View from the Top

cover6As its name suggests, Hilltop Recreation Center sits atop a hill overlooking Rancho Peñasquitos, with the rest of the city, mountains, and glistening ocean visible in the distance. Besides spectacular views, Hilltop is also home to one of the original community entrance signs, a quarter-mile walking loop surrounding a sprawling grass area, picnic tables, basketball courts, an indoor facility with a kitchen and meeting rooms, and a trailhead to Black Mountain. The park serves as the designated venue for several community events throughout the year including a Western Theme BBQ in July, Oktoberfest in the fall, and Winter Wonderland in December, and is a popular location for birthday parties, picnics, and other activities with family and friends. Join us as we chat with Rancho Peñasquitos Recreation Council Chair Bill Diehl about how this PQ gem continues to bring the community together.

cover11Q&A with Vice Chair of the Rancho Peñasquitos Recreation Council Bill Diehl

Can you tell us a little about the history of Hilltop Recreation Center?
The park is being built in three phases. The park is 34 acres, 14 of which are able to be used for development. The cost for Phase I and Phase II was $5,214,672, the majority of which came from developer fees. Phase I was completed in 1994 with the construction of the recreational building, Tot Lot, basketball courts, open play area, picnic areas, and parking lot. Phase II was completed in 2008, with the construction of a second Tot Lot, additional parking, open play area, picnic areas, upgrades to the first Tot Lot, and 40-foot flag pole. Phase III is to be constructed in 2020-2022 and will be a soccer and roller hockey arena located in the Phase II open play area.

Rancho Peñasquitos Recreation Council Vice Chair

Name: Bill Diehl
Community: PQ since 1972
Education: B.A. in business administration
Family: Wife of 41 years, Loretta; Son, William, lives in Yuma, AZ
Hobbies & Interests: Sports, being a community volunteer

Hilltop Recreation Center

Center Director: Rex Cabanas
Phone: 858-538-8198
Address: 9711 Oviedo Way

cover3When the center was first built, what needs did it meet for the community?
Within the City of San Diego, there should be a community park for every 25,000 residents in the area. This park is the second community park in PQ and fulfills that requirement. Canyonside Community Park was built in the mid-‘80s and ‘90s.

What facilities and features does the recreation center offer for visitors?
Hilltop has:

  • Two Tot Lots
  • Five picnic areas
  • Two two-acre open play areas (circumference of each is ¼ of a mile)
  • Two full basketball courts
  • Staff office
  • Meeting rooms with a kitchen, craft room, and reading room (Santa’s Workshop)
  • Restrooms
  • 93 parking spaces
  • Great views of San Diego and the ocean

cover13How does one go about reserving facilities?
To rent a gazebo, meeting room, or the open space, stop in the staff office and fill out a form.

Why are some events held at Canyonside Recreation Center and others held at Hilltop?
Hilltop is a passive park, meaning it is not permitted for sports organizations to use the fields. Canyonside is a total sports operation, with nine baseball and softball fields, three large areas for soccer, football, cricket, and a gym.

“Hilltop has one of the best views around of both the city and the ocean. It’s a great place for a quiet walk with great views and is a great place for kids to play.”

What group has jurisdiction over Hilltop?
The Rancho Peñasquitos Recreational Council and the City of San Diego have jurisdiction over the Hilltop and Canyonside Community Parks, along with all the PQ neighborhood parks, Torrey Highlands, Black Mountain Ranch, and Del Sur.

cover12Please tell us a little about the Hilltop Recreation Center’s staff.
Staff for Hilltop consists of Center Director Rex Cabanas (858-538-8198), recreation leaders, grounds maintenance, and an assistant center director (position is currently open). All are employed by the City of San Diego. They take reservations for the facility, assist with sign up for classes, provide park information, run programs at the facility, and clean up the park.

What is your role with Hilltop Recreation Center?
I am currently vice chair of the Rancho Peñasquitos Recreational Council. I have served on the council since 1984 and have held the positions of chair, vice chair, treasurer, secretary, member-at-large, and PQ Soccer Rep.

cover7What are your duties within the recreation council?
The recreation council advises the City of San Diego Parks Department on the development, use, and maintenance of parks within their area.

What do you most enjoy about Hilltop Recreation Center?
Hilltop has one of the best views around of both the city and the ocean. It’s a great place for a quiet walk with great views and is a great place for kids to play. It has a trailhead into Black Mountain.


Hilltop by the Numbers

Sits on 34 acres
Intended to be built in 3 phases
1st phase of construction was in 1994
2nd phase completed in 2008
The 3rd phase is set for 2020 through 2022

cover4What goals does the recreation council have for Hilltop Recreation Center, if any?
The recreation center plans to help maintain the park as a safe place for visitors to play and enjoy our city’s facilities.

How can community members get involved with the center or the recreation council?
Community members can attend recreation council meetings and make suggestions for better use or maintenance of our parks. They can volunteer to serve during events in the park by contacting city staff.

Hilltop’s Hours:

Monday | Friday
10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Wednesday | Thursday
10:30 a.m – 7:30 p.m.

Saturday | Sunday
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

cover8Is there anything else that readers might like to know about the center?
Hilltop is the home of one of the original community entrance signs. It is also home to the Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council’s Volunteer of the Year plaque.

Where can people learn more about Hilltop Recreation Center or recreation programs?
For the Rancho Peñasquitos Parks and Recreation Program of Events, visit To view pictures of events, visit

Hilltop’s Annual Events

Hilltop is used for the following events, put on by the PQ Recreational Council and City Park staff:

Flag Day
Flag raising, free food, and presentation of colors by Boy Scouts and VFW Post 11388

Western Theme BBQ
Live music and food for the community

Polynesian Family Getaway
Island food and live, island-themed entertainment

Live music, dancers, German food, and beer

Winter Wonderland
Food, bounce houses, rock climbing walls, petting zoo, train ride, swing ride, horse drawn wagon, 70 tons of snow, crafts, pictures with Santacover2