For a day-hike area, it’s really hard to beat if you live in the North San Diego or South Orange County areas. The hiking varies from relatively easy to moderately difficult as the network of over 20 miles of trails traverses across ridge lines and meanders through rare Engelmann oaks. In addition to the nice selection of short hikes available, I think it’s the oaks and boulders that appeal to me most. For being so close to home and major metropolitan areas, it’s a beautiful place to visit now and again.
By following the below list of trail names in order, you’ll get in just under 14 miles of good hiking and a peak to boot. Download the trail map located at the link below as a reference to this hike.
THE WHOLE ENCHILADA LOOP
- Creek Crossing (look for Dixon Lake to the south)
- East Ridge
- Sage (look for seasonal ponds in the area)
- Stanley Peak (nice views to the east)
- Sage (pass by Mallard Pond on your left)
- Ranch House (chemical toilets and picnic tables)
- Jack Creek Meadow (eastern loop portion)
- Hidden Springs (the steepest one-mile section in the park)
- Engelmann Oak (head north at the junction)
- Cougar Ridge (nice views to the west)
- Boulder Loop (favorite section of the hike)
- Ranch House (head south to the parking area)
If you find that daylight is rapidly vanishing or your endurance is lagging a bit, the hike itinerary can be easily be shortened to shave off a few miles by taking any number of shortcuts. One of the surprisingly nice shortcuts is via “Bobcat Trail” which bisects the Engelmann Oak Loop. On a very warm day a few summers ago, I began to run out of water so took this trail to shave off a mile. The Bobcat trail is a shaded, one track trail that was a nice change of pace from the hot sun that day.
I'm not sure if I'd label the trails at Daley Ranch as "destination hikes," but you really shouldn't miss the place if you're within a hour's drive. Actually, heaven's worth even a two hour drive if you need a little slice.
Daley Ranch Trail Map
Daley Ranch Information
Daley Ranch Photo Set