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Hiking Trails in San Diego, California
Lake Hodges Dam
Black Mountain Open Space Park
Black Mountain, Miners Ridge Loop
Torrey Pines State Reserve
Palomar Mountain Observatory
Julian and Lake Cuyamaca
Santa Ysabel Preserve
California Wild Flowers
- U.S. National Park Service Free Entrance Days in the National Parks
Free Entrance Days in the National Parks
- Open Space Parks | Park & Recreation
City of San Diego Park and Recreation.
- County of San Diego: Experience San Diego County Trails
County of San Diego Trails.
- California State Parks
State of California Parks. Maps, info.
- San Diego Natural History Museum
Schedule of public hikes lead by Canyoneers, volunteers trained to lead interpretive nature walks.
- Pacific Crest Trail Association - Home
The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to protect, preserve, and promote the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail.
- Exploring Our Sense of Place
San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy. Guided hikes of the back country.
- San Diego Day Hikers - Meetup
Moderately paced day hikes in San Diego County, California. A monthly happening for more than twenty years, usually on the last Saturday of each month. Also weekday hikes now and then.
Where to find flowers
- Balboa Park | Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden
Blooms begin in March and peak in April/May. Free admission. Park Boulevard, Balboa Park.
- Torrey Pines State Reserve
858-755-2063. March - April is peak wildflower season. Parking fees run between $6.00 - $15.00 with limited free parking along the road. 12500 N. Torrey Pines Road.
- The Flower Fields
760-431-0352. Hours 9am - 6pm daily. Open March 1 through May 12th. Admission $11.00/$10.00 senior/$6.00 kids/free 2 and under. 5704 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad.
- Julian Chamber of Commerce Welcome Page
Various locations. Check the website for updates. Spring flowers in March include daffodils and desert flowers. The month of April is lilac month.
- Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association: Guide to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, wildflower
760-767-4684. Various locations. March is a popular month for desert wildflowers. Call the wildflower hotline for updates before going.
Mule Hill Historic Trail ~ San Dieguito River Park, Escondido.
From Interstate 15 North or South, exit Via Rancho Parkway, and go east. Turn right on Sunset and park at the end. Cross the street and walk down the dirt trail past the Sikes Adobe Farmhouse. The Sikes Adobe was built in 1870 and is open to the public. Built by the Sikes family the adobe is one of the oldest structures in the county of San Diego and is designated a historic site. Mule Hill Historic Trail circles the marshlands of Lake Hodges. The Trail is part of the old Butterfield Overland Stage Route and is part of the Fifty five mile Coast-to-Crest Trail. The Battle of San Pasqual was fought nearby in 1846 between the US and Mexico. Mule Hill is located along the trail. When Santa Ysabel Creek floods it crosses the paved crossing. There are picnic areas along the trail. Ten miles. Rated easy to medium, and a good workout. Used by hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers and dogs on leashes. *Be sure to visit San Pasqual State Historic Park at 15808 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido Ca. Open week-ends only.
Lake Hodges Overlook Trail ~ Del Dios Highlands Preserve, Escondido.
From Interstate 15, exit Via Rancho Parkway and head west 4 miles to the dead end of Del Dios Highway, then turn left. Parking is down on the right. Del Dios Highlands Trail is 1.3 miles. Lake Hodges Overlook Trail is 1.8 miles. On a clear day you get a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean and Lake Hodges. Wild flowers include wild lilac, golden yarrow, and blue sage blooms. Heavy rains cause the dam to overflow on occasion. Seven hundred and seventy four acres. Rated moderate. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes. *Be sure to visit Lake Hodges Dam a little further up Del Dios Hwy.
Del Dios Gorge Trail ~ San Dieguito River Park, Escondido.
From Interstate 15 exit Via Rancho Parkway, turn toward Del Dios Highway/Lake Hodges and make a left on Lake Drive. The trail starts at Hernandez Hideaway Restaurant at Lake Hodges,19320 Lake Dr, Escondido. Start at the dirt lot across from the restaurant. Features include scenic Lake Hodges, Lake Hodges dam, shade trees, bamboo, and views of some very sheer cliffs. About two miles long, allow three hours. A fairly flat, dirt trail. *Take a right every time you come to a fork in the trail.
Clevenger Canyon Trail ~ San Pasqual and Clevenger Canyon Open Space Park, Escondido.
From Interstate 15 north, exit Highland Valley Road and go right. At Bandy Canyon go left. Turn right at the intersection of Bandy Canyon and San Pasqual Valley. Go four to five miles east of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and park. On the right is the South Clevenger Canyon Trail head. Stop and smell the orange grove blossoms. North Clevenger Canyon Road is on the left and an uphill hike. Features include views of San Pasqual Valley, Boden Canyon, Palomar and Volcan Mountain, Cuyamaca Peak, and dramatic giant boulders that get slippery as San Pasqual Creek runs through the park. Windy and hot in the summer. Three and a half miles, allow one and a half hours. Rated fairly strenuous. Hikers and dogs on leashes only, no bikes or horses. *Be sure to visit the San Diego Archaeological Center at 16666 San Pasqual Valley Road about 3 miles west of the trailhead. On display are artifacts of people who have lived here for 10,000 years.
Engelmann Oak Trail ~ Daley Ranch, Escondido.
From Interstate 15 exit El Norte Parkway. Head east and turn left on Broadway. Go 4.2 miles. and turn right on Cougar Pass Road, a graded dirt road. Go about 1.2 miles and park on the left . Across the road is the entrance to Daley Ranch. Features include chaparral, Engelmann oak woodlands, streams, and an old water tank. In 1869 Robert Daley emigrated from England and settled here to raise horses. 3,058 acres. A four to five mile loop, allow three hours. Rated moderate. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes.
The Kumeyaay Trail ~ Lake Wohlford, Escondido.
From Interstate 15 north exit Via Rancho Parkway. Head east and connect to Bear Valley Parkway. Go right on East Valley Parkway and right on Lake Wohlford Road. Turn right into the parking area. From the 15 south exit East Valley Parkway and go 8 miles. Turn right on Lake Wohlford Road and right into the parking area. Parking is free. The trailhead begins to the left of the main parking area (facing the lake) and is marked by red arrows painted on the rocks. It ends at East Buoy Line. Lake Wohlford was Escondido's first reservoir and is named after Alvin Wohlford, a local engineer who created the water supply system that created the lake. Local Indian organizations are still fighting over the diversion of water from the San Luis Rey River. Features heron, egrets, mallards, ancient oak groves, big boulders, and rattle snakes. Parts of the trail are overgrown so watch where you step. May - July Lake Wohlford is stocked with 1,500 pounds of fish including rainbow trout and largemouth bass. However, you need a fishing license. Boat rentals are also available. Open seven days a week mid December - Labor Day then Saturday and Sunday only September - mid December. About 3 miles round trip, no dogs allowed. Rated easy. Info: www.lakewohlford.com
Dixon Lake Loop Trail ~ Escondido.
From Interstate 15 exit at El Norte Parkway. Head east 3 miles. Turn left onto Honda Drive, that dead ends at the Daley Ranch parking area. Across the street is the Dixon Lake entry station. Parking inside is $5.00 or free if you park in the Daley Ranch parking area across the street. Start from the Jack Creek Picnic Area and take the trail down to the lake where a wooden footbridge crosses a creekbed. Go left along the lake's north shore. You will pass Pier 3, one of four fishing piers on the lake. Daley Ranch is next to Dixon Lake with 3,000 miles of open space and another 20 miles of hiking trails. The trail around Dixon Lake continues into Daley Ranch. Features a nature trail with informational placards that explain native vegetation and usage by Native Americans, water views, egrets, 34 camp sites, and motorboat rentals. Lake Dixon is stocked with 34,000 pounds of trout and 13,000 pounds of catfish annually*. Ask about Dottie, the 23 pounder that got away. Hours 6am - dusk, later in summer. About a 3 mile loop. Rated easy to moderate. Daley ranch is open to hikes, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes. Dixon Ranch is only open to hikers. No swimming. *A State of California fishing license is NOT required. Info: www.escondido.org/Dixon-Lake-fishing-information.aspx
The Kreitzer Bridge ~ Lake Hodges, Rancho Bernardo.
From Interstate 15, exit Pomerado Road/West Bernardo Drive. You can see the bridge from the freeway. Limited parking is located along the road and at the Rancho Bernardo Community Center, a short walk away from the bridge. Kreitzer Bridge is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge that crosses Lake Hodges and connects hiking trails on both sides. The bridge is 1,000 feet long making it the largest stress ribbon bridge in the world. Named after David Kreitzer, a Rancho Bernardo community and park advocate who served on the planning commission for twenty one years. No fishing or swimming and pets must be on leashes.
Battle Mountain Cross ~ Rancho Bernardo.
From Interstate 15 exit West Bernardo Drive/Pomerado Road. Go east onto Pomerado Road and turn right on Escala Drive. Take the first right on Raeta Way. The trail is at the end of the cul-de-sac. The cross is easy to spot when driving thru Rancho Bernardo. Erected in 1966 by The Rotary Club, local residents raise money and volunteer to maintain it. Named after the famous 1846 Mexican-American Battle of San Pasqual where both sides claimed victory. Features include views of the San Pasqual Valley, Lake Hodges, and Palomar Mountain. One mile long round trip up a short but steep dirt trail. Open to hikers and dogs on leashes.
Miner's Ridge Loop Trail ~ Black Mountain Open Space Park, 4S Ranch.
From Interstate 15 or Interstate 5, take Hwy. 56 to Black Mountain Road and head north. Black Mountain is served by two trail heads. For the Nighthawk Trailhead, turn right on Oviedo Street and right on Oviedo Way. Park at Hilltop Community Park. To the north is the trailhead. For Miner's Ridge Loop Trailhead, continue north on Black Mountain Road to Carmel Valley Road. Turn Right (east) on Carmel Valley Road and continue to the entrance you will see on your right. Visitors to the park can see what much of coastal southern California looked like before the onset of urban sprawl. The park is 2,352 acres of chaparral and sage covered hills, ridges, and canyons. Two and a half mile loop. Rated moderate to difficult.
Penasquitos Creek Waterfall ~ Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, Penasquitos.
From Interstate 15, exit Mercy Road, and go west. Turn right on Black Mountain Road and left at the first light. Follow the entry road to the Ranch House parking area. Kumeyaay Indians used the area as migrations between the coast and inland areas. The area was part of the first Mexican land grant in California. In 1824 Rancho Santa Maria de los Penasquitos was granted to Capt. Francisco Maria Ruiz, Commandant of the San Diego Presidio. Ruiz built an adobe ranch house on the land. The historic adobe ranch house is open to the public Sat, 11:00 & Sun, 1:00. Tour reservations, 858-538-8066. Penasquitos Creek waterfall is a popular hike. 3,700 acres with ten miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails. *Organized hikes (858) 484-3219.
Eastern Edge ~ Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve.
From Highway 56, exit Black Mountain Road, head south. The east parking area is on the right at the intersection of Black Mountain Road and Mercy Road. Less traveled than the other trails, the trail leads to one of San Diego's historic adobe homes build in the 1860s by Capt. Ruiz. He later deeded the land to his grand-nephew, Francisco Maria Alvarado. Alvarado's daughter, Estefana, later married Capt. George Alonzo Johnson. Johnson and his family then owned half of the rancho. Eventually the county of San Diego acquired the land. The Ranch House is open to the public with artifacts of previous owners and early inhabitants of the area on display. Penasquitos Creek runs through the park with oak and willow trees along the way. Four miles round trip. Rated easy and flat. Open to hikers, equestrians, bikers, and dogs on leashes.
Carmel Valley Recreational and Equestrian Path ~ Carmel Valley.
From Ted Williams Parkway/Highway 56, exit at Carmel Country Road. Head south and take the first right onto Clews Ranch Road. Park at the end of the road near the trailhead. The Carmel Valley Recreational and Equestrian Path (CVREP) runs east from Interstate 5 at Carmel Valley Road to Carmel Country Road. There is a soft-surface path for hikers and equestrians and an asphalt-paved path for bikes, strollers, and wheelchairs that run side by side. About halfway an intersection takes you uphill to Carmel Creek Road and other connector trails or you can stay on the CVREP which runs under El Camino Real to the end. The CVREP is a 400 acre conservation preserve and part of San Diego's Trans-County Trail planned to run from Del Mar to Salton Sea. The trail is 70 percent complete with 110 - 140 miles planned. Features glimpses of the ranches that used to dot the landscape before development, chaparral, coastal sage, rock roses, cattails, Torrey pines, sycamores, vernal pools, and Carmel Valley Creek. (Mosquito spraying notice) About 4 miles round trip. Rated easy. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, strollers, and wheelchairs.
The Shaw Valley Trail ~ Del Mar.
From Highway 56 heading east exit at Carmel Country Road. Go right and head south just past the intersection of Grand Del Mar Way and Carmel Country Road. Park on Sagamore Way (a side street) or the Clews Ranch Road area for the State Route 56 bike trail that connects and runs to Poway. Start the trail just past the intersection. Features chaparral, ocean, and Shaw Valley views. The area is one of the few intact natural open space areas. The area was farmed by settlers in the 1800's. The railway through Del Mar was completed in the early 1800's and provided farmers transportation for their goods. Early families included the Knecktel, Mecklenseck, and Neimann families who all farmed the area. The Neimann home was built in 1895 and is still intact. Several family members still live in the area. About 4.5 miles round trip. Rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes. The trail in fairly flat, unpaved, and narrow, no bikes are allowed.
Dust Devil Nature Trail ~ Del Mar.
From Interstate 5 exit at Via de la Valle and head east. Turn right on El Camino Real and go uphill past the signal at San Dieguito Road. The parking area is on the right just before you reach the signal at Stallion's Crossing. Features San Dieguito Lagoon, fish, rabbits, reptiles, and birds. The San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project was started in 1988 to restore the lagoon and the surrounding wetlands. It is one of the largest coastal restoration projects on the West Coast. About 1.7 mile loop. Rated very easy. Open to hikers, and dogs on leashes.
Martha's Grove Memorial Trail ~ Sycamore Canyon Open Space Park, Poway.
From Interstate 15, exit at Poway Road heading east. Turn right onto Garden Road. Then right onto Sycamore Canyon Road which ends at the parking area of the Goodman Ranch staging area. Martha's Trail heads uphill from there. The trail is named for park ranger, Martha Shawn Harville, who died in 1988 at the age of 31 from melanoma. Her ashes are buried under an Oak Tree planted for her in the park. Coastal sage brush and chaparral cover the area. One of the best trails for wild flowers in spring including wild blue lilac, yellow rock rose, orange deer-weed, bright red larkspur, pink checker bloom, and white morning glories. Sycamore Canyon Creek also trickles along. Three mile loop, allow one and a half hours. Rated moderate. Open to hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers. *Guided hikes throughout the year.
Lake Ramona via Lake Poway ~ Poway.
From Interstate 15 exit Rancho Bernardo Road east to Espola Road in Poway. Turn left at Lake Poway Road. Go east about 1 mile and enter the recreation area, there may be a fee to park. Park in the northeast corner of the parking lot next to the landscaping building. Find the Lake Poway Trail to the left of the landscaping building and head north. The trail circles Lake Poway, goes northwest up a hill, and down the front side of the dam. Keep right and stay on the Lake Poway Trail until a sign at the fork indicates Lake Ramona 2 miles, go left. Features an oak forested canyon, sycamores, willows, well maintained old Lake Poway campground, shore fishing, views of San Clemente Island, and plenty of poison oak. Free public hikes offered by San Diego Natural History Museum. Dirt road, no motorized vehicles. Five to six miles round trip. Rated moderately difficult.
Old Coach Trail ~ Poway.
From Interstate 15 exit Rancho Bernardo Road and head east. The road turns into Espola Road. Turn left on Old Coach Road and pass Butterfield Trail. Park in the staging area on the left and cross the road to find Justin's Trail. Cross the road again and go 0.6 miles to begin Old Coach Trail. Features rural back-country old dirt roads that wind up and down hills that offer great views. Old Coach Road was once an old stagecoach route that carried passengers from Poway to Escondido about 1852. Four to eight miles round trip. Rated moderately difficult.
South Poway Trail ~ Poway.
From Interstate 15 exit Scripps Poway Parkway turn north onto Community Road. Turn west onto Metate Lane. Park in the South Poway Trail staging area. Features small streams, chaparral, roadrunners, and sweeping views from the Pacific Ocean to the rocky peaks of Mt. Woodson. This trail is part of the Trans-County Trail also know as the Pines to Spines Trail. When completed 110 miles will run from the pines of Torrey Pines State Reserve to the spines of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. About 3.6 miles with an elevation gain of about 700 feet. Rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes.
Iron Mountain Trail ~ Poway.
At State Route 67 and Poway Road intersection, park in the parking lot or on the highway. *This hike is popular and the parking lot fills up fast. Be careful parking on the highway. Features a steep 2,700 foot high peak with views of downtown San Diego, Coronado, and Catalina Island on clear days. There is a mailbox at the top for hikes to leave their thoughts in a notebook and a free telescope. The Marines also use the trail for bootcamp workouts. About 6 miles. Rated easy to moderate.
The Ridge Trail, Goodan Ranch Sycamore Canyon Preserve ~ Poway.
From Route 67 turn west onto Sycamore Park Drive. Go about 1.25 miles up the dirt road and park. Features mixed chaparral, sage, oak, sycamores, bats, mountain lions, snakes,Tahquitz Falls, and the old Goodan Ranch. Archaeological evidence such as mortero grinding sites and arrowheads suggests the Kumeyaay lived there for thousands of years. By 1884 early settlers began homesteading the area and the town of Stowe was formed. About 3.6 miles round trip. Rated moderately strenuous with a 900 foot elevation gain. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes.
Santa Fe Valley Trail ~ Del Dios Highway, Rancho Santa Fe.
On County Highway S-6 (Del Dios Highway) turn south at Lemon Twist Stand (burned in Witch Fire) across from Calle Ambiente. The driveway is hard to spot and not well marked on the south side of the highway. It quickly dips down out of sight. From the parking area, walk south up the slope. The trail is on your right. Features include views of the San Dieguito River. Rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes.
Twin Oaks Valley Trail ~ Northern San Marcos.
From Interstate 15 exit at Deer Springs Road. Head west 2 miles and turn left onto Sycamore Drive. Go right to continue on Sycamore Drive to Walnut Grove Park. The trail begins in front of the Williams Barn. There is a flat soft-surface trail and a paved trail that follow the Twin Oaks Valley Golf Course. Features sycamores, oaks, laurel, Mexican sage, California roses, primroses, and great egrets. The Williams Barn was built in 1952 by Fred Williams the first volunteer fire chief in San Marcos who held many a square dance and other festivities in the Red Barn. About 4.7 miles round trip and rated very easy. Open to hikers, bikers, wheelchairs, strollers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes. *The San Marcos Historical Society and Heritage Park are located next to the park. The area was named after the "Twin Oak" tree that had two trunks growing from the same base. The original tree lived for 200 years then died of old age. The Williams Barn, the 1888 Cox House, and the 1890 Bidwell House were moved to Heritage Park and restored. Both houses are open for docent led tours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 2-6pm. There is a $3.00 fee. The houses were built by Jacob Uhland in 1888. The Cox family bought one in 1923. The family raised chickens and cows. They delivered milk, butter, and eggs to neighboring ranches. The Bidwell house was bought by Col. John Bidwell in 1921. The house was built out of redwood. A native plant garden was installed in front of both historic houses. The path highlights the uses of the plants by Native American Indians and include salvia, yucca, basket bush, and golden currant.
Discovery Lake and Creek Trail ~ San Marcos.
From Interstate 5 exit at Palomar Airport Road. Head east about 3 miles and the road turns into West San Marcos Blvd. Turn right on South Bent Ave, that becomes Craven Road. Turn right on Foxhall Drive. Continue past Poppy Road to Lakeview Park at the end of the road and park.Take Discovery Creek Trail to the right. Other trails intersect including Double Peak Trail, 5 miles round trip and Cima Trail, 3 miles round trip. Features multi-use trails that have both soft and hard surface paths, Discovery Creek, views of Discovery Lake, and Double Peak. About a 3 mile loop. Rated easy. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes.
Double Peak Trail ~ San Marcos.
From State Route 78 exit at San Marcos Boulevard. Head west and turn left on Bent Avenue, that becomes Craven, and turn right on Foxhall. Go to the end and park at Lakeview Park. Features views of Catalina, San Clemente, and the San Jacinto Mountains, spring wildflowers, sage, bountiful birds, Discovery Lake, and a telescope at the top. The San Marcos Mountains are part of the Peninsular Ranges that include Laguna, Cuyamaca, and Palomar. About 4.5 mile loop. Rated moderate with a 1,000 foot elevation gain. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes.
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve ~ La Jolla.
From Highway 5 exit Carmel Valley Road. Head west about one and a half miles to Coast Highway 101. (Camino Del Mar) Go left and continue along the beach one mile. The park entrance is on the right before the highway begins to climb the Torrey Pines grade. The Reserve is located between La Jolla and Del Mar. The Torrey Pine is one of the rarest pine trees in North America. A remnant of an ancient coastal forest, the Torrey Pine grows only along the sandstone bluffs and ravines of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and on Santa Rosa Island in the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara. Features include ocean vistas with bottle nose dolphins and Gray whales in winter. Wild flowers in spring. There are several trails to pick from. Guy Fleming Trail is a two to three mile loop. Rated the easiest. Hikers only, no pets, no bikes. *There is a fee to park in the reserve or look for a free space along the road (limited). The cliffs are very unstable.
Margaret Fleming Trail ~ Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve, La Jolla.
From Interstate 5, exit Carmel Valley Road. Head west. Turn right on Del Mar Scenic Parkway. Park at the end. Nature Trail A has numbered posts. The first park custodian, hired by Ellen Browning Scripps, was Guy Fleming. The trail is named after his wife, Margaret. The Fleming family lived in a 1927 adobe house not far from the main lodge built in 1923. Features include ocean views, red sandstone cliffs, black sage, and yerba santa. One to two miles round trip, allow one and a half hours. Rated easy. Open to hikers only, no bikes, dogs, or horses.
San Luis Rey River Trail ~ Oceanside.
From Interstate 5, exit Mission Avenue. Continue west to Coast Highway and turn right. Turn left at Neptune. Neptune ends before the railroad tracks. Park on the street. The trail is also accessible by train or bus. The paved, flat, 10 foot wide trail begins a block from the ocean at Neptune Way and follows the San Luis Rey River. Built in 1980 by the Army Corps of Engineers, during levy construction along the river, the trail is marked with mileage every 0.2 miles. Features include waterfowl such as blue herons, and egrets, along with roadrunners, squirrels, and lots of lizards. At the end of the trail is a habitat restoration project for native plants that includes yellow marsh and evening primroses. Nine miles long, rated easy, flat, and paved. Five miles round trip, allow two hours. Open to hikers, bikers, strollers, wheelchairs, and skaters. *Be sure to visit Mission San Luis Rey at 4050 Mission Ave, Oceanside Ca. Built in 1798 by Father Fermin Lasuen.
Sky Haven West Trail ~ Lake Calavera Preserve, Carlsbad/Oceanside.
From Interstate 78 exit College Boulevard. Head south and turn left onto Lake Boulevard then right onto Sky Haven Lane. Park on the preserve's side of Sky Haven and Azure Ladd Drive. Lake Calavera is a man made reservoir. The earthen dam was built in 1940. The lake stores 520 acre feet of water. Mount Calavera is a 513 foot summit in the center of the preserve. Calavera means skull in Spanish and probably how Mount Calavera got it's name. The summit is considered a volcanic plug. A mass of volcanic rock that solidified millions of years ago. Mining was done here in the early 1900s along the cliff. Features include wild flowers in spring, ducks, hawks, and jays. One to two mile loop, allow two hours. Rated easy. Open to hikers, bikers, and dogs on leashes. The area also attracts rock climbers. * There are several entry points to the Preserve. You can download a map at the City of Carlsbad's park and rec website.
Rancho Carrillo Trail ~ Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, Carlsbad.
From Interstate 5 exit Palomar Airport Road. Go east to Melrose Drive and make a right. (south) to Poinsettia Lane. Turn right and continue west to a stop sign. Carrillo Elementary School is on the left. Enter the school parking lot. On the right is a paved parking lot and the trail head. Features baccharis scrub, California Gnatcatchers, and a seasonal creek. Four miles, paved/unpaved. Rated easy to moderately difficult. Open to hikers, bikers and dogs on leashes. * Be sure to visit Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park at 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane, Carlsbad, Ca. The old homestead was bought in 1937 by popular TV star Leo Carrillo. (The Cisco Kid) The ranch is now run by the City of Carlsbad and open to the public.
Eucalyptus Trail ~ Aviara Trails, Carlsbad.
From Interstate 15 North / Escondido Fwy take exit 32 and take ramp for CA-78 West toward Oceanside. Follow signs for San Marcos Blvd. Turn left onto W San Marcos Blvd / CR-S12 West. Turn left onto Aviara Pkwy. Turn right onto Kestrel Dr. Eucalyptus Trail begins at its northern end just off Aviara Parkway on Kestrel Drive. A trailhead sign is on the street. Features include eucalyptus groves, manzanita, holly, ocean views, lemonade berry bushes, canyons, and wild flowers in summer. Two miles one-way, allow an hour and a half. Rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers, bikers, and dogs on leashes.
Ridgeline Trail ~ La Costa Preserve, Carlsbad.
From Interstate 5 exit at Poinsettia Lane/Aviara Parkway. Head east and turn right on Aviara Parkway/Alga Road. Go past El Camino Real and turn right on El Fuerte Street. Go past the elementary school and park at the bottom of the hill. Look for the trailhead. Features steep rocky trails, coastal sage, spring wildflowers, eagles, lizards, rattlesnakes, mule deer, bobcats, San Marcos Creek, and views of the ocean. Open to hikers, bikers, and dogs on leashes. 1500 acres. About 4 miles round trip. Rated moderately difficult.
La Costa Glen ~ La Costa Valley Trails, Carlsbad.
From Interstate 5 exit at La Costa Ave. Head east to El Camino Real. Turn right on El Camino and right on Calle Barcelona. Park in The Forum shopping center or at the northwest corner of Jimbo's. The La Costa Glen Trail begins across Calle Barcelona. Features Encinitas Creek, manzanita, willow trees, spring wildflowers, berry bushes, and views of Batiquitos Lagoon. The trail ends at La Costa Ave. Turn around, go back, and cross the road at Levante St. and again at Calle Barcelona to continue. Go past The Forum shopping center to Leucadia Blvd then go back to Calle Barcelona. Go east and turn left on Paseo Aliso. La Costa Valley Trail starts here. The Trail ends at Avenida Helecho. Turn right to rejoin the trail. Follow it back to where you parked. Open to hikers, bikers, wheelchairs, strollers, and dogs on leashes. Some parts of the trail are unpaved. La Costa Glen is about 1.5 miles. La Costa Valley is a 1.3 mile loop. Rated easy.
Carlsbad Oaks North Trail ~ Carlsbad.
From Interstate 5 exit at Palomar Airport Road. Head east to El Fuerte Street and turn left. Head to the intersection with Faraday Avenue and park in the small parking area next to the pump station at the southeast corner. A trailhead sign is about 100 yards south. Features oak, willow, sage, chaparral, hawks, butterflies, a running stream, picnic tables, and prickly pear cactus. Prickly pear cactus has been used for thousands of years in Mexico and by Native Americans. The pads are called "nopales" and the fruit is called "tunas" or cactus figs/apples. The pads and fruit are used in Mexican food dishes and to make jams, jellies, and candies. Be careful if you pick one, there are lots of stickers on the skins. About 2.6 miles round trip. Soft surface trail, rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers, bikers, dogs on leashes.
Black Canyon Trail ~ Ramona.
Take 78 east just beyond downtown Ramona. Turn left onto Magnolia Avenue/Black Canyon Road. Park off road at the intersection on the left, Santa Ysabel Truck Trail. Hike down to the trailhead on the right. Features include a creek, waterfall, pools, oaks, and willows. About two miles. Rated easy. *To park in Cleveland National Forest you must buy a pass.
Ramona Grassland Preserve ~ Santa Maria Valley, Ramona.
Take state Route 67 and head east. Turn left at Archie Moore Road and go 1.6 miles. Continue onto Highland Valley Road East about 1 mile. The preserve is on the left. Meadow Loop is on the left and runs 0.8 miles. WIldflower Loop Trail runs two miles. Most of the trail follows an old ranch road. Features include archaeological evidence of Kumeyaay Villages, oak woodlands, Santa Maria Creek, coastal sage, and a number of hawk species. The preserve is 3,521 acres. A three to four mile loop, allow two hours. Rated fairly easy. * The Wildlife Research Institute conducts "Hawk Watch" events each year. www.wildliferesearch.org.
Fry-Koegle Trail ~ Ramona.
From state route 67 head east to Ramona. Turn left on Archie Moore Road. The trail begins on your left at Mount Woodson Way. Proceed to Rancho de la Angel Road, turn right and park off the road at the intersection. Cross Archie Moore Road and hike left to the trail bordered by a wooden fence on the west side. Features include oak groves, panoramic views of Ramona, Poway, Palomar Mountain, and Lake Ramona reservoir. The area is covered with gigantic boulders and bedrock know as Woodson Mountain granodiorite. Mike Fry and Norman Koegle constructed the trail in 1990 and that is reportedly how the trail got it's name. The trail's end intersects with other trails that head up to Mount Woodson's summit (1.3 miles) or down to Lake Poway (2.8 miles). A six to seven mile round trip, allow three hours. Rated moderately difficult. Elevation gain of 1,000 feet. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes. *Rocky, narrow passages through very large boulders may make it hard for horses and bikes.
Dos Picos Park ~ Ramona.
From State Route 67 head to Ramona. Turn right on Mussey Grade Road and go about one mile. Turn right on Dos Picos County Park Road and enter the park. Head to the southwestern end of the camping area and begin the trail. From the eastern edge of the park begin the trail above the pond. Dos Picos means two peaks in spanish and two peaks are visible from the trail. Features include oak trees, manzanita, squirrels, owls, woodpeckers, large granite boulders, a duck pond, picnic areas, and campsites, Stop by the ranger station and ask for an iPod with narration along the main trail. About one mile and rated easy. Open to hikers and dogs on leashes only. * Beware of snakes and poison oak. There is a $3.00 day use fee.
Pamo Valley Trail ~ Ramona.
From State Route 78 head to the eastern end of downtown Ramona. Turn left onto Seventh Street. When Seventh Street becomes Elm Street and intersects at Haverford Road turn right. At the sharp left bend the road becomes Pamo Road. As Pamo Road descends into the valley it becomes a dirt road. Go 1.5 miles to the intersection with Upper Santa Ysabel Road. Park off Pamo Road. Features Santa Ysabel Creek, oak and sycamore groves, birds, squirrels, cows, and views of the Pamo Valley. The Diegueno Indians lived here for hundreds of years before the 1800's. Pamo means "hole in rock worn by water." Originally part of the 17,708 acre Santa Maria Rancho (Valle de Pamo) Mexican land grant, the town of Ramona was at the center. In 1844 the land was granted to a Mexican soldier named Narcisco Botello who passed it on to Jose Joaquin Ortega. In 1903 A.B. Foster purchased the land and the Foster Family began cattle ranching. The city bought the land in 1964 and leased it back to the Foster's. About 4 miles round trip, 800 foot elevation gain. Rated moderate. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes. Occasionally cars use it too. * You must have a $5.00 Adventure Pass to park in Cleveland National Forest.
Hellhole Canyon Preserve ~ Valley Center.
From Interstate 15 exit Valley Parkway. Head east 5.5 miles, follow signs through Escondido as the street names change. Turn right on Lake Wohlford Road, continue 6 miles, turn right on Paradise Mountain Road. Turn left on Kiavo Rd, go 3.5 miles. Follow signs to preserve. Go uphill on Santee and park. 1,907 acre open space preserve. Features a stream, mature oak and sycamore trees, and an undisturbed valley. Docent led hikes and horseback rides the third Saturday of every month. Call ahead. Rodriquez Mountain is 3,886 feet high with ocean views. Hell Creek is 1.3 miles one way and Horse Thief Loop Trail is 1.5 miles. Four miles round trip. Thirteen and a half miles of trails. Rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes. No bikes.
Scott's Cabin Trail ~ Palomar Mountain State Park, Pala.
From Highway 76, go north on S6.(South Grade Road) Where S6 intersects with S7 turn left on State Park Road to Palomar Mountain State Park. Park at Silvercrest Picnic Area just past the entrance and begin Scott's Cabin Trail across the road. You pass the remains of Scott's Cabin. Scott was a homesteader in the 1880's. The Trail becomes Chimney Flats Trail. Chimney Flats was a hideout for cattle and horse thieves in the 1800’s. Chimney Creek crosses the trail and you reach Thunder Spring Trail and Doane Pond, named for George Doane, a farmer in the 1880's. The trail intersects Cedar Trail. Turn left onto Scott's Cabin Trail. Just past the cabin remains take the spur trail back to Silvercrest Picnic Area. About four miles, allow two hours. Rated easy to moderate. Foot traffic only, no mountain bikes or dogs. *The Tour de California with Lance Armstrong was held along some of the roads up here in the past so the area may look very familiar. Be sure to visit Palomar Observatory at 35899 Canfield Road, Palomar Mountain Ca. If you join Friends of Palomar Observatory they will invite you to special events open only to members such as a chance to look through the giant telescope. http://www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/friends/.
French Valley Trail ~ Palomar Mountain State Park, Pala.
Inside the park follow the signs to Doane Valley Pond and Campground. Park in the day use parking area. Walk north into the campground. The trailhead is at camp site No. 25. Early inhabitants include the Luiseno Indians who used the acorns and plants for food and the herbs for medicinal purposes. Features: ancient oak tree groves, pine, cedar, and fir trees, bracken ferns, herbs, grassy meadows, and colorful butterflies, including the endangered Laguna Mountain Skipper butterfly. 1.3 miles one-way. 2.6-mile loop. To loop, intersect with Lower Doane Valley Trail and hike back. Rated easy. Hikers only.
River View Trail ~ Wilderness Gardens Preserve, Pala.
From Interstate 15 exit onto Highway 76. Head east 9.5 miles. About 4 miles east of Pala Casino enter the Wilderness Gardens Preserve on the right side of the highway. $3.00 parking fee. Features include morteros, grinding rocks used by The Luiseno Indians to grind acorns into meal. Woven grass baskets, arrows, and other displays are located in the park ranger headquarters, an old ranch house build 1930. Manchester Boddy owned the property form 1954 to 1967 and named it WIlderness Gardens. 750 acres. Three and a half mile round trip loop. Rated moderate to easy.
Cedar Creek Falls, East Entry ~ Julian.
From Highway 78 head into Julian from Ramona. Turn right (south) onto Pine Hills Road. Go 1.5 miles and veer right onto Eagle Peak Road. Go another 1.4 miles and bear right to stay on Eagle Peak Road. Continue for another 8.2 miles of dirt road until you reach the end. (okay for most cars) Park along the side of the road. The trail continues down the dirt road. The east entry trail was reopened April 1, 2012. The west entry from San Diego Country Estates in Ramona will remain closed until the US Forest Service determines when it will reopen, possibly summer, due to a fatality last July when a boy fell from a cliff near the falls. The trail descends downhill to the river bed. Follow the signs to the waterfall. You cross Cedar Creek twice. Waterproof shoes might come in handy at this point. Features wildflowers including purple lupine, asters, yellow lotus, sycamore and cottonwood trees. Look to the right as you climb downhill and you get a view of Mildred Falls.
William Heise County Park ~ Julian.
From State Route 79 take Pine Hills Road to Frisius Drive. Go to the City of Julian and head south to 4945 Heise Park Road. Features year round cabin rentals for $50.00 a day. The cabins are very rustic with wild animals wandering around. Campfires are allowed and there is snow in winter. Self guided William Heise Trail is rated easy with more strenuous trails located nearby at Cuyamaca State Park. * Be sure to visit the historic California gold rush towns of Julian and Lake Cuyamaca and take a tour of the gold mines. Lilacs bloom in April and Julian's apple season is Sept-October. Have fun picking your own apples and pears.
Aqua Caliente Creek ~ Santa Ysabel, Warner Springs.
From state Route 79 head north. About 1.2 miles north on highway 79 from Warner Springs past the Agua Caliente Creek Bridge park on the side of the highway in the turnouts at mile marker 36.6. Walk back toward the bridge, through a wire fence, and look for Pacific Crest Trail wooden markers east of the bridge. Features oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, a creek, manzanita, and historic mineral hot springs. The Cupeno and Cahuilla Indians used the springs for centuries for healing purposes. In 1795 Fray Juan Mariner explored the valley and was amazed by the hot mineral water gushing from "Agua Caliente" or hot water in Spanish. The springs became part of a Mexican land grant in 1844 and was granted to Jonathan Warner in 1844. Kit Carson visited the springs in 1846, and passengers on the Butterfield Stagecoach line stopped at Warner's ranch from 1858 to 1861. In 1911 William Henshaw developed the ranch into a resort. 230,000 gallons of hot water flow out of the hot springs every day. The water temperature averages 138 degrees. Four miles round trip, allow three hours. Rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes. *Be sure to visit the historic Warner-Carrillo Ranch House Museum, an overland Butterfield Stage Station built in 1857. It was a trading post and stagecoach stop located on the Overland Emigrant Trail. In the 1800's about 250,000 people stopped by on their way west to the California gold rush. Newly renovated and open week-ends: http://web.utsandiego.com/news/2012/nov/17/historic-warner-ranch-house-renovated-open-public/
Cottonwood Creek Falls Trail ~ Cleveland National Forest, Mount Laguna.
From Interstate 8 east, exit S1 Sunrise Hwy and head north 1.8 miles. Just past marker 15 park in the large turn out on the east side of S1. The Trail begins at the north edge and turns left to join Cottonwood Creek. The creek flows year round. The boulders get slippery by the upper falls. There are wildflowers, butterflies, and evidence of prehistoric sites along the way. Two miles round trip, allow one to two hours. Rated moderate. Open to hikers and bikers. *You need a pass to park on forest lands. Buy one at the ranger station or Mount Laguna general store.
The Gatos Spur ~ Big Laguna Trail, Cleveland National Forest, Mount Laguna.
From Interstate 8 east, exit at Sunrise Highway. (S1) Head north to Laguna Mountain Recreation Area. Travel about 8.4 miles and turn left onto the Wooded Hill Campground Road. Go about 0.7 miles to the Agua Dulce parking area, park near the gate. Walk on the old road (Old County Road) past the gate about half-mile to the trailhead on your right. The Gatos Spur is No 3 of the Big Laguna Trail. Features include black oak, pine, cedar, and fir trees, wild flowers, birds, and views of nearby peaks. Five miles total, allow three hours. Open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians. There are several spur trails off the main Big Laguna Trail including The Chico Spur No 2, The Kemp Spur No 6, and The Connector Spur No 7. *The best map for all the Spurs is the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area Trail Map. Your can find it at the Laguna Visitors Center or the Mount Laguna general store.
Red-Tailed Roost Spur ~ Mount Laguna.
From Interstate 8 exit Sunrise Highway (Highway S2) and head north. At the Mt Laguna Fire Station, mile marker 22.5, turn left into the parking area. The trailhead is at the west end. The Red-Tailed Roost Spur Trail is trail number 4. Big Laguna Trail is seventeen miles of trails on the mountain. Figure out what the trail number is before you leave as some of the trails are only marked with a number . You can purchase a map that shows all eight spur trails at the Visitor Information Center or view the map posted at the trailhead. Features include a variety of cedar, oak, and pine tress that look amazing in the winter snow. When the snow melts a little the trail is visible, especially if people have hiked or sled the trail before you. Three mile round trip loop, allow one and a half hours. However, add thirty to sixty minutes if you are hiking through snow. Rated easy to moderate.
Big Laguna Trail Loop (BLT) ~ Laguna.
From Interstate 8 east exit Sunrise Highway (S1). Head north to Laguna past mile marker 26, about 13 miles. Laguna Campground is on the left. Park in the day use areas or just off Sunrise Highway near the campground entrance. You need an Adventure Pass to park in Cleveland National Forrest (CNF) and there is a $7.00 day-use fee at the campground. The trail heads off from the southern end of the Meadow Loop Laguna Campground or the southern end of the main campground by the amphitheater. Head south toward Little Laguna Lake, the first of 3 lakes. Go right at the first intersection toward Laguna Meadow and Big Laguna Lake. Continue on to Water of the Woods, the third lake in this loop. Follow Kemp Spur No. 6 back to the campgrounds. Features lakes, meadows, pine, and oak forests. Morteros used by the Kumeyaay to grind acorns are found between Big Laguna Lake and Water of the Woods. About a 5 mile loop. Rated easy. 350 foot elevation gain.
Chico Spur ~ Big Laguna Trail, Laguna.
From Interstate 8 head east and exit at Sunrise Highway (S1). Head north to mile marker 19.1, about 5.6 miles. Park along the road/wide shoulder near the Meadow Information Center. Sunset Trail starts on the west side of S1 across from the information kiosk. Start on the Sunset Trail and veer right onto Spur No. 1. Turn right at Spur No. 7/Sunset/Kemp Spur . Head to Laguna Meadow. Go right onto Spur No. 2/Chico Spur. Turn right at Old Country Road and head back. Features woodpeckers, bluebirds, coyotes, deer, quail, meadow wildflowers in spring, snow in winter, a pine forest, and creek. You need a $5.00 Adventure Pass to park in the Cleveland National Forest. Available at the visitors center or general store. About 4 miles, round trip loop. Rated easy.
Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) ~ Laguna.
From Interstate 8 exit at S1. (Sunrise Highway) Head north to Laguna. Go 21.5 miles to marker 34, The Sunrise Trailhead. Parking is on the left. The trailhead is across the highway. Follow the signed trail spur to the PCT and head left. (north) The PCT is 2,650 miles long and runs from the Mexican to the Canadian border through California, Oregon, and Washington. This is the mountain to desert portion. Features include chaparral, shrub, mountain mahogany, brittle bush, manzanita, yucca, a gleaming quartz outcropping, views of Lake Cuyamaca and the Anza-Borrego desert. Other trailheads include La Cima and Lucky 5 Trails. 2 - 4 miles round trip. Rated easy. Open to hikers and equestrians, no bikes or dogs allowed.
Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) ~ Cleveland National Forest.
From Interstate 8 east, exit Buckman Springs Road. Head south and go until the first stop at Old Highway 80 then turn left. Head east 2 miles to Boulder Oaks Campground on the right. Parking for PCT is inside the campground. *You must have an Adventure Pass to park. Features cottonwoods, willows, oaks, boulders, streams, meadows, owls, and sagebrush. The entire PCT zigzags 2,650 miles from the U.S. Mexican Border in Campo to the Canadian border in Washington. The trail crosses six of North America's seven ecozones and temperatures range from 100 degrees in the desert to below freezing in the Sierra's. About 6 miles round trip. Rated easy. Mostly flat, with and elevation gain of about 500 feet. Open to hikers, equestrians, and dog on leashes. No bikes allowed.
Sugar Pine Trail ~ Cuyamaca.
From Interstate 8 head east and exit at Japatul/Descanso, head north on Highway 79. Go 14 miles and at the sharp S-curve park at the Trout Pond Trail parking area off the road. Cross the road and begin at the west end of Marty Minshall Trail (parallels Highway 79) heading north then west and north to the Connector Trail to the Sugar Pine Trail. Go left at the Middle Peak Fire Road and return to the parking area. Once home to some of the grandest 500 year old pine and fir trees, the Cedar Fire destroyed most of them. Some trees have adapted and sugar bush and bracken ferns grow among the blackened pines. Features views of all the peaks and glimpses of Lake Cuyamaca, woodpeckers, thick grasses, ghost trees, and the old Lakeland restaurant foundation where you turn right. About 5.5 miles. Rated moderately strenuous with a 1,000 foot elevation gain. Open to hikers only, no dogs. However, the fire roads are open to bikers as well.
Los Caballos Trail ~ Cuyamaca.
From Interstate 8 head east and exit at Descanso/Japatul Valley and head north on Highway 79. Just before Lake Cuyamaca at the northern end of Cuyamaca Rancho State Park (CRSP) the highway takes a sharp right turn. The Trout Pond parking area is near the intersection of Milk Ranch Road. Start on the Marty Minshall Trail and connect to the Los Caballos and Vern Whitaker Trails. Return along the Los Vaqueros Trail. The trails are named for Marty Minshall, a long time volunteer for CRSP, and Vern Whitaker, an avid horseman. "Caballos" means horse and "Vaqueros" means cowboy in Spanish. Features wild turkeys, deer, woodpeckers, meadows, forests, wildflowers in spring, and views of Lake Cuyamaca's North Peak. About 4.5 mile loop. Rated easy. Open to hikers and equestrians.
Blue Ribbon Trail ~ Cuyamaca.
From Route 79 proceed past the Oakzanita parking area before Green Valley Campground and park at the East Mesa parking area. Cross the highway and start at the South Boundary Fire Road. Features manzanita, scrub oak, spring wildflowers, deer, squirrels, and rabbits. A 2003 fire destroyed 95 percent of the 25,000 acre state park. 9,000 pine seedlings were planted in 2008 and another 78,000 more in 2009 and 2010 to reforest the area. About 5.6 mile loop. Rated easy to moderate with a 700 foot elevation gain. Open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians, dogs are not allowed.
Milk Ranch Road ~ Lake Cuyamaca.
From Highway 79 go about 1.5 miles north of Paso Picacho campground. Park in the Trout Pond parking area on the east side of Highway 79. Features a wide open dirt road. The Kumeyaay Indians lived here for thousands of years. There are many morteros found here. Deep depressions in granite rock used by the Kumeyaay to grind black oak acorns into meal. In 1870 John Treat homesteaded the Milk Cattle Ranch to raise Durham cattle. Treat later became involved in notorious disputes over borders and Julian gold mines known as the Cuyamaca Land Grant Trial. Three miles round trip. Rated fairly easy. Open to bikers, hikers, and equestrians. No dogs or vehicles allowed.
Stonewall Peak ~ Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Cuyamaca.
From Highway 79 Stonewall Peak Trail begins off the east side opposite the Paso Picacho Campground. The 2003 Cedar Fire burned more than 280,000 acres in this area. However saplings are springing back. Features wild lilac, pine and cedar saplings, bluebirds, and views of Lake Cuyamaca. Four miles round trip with an 800 foot elevation gain. Rated moderate. Open to hikers only.
East Side Trail ~ Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Cuyamaca.
From Interstate 8 east exit Highway 79 to Descanso. Head north to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, you will pass Green Valley Camp Ground. Turn right at Highway 79 to Camp Cuyamaca and the visitor center then park across from the visitor center. The park store is only open on Saturdays & Sundays. From the west side of the parking area begin on the Cold Stream Trail and head south. After crossing the river go left on the East Side Trail toward Dyar Spring. Make a left here and go toward the Harvey Moore Trail then take the unmarked trail to the left. Turn left at the Upper Green Valley Fire Road and intersect with Cold Springs Trail then back to the parking area. Features Sweetwater River, Green Valley, tall grasses, lizards, squirrels, wild flowers in season, and old oak trees. About a 3 mile loop with an elevation gain of about 300 feet. Rated easy. Open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians. Dogs on leashes are only allowed on the Cuyamaca Peak Fire Road. *Be sure to pick up a nature trail pamphlet at the visitor center and follow the numbered markers for information on plants and trees used by the Kumeyaay Indians who lived in the area for hundreds of years. Marker #13 is known as Grandfather Oak. This huge oak is more than 200 years old. Look for the ax blade that was stuck in the trunk over 100 years ago.
Airplane Monument Trail ~ Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Cuyamaca.
From Highway 79 in Rancho Cuyamaca State Park, park in the Sweetwater Trailhead parking lot north of Green Valley campground and south of the visitor center. Walk north across the bridge over Sweetwater River and start on the West Side Trail. At about 0.6 mile the trail intersects with the Monument Trail. Features oaks, pines, wildflowers, and chaparral. The Trail also leads to a memorial to two pioneering pilots who crashed there in 1922. At the base of a stone mounted Liberty V-12 engine a plaque reads "In memory of Col. E.C. Marshall and 1st Lt. C.L. Webber who fell on this spot Dec. 7, 1922." Webber and Marshall left North Island Air Station in a twin seat Army DeHaviland DH4B biplane. Webber was at the rear seat controls and Marshall was the forward seat passenger.They were on an inspection tour and fact finding flight over Southwestern cavalry posts when they crashed and set off a huge air and ground search. A local rancher found the wreckage and the pilots' remains along Japacha Ridge in May,1923. About 5 miles. Rated moderately strenuous. 800 foot elevation, uphill.
West Side and Cold Stream Trails ~ Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Cuyamaca.
From Highway 79 park in the West Mesa Trailhead parking area between the Visitor's Center and Paso Picacho Campground. Cross the highway on the west side and begin on the West Mesa Fire Road until you come to the West Side Trail on the right. The Kumeyaay Indians lived in the area from 500 A.D. Just south of the trail is a granite slab with morteros made by the Kumeyaay to grind acorns. In the 1930s the San Diego Museum of Man did archeological studies on Arrowmakers Ridge. The site yielded more than 1,300 projectiles points. The 2003 Cedar Fire was the largest wildfire recorded in California history. Most of the park was burned. However many plants are resprouting. Features views of Stonewall Peak, Cold Stream, numerous black oak trees, wild lilac, deer, quail, feral pigs, wild turkeys, raccoons, and mountain lions. About a 4.5 mile loop with a 600 foot elevation gain and a narrow trail. Rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers and equestrians. Bikers and dogs are not allowed.
Merigan Fire Road ~ SW Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, Descanso.
From Interstate 8, head east. Exit at Highway 79, Japatul/Descanso, head north. Highway 79 turns left and intersects with Old Highway 80. At 3 miles after Interstate 8, turn left onto Viejas Boulevard.. Go 1.1 miles past Mitzpah Lane and park in the trailhead parking lot on the right. There is an $8.00 day-use fee. Features include Sweetwater River, waterfalls, oak and willow trees, and Cuyamaca Peak, one of the highest peaks in San Diego County at 6,512 feet. The fire road was once the main ranch road for a historic ranch owned by three gentleman ranchers. Allen T. Hawley first bought 2,200 acres in 1929 followed by Mary and Lawrence Oliver, and then Haig Merigan who sold the property to the state in 1977. Dead Horse Trail (0.7 miles) and Saddle Back Trail (1.2 miles) connect. The round trip is four miles. Rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians.
Roberts Ranch Trail ~ Japatul Valley.
From Interstate 8 east exit at Descanso/Japatul Valley Road. Go south (right) and go 0.2 mile. Park on either side of the road before the intersection of Campbell Ranch Road. Walk through the gate north of the Caltrans maintenance facility and look for the trail on the right. The northern section of the trail is north at the same exit. Park in the park-and-ride lot on the west side of Highway 79, cross the highway, and enter through the metal gate on the east side. *There may be a parking fee. Features giant 100 - 200 year old oak trees, cows, meadows, and wildflowers in spring. About 5 miles round trip. Rated easy.
El Capitan Reservoir Trails ~ Lake Jennings.
From Interstate 8 east exit at Lake Jennings Park Road. . Head north about 1.4 miles to El Monte Road and turn right. Go about 8 miles to the end of the road and park at the reservoir's entry gate. * Day use fee $8.00. The trail is overgrown with shrubs. Features sage, Conejos Creek, an old redwood flume, views of El Cajon Mountain and the reservoir. The reservoir was created when the El Capitan Dam was created in 1935 and is the largest reservoir in the city of San Diego. Boating and fishing are allowed. Boat rentals are available along with bait for catching bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, and carp. About 7 miles round trip. Rated mostly easy.
Old Mission Dam ~ Mission Trails Regional Park, Mission Valley.
From Interstate 15, take the Friars Road exit and head east. Friars Road will change into Mission Gorge Road, go 4.2 miles. After you pass the light at Jackson Dr., turn left onto Father Junipero Serra Trail. Proceed down past the pipe gate about 1.8 miles. The Old Mission Dam parking lot entrance is located on the left just pass the stop sign. The dam was constructed by mission Indians for Mission San Diego de Alcala, Father Serra's first mission in California. The dam is 244 feet long, 13-feet thick, 13-feet wide and is constructed of stone and cement on exposed bedrock. The dam created a permanent reservoir for the mission and is a nationally registered historic land mark. 5,800 acre park. Fragrant Ramona lilac blooms in spring. * Be sure to visit Historic Old Town San Diego, and The USS MIdway Museum downtown.
Bayside Trail ~ Point Loma.
From Interstate 5 south take the Sea World Drive exit. Head southwest toward Tecolote Road. Turn right onto Sea World Drive. Stay straight onto Sunset Cliffs Blvd. Take a slight left onto Nimitz Blvd. Turn right onto Chatsworth Blvd. Turn left onto Catalina Blvd. It becomes Cabrillo Memorial Dr. Park at the Visitor Center. There is a $5.00 parking fee. The trail descends down the eastern slope of the point to San Diego Bay. It was once an old army/navy road. In 1542 Juan Cabrillo, the first European to set foot on the Pacific Coast, landed in San Diego Bay and claimed the land for Spain. Features spectacular views of San Diego Bay, a tide pool, and cool ocean breezes. 2 mile long loop, allow about 1.5 hours. Rated easy.
Wright's Field ~ Back Country Land Trust, Alpine.
From interstate 8, exit at Tavern Road. Head south about 1 mile. Park on Tavern Road when you reach Joan MacQueen Middle School on the left. Access is immediately next to the school's northern edge. From Tavern Road walk east up a paved, private road (no vehicles) that borders the north side of the school and it's parking area. Entry is at the end of the private road. The field was preserved by the Back Country Land Trust in the 1990s when they bought 230 acres. There are ongoing plans to buy an additional 140 acres. Features: native grassland, more than 300 plants,100 bird species, two species of rare butterflies, (Quino checkerspot and Hermes copper butterfly) and wild flowers that include sunflowers, buckwheat, and sugar brush. There is an old rock wall straight ahead after the entrance. Archeologists date the wall to the missionary period from 1780 - 1830 with evidence of olive groves, vineyards, fruit orchards, and grain fields. The trails crisscross however, the perimeter loop is about one and a half miles, allow an hour and a half. Rated easy. Open sunrise - sunset. Used by hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs on leashes. *There aren't any good trail maps. However, there is a map of the preserve on the Back Country Land Trust's web site you can view.
California Riding and Hiking Trail (CR&HT) ~ Alpine.
From Interstate 8 head east. Exit at Tavern Road and head south about 3 miles to the Dehesa Road intersection. Continue straight until Tavern Road turns into Japatul Road. Go about 1 mile and park at the Loveland Reservoir parking area on the right. The California Riding and Hiking Trail (CR&H Trail) going north and south is before the parking area to the west. Cross Japatul Road to start the northern trail. The Loveland Reservoir was built in 1945 to supply water to the cities of Chula Vista, Bonita, and National CIty. The CR&H Trail was also established in 1945 with 1,060 miles completed statewide. Features seasonal wild flowers, chaparral, and Loveland Reservoir. Parts of the trail are overgrown and narrow with steep drop offs. CR&H Trail is about 3 miles. Loveland Reservoir Trail is about 5 miles. Rated moderate with an elevation gain of about 630 feet. Open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians.
Sloan Canyon ~ Alpine.
From Interstate 8 exit at Tavern Road. Head south about 3 miles to the end at Dehesa Road. Continue straight on Japatul Road. Turn right on Sequan Truck Trail. At the end of the pavement continue to a sharp right bend and park off road. Walk about 0.25 mile and look for the California Riding & Hiking Trail (CR&HT) on the left. The trail descends. An abundant water supply drew native Kumeyaay Indians and early settlers to the area. George Washington Webb built his Alpine Ranch in Harbison Canyon in 1872. Webb became a beekeeper and made San Diego County the leading honey producing county in the nation at the time. Features fall colors, cottonwoods, oaks, willows, weathered granite, springs, Sweetwater River, Loveland Reservoir, Sycuan Peak, and views to Point Loma. About 5 miles round trip. Rated moderately strenuous. Fairly steep and sandy.
Lake Morena Trail ~ Lake Morena County Park, Campo.
From Interstate 8 east, exit Buckman Springs Road and head south for 7 miles. Turn right onto Oak Drive. Head west for 2 miles to Lake Morena Drive. Go straight into park. Wards Flat Trail is 4 miles round trip and rated easy. You will pass old lodge ruins and an abandoned barn. Go left up to a meadow and Morena Butte Trail. The Hauser Overlook Trail takes you to the dam. The Moreno Dam was started in 1897 and completed in 1912. Lake Moreno is one of the oldest reservoirs in San Diego and the third largest. Morena Reservoir overflowed in 1916 killing several people. Kumeyaay Indians and then Spanish priests in the 1700's inhabited the area. Artifacts are on display in the Ranger station. The Park is 3,250 acres of chaparral, oak, and grasslands SW of Laguna Mtn. *Be sure to visit the historic Pacific Southwest Railway Museum at State Highway 94 and Forest Gate Road, Campo, Ca. (619) 478-9937(619) 478-9937(619) 478-9937(619) 478-9937. and The Old Stone Store at 31130 State Highway 94, Campo, Ca. (619) 478-5707(619) 478-5707(619) 478-5707(619) 478-5707. The Store was built by the Gaskill Brothers originally as a stagecoach stop but it also served as a bank, post office, and gathering place for the community. The store was raided and robbed in 1875 by border bandits and a gun battle with East County pioneers ensued. Open weekends so call ahead.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park ~ Borrego Springs.
State Route 67 north to State Route 78 toward Ramona. Take the 78 to Santa Ysabel and turn left onto State Route 79. Go rIght on County Route S-2 and left onto S-22. (Montezuma Valley Road) Follow the road down the beautiful mountain drive into Borrego Springs. Follow the signs to the Anza-Borrego Visitor Center at 200 Palm Canyon Drive. Also visit the Borrego Desert Nature Center at 652 Palm Canyon Drive. 110 miles of hiking trails. Hike early and take plenty of water. It gets hot in the summer. Features include rattlesnakes, sidewinders, scorpions that glow in the dark, geckos, willow trees, and desert landscape that gets greener in higher elevations. Borrego Springs is designated an International Dark-Sky Community, the only one in California. Earth's orbit makes the Milky Way very vivid in summer. Best viewed from Fonts Point at sunset. Group and private tours can be arranged. Ninety miles northeast of San Diego. *Catching reptiles in the desert is illegal and subject to fines.
Old Culp Valley Loop, Jasper Trail ~ Borrego Springs.
From State Route 79 head east on S-22 (Montezuma Grade Road) to Borrego Springs. Park off the highway in the Culp Valley Primitive Campground between mile markers 9 and 10. Jasper Trail is before mile marker 7 on the right. Features cactus, junipers, sumac, snakes, glimpses of the Salton Sea, and miles of huge granite boulders. The Cahuilla natives named the area Ackawaka. (Rock Spring) The Paroli Family homesteaded the area in the early 1900s and raised cattle. About 8.7 miles. Rated moderately strenuous with an elevation gain of about 1,455 feet. Open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians, no dogs allowed.
Rainbow Canyon ~ Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
From Julian head east on Highway 78 to Scissors Crossing. Turn southeast onto Highway S-2. Go about 11 miles to mile marker 27.7. Park on the east side off pavement. Look northeast for Rainbow Canyon, a depression between two hills. Follow the natural wash as there is no trail head. Features include cholla and barrel cactus, ocotillo, wildflowers in spring, colorful bands of minerals, and metamorphic rock that changed form over millions of years from heat, pressure, and fluids. Anza-Borrego Desert was once under the ocean, then changed to grassland, and then into desert. About two miles round trip. Rated easy to moderate. *From this direction The Mormon Battalion Trail is 1.4 miles southeast and Box Canyon is 2 miles southeast on S-2. Box Canyon was the first wagon road into Southern California that followed a route used for thousands of years by native Kumeyaay and Kwaaymii Indians known as the Southern Overland Trail. In 1847 the Mormon Battalion marched from Council Bluffs, Iowa through here on their way to assist Gen. Kearney in the Mexican-American War.
Indian Gorge ~ Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
From Interstate 8 east, exit at Ocotillo. Head north on S2. Go about 18.6 miles and turn left/ west at the 46.1 mile marker onto Indian Gorge, a dirt road. Park just off the road on hard-packed sand. Torote Canyon Trail is 1.8 miles from S2 on the right, Palm Wash Trail is about 2 miles on the left, and the fork into North and South Indian Valley is 2.7 miles. If you are in a four wheel drive, you can drive through the gorge and into Indian Valley. Features include desert willows, cholla and barrel cactus, and big horn sheep, the namesake of Anza-Borrego. Juan Bautista Anza came through here in 1774 when he forged a trail from Mexico to San Francisco and the Spanish word for sheep is Borrego. Watch the horizon of the gorge walls and listen for falling rock and you might spot a big horn sheep! About four to eight miles round trip. Rated easy to moderate. Open to hikers. No dogs are allowed on California state park trails.
Hawk Canyon ~ Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
From Highway 78 go about 28 miles east of Julian to mile marker 87.2, Buttes Pass Road. This is a marked dirt road signed for four wheel drive and about 1.5 miles east of Borrego Springs Road and about 5.2 miles west of Ocotillo Wells. Park off Buttes Pass Road, as far in as is safe in the soft sand without a four wheel drive vehicle. One mile from the highway Buttes Pass Road forks. Take the right fork to reach Hawk Canyon, about 0.9 miles. Features include colorful cliffs, sandstone, ironwood trees, primitive camping, desert views, and the Coyote Creek earthquake fault. A 1968 earthquake in the area registered 6.5! To reach The Slot take the left fork to Borrego Mountain Wash. Hike down into the wash and walk through this narrow pass about 0.7 miles. 5 miles round trip for both. Rated fairly easy. No dogs allowed.
Canyon Sin Nombre ~ Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
From Interstate 8 east exit at Ocotillo. Head north on S2, Imperial Highway. Go 13.5 miles past mile marker 51 and Carrizo Badlands Overlook. Look for the Canyon Sin Nombre sign posted on the right. Turn right and park on the ridge. Features include cholla, barrel cactus, brittlebush, mesquite, cliffs, boulders, Some narrow paths, about 5 miles. *The road is very soft and sandy so hike in unless you have an off road four wheel drive.
Culp Valley ~ Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.
From Highway 79 go east to S-2. Head east to S-22 (also Montezuma Valley Road) past Ranchita. Turn left at mile marker 9.2 onto the dirt road marked Culp Valley. Go left to Pena Spring. (Turn rIght to the campsites). Drive in as far as safe without a four wheel drive and park off the road. The trailhead is at the end of the dirt road. Take the trail to Pena Spring. Features high desert landscape, primitive camping sites, huge boulders, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and Pena Spring. Supposedly the Spring was named after Pena Paroli whose family homesteaded the area. The Kumeyaay Indians originally inhabited the area and called it Kish Kawish. About one mile, and rated easy. *If you like the desert be sure to visit The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.
Lucky 5 Trail ~ Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
From Highway 78 head south on S1. (Sunrise Highway) Parking is about 3.6 miles from the intersection and its free. The Lucky Loop Trail is at the southern end. Head south to the Lucky 5 Ranch, cross S1, and continue on the dirt road. The road intersects with Pacific Crest Trail. (PCT) The area is a wildlife corridor between Cuyamaca, Anza Borrego, and Laguna. Features panoramic vistas, chaparral, and wildflowers in spring such as poppies and lupin. Home to the Kwaaymii Indians for generations. About 3.9 mile loop with 550 foot elevation. Open to hikers and equestrians only.
Truckhaven Trail ~ Anza-Borrego Desert.
From Highway S-22 (Borrego-Salton Seaway) go east about 18 miles, past mile marker 38. Park off the highway by the sign for Truckhaven Trail. The trailhead is across the highway. Features lizards, wide washes, and lots of history. The Paleo Indians (San Dieguito Indians) lived in the area about 9,000 years ago when the area climate was milder and there were lakes and streams to fish. The Salton Sea was once Lake Cahuilla. Truckhaven Man was found by archaeologist somewhere nearby and was dated back 3,000 years ago. From 2,000 - 1500 years ago the Yuman and Shoshone Indians lived in the area, predecessors of the Kumeyaay and Desert Cahuilla Indians. Early homesteaders included Alfred Armstrong Beaty. Beaty built the first jeep trail with a mule drawn scrapper in 1929. About 4.2 miles round trip. Rated easy to moderate with some uphill climbs.
Check the individual park web sites for fees, hours, maps, and rules before you go. *70 state parks are slated to close because of budget problems in California. Check for closures.
Download a map from the links before you go.
Call ahead and make reservations for organized hikes or tours. Look into museum/park yearly memberships. Sometimes it's not that much more than a one time ticket and comes with discount coupons.
Take along sunscreen, insect repellent, hand sanitizer, and your first aid kit with a knife or scissors. Bring plenty of water and allow for breaks.
Take your fishing permit if you plan to fish.
Some places, like Palomar Mtn, have no service stations. Get gas before you go.
Some trails cross rivers and get slippery. It also gets windy and cold. Wear good shoes and take a jacket if needed.
Some roads look easy but are not, like sandy roads in the desert. Towing you out is expensive. Be aware of where you park.
Watch for rattlesnake and mountain lion warnings posted. If you are planning a hike along an overgrown trail look into buying snake proof chaps and gaiters.
There is poison oak and ivy along the trails. It turns a beautiful bright color in fall. Be aware of where you are hiking and what you are touching.
Hike with a partner and take along a cell phone. Some parks have cell phone tours that you dial into from the trail.
Are we there yet? What to take on a road trip:
An ice chest with food, snacks, and drinks for everyone. Forget sharing.
Don't forget your chargers, headphones, earplugs, meds, and a trash bag.
Take along your Kindle and cell phone to keep yourself and the kids occupied on long road trips. Down load e-books, games, and apps that will help you.
Remember to take along a great camera. We found the Sony Nex-5 to be light weight and user friendly.
Freeways, streets, and traffic jams are frustrating. Take a good GPS system with you and visit off season.