain Multipurpose Center and the Rancho Peñasquitos Skate Park to learn more about the community programming offered.

Rancho Peñasquitos is also home to a number of smaller neighborhood parks. Views West Neighborhood Park, which is located at 12598 La Tortola, was renovated in 2013 and features a modern playground, gazebo, sports fields and courts, restrooms, lots of parking, grills and picnic areas. Ridgewood Neighborhood Park, which is located at 12604 La Tortola, has a multipurpose field, two basketball courts, picnic tables and a tot lot. At 8805 Gainsborough Avenue, there is the Adobe Bluffs Neighborhood Park, which is adjacent to Adobe Bluffs Elementary School and is home to picnic tables, basketball courts and a multipurpose field.

At Peñasquitos Creek Neighborhood Park at 8021 Park Village Road, you will find a multipurpose field, picnic tables and basketball courts. Rolling Hills Neighborhood Park, which is located at 11171 Almazon Street also has a basketball court and picnic tables, but this community space also has a baseball field and barbecue grills. Barbecue grills are also found at Twin Trails Neighborhood Park at 8900 Twin Trails, which is also home to picnic tables, a tot lot, a baseball field and a sand volleyball court. South Village Neighborhood Park at 14756 Via Azul offers picnic tables, a multipurpose field and a basketball court.

For folks with four-legged family members, there is an off-leash dog park with separate areas for large and small dogs located at 13339 Salmon River Road.

Rancho Family YMCA offers a wide variety of programming for people of all ages, including gym access, fitness classes, swimming lessons, sports programs, gymnastics, youth camps, childcare, senior programming and character development. The main campus is located at 9410 Fairgrove Lane and has a 3,200-square-foot wellness center, locker rooms, childcare, a heated outdoor swimming pool, and a heated, covered swimming pool. They also offer a fitness walking club, sports programs and camps at their Scripps Poway Parkway Site (10481 Scripps Poway Parkway in Scripps Ranch), and gymnastics, dance and sports at the Canyonside Gym location (12350 Black Mountain Road in Rancho Peñasquitos). The Deer Canyon Elementary location at 13455 Russet Leaf Lane in Rancho Peñasquitos offers youth sports.

For golfers, there is the nearby Carmel Highland Golf Resort, which is home to an 18-hole, 6,428-yard golf course, a short-game practice facility and a putting green. The Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club is just a bit more of a drive away in the neighboring community of Carmel Mountain Ranch. This semi-private club offers members access to a golf shop, a restaurant and bar, banquet facilities, golf clinics, golf lessons and a golf course used for U.S. Open qualifying.

Also just across Interstate 15 in Carmel Mountain Ranch, you will find the Carmel Mountain Ranch/Sabre Springs Recreation Center and Park, which has meeting rooms, softball fields, a multipurpose field, outdoor basketball courts, a gymnasium and a kitchen. The recreation center also offers community programming, including adult and youth sports leagues, activities and classes.

Just south of Rancho Peñasquitos is the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, which is home to hiking trails, a waterfall, rare and endangered species, oak and sycamore groves, a fresh water marsh and two adobes. One of the adobes is the Santa Maria de Los Peñasquitos Adobe, which is open for tours and is the oldest known residence in San Diego (circa 1823). The other is the El Cuervo adobe, which was built in 1857 and is now in ruins.

Rancho Penasquitos Map


Public school students living in the Rancho Peñasquitos neighborhood are served by the desirable Poway Unified School District. Elementary schools serving this area include Adobe Bluffs Elementary School, Canyon View Elementary School, Deer Canyon Elementary School, Los Peñasquitos Elementary School, Park Village Elementary School, Rolling Hills Elementary School, Sundance Elementary School and Sunset Hills Elementary School. Middle schools students generally attend either Black Mountain Middle School and Mesa Verde Middle School. Public high school students generally attend either Mt. Carmel High School or Westview High School.

For adult learners, Palomar College offers classes at a location in Rancho Peñasquitos.


Rancho Peñasquitos is south of Rancho Bernardo and parts of Black Mountain Ranch and is east of parts of Black Mountain Ranch, Torrey Highlands and Del Mar Mesa. It is north of the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve and west of Sabre Springs, Poway and Carmel Mountain Ranch.

Interstate 15 runs along the eastern border separating Rancho Peñasquitos from Sabre Springs and Carmel Mountain Ranch.

Additional Information

Rancho Peñasquitos is a bit more affordable than much of North County and offers a central location with easy access to downtown San Diego, the beach and the most popular North County attractions. If you are looking for suburban living with everyday essentials close at hand and plenty of parks and open space for your family to enjoy, you should definitely add PQ to your list of neighborhoods to explore.


To stay up to date on goings on in Rancho Peñasquitos, you might want to visit the Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council website to check out the latest news about this popular community.


Photo Credits (in order of appearance): Wikimedia Commons; Wikimedia Commons/Dananderson; Wikimedia Commons/Wilson44691;; Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain Real estate data gathered from, and

AJ Davis-Varela: AJ is a freelance writer and blogger at Articles by AJ specializing in travel, real estate, natural wellness and green living. She is a magazine columnist, a former San Diego newspaper columnist, has been published in a variety of print and online publications, and regularly contributes to several websites and blogs. You can connect with AJ on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+