Blue Sky Ecological Reserve

Blue Sky Ecological Reserve is a 700 acre canyon just north of Lake Poway, containing a beautiful mix of riparian, oak woodland, coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitats. Green Valley Truck Trail runs through the reserve, leading up to Lake Ramona, and several side trails offer further opportunities for exploration.

We decided to get an early start on this one since we were bringing one of the dogs. While the first half of this hike is flat and partially shaded, the second half is fully exposed to the sun and involves some steep climbing. We lucked out with a thick marine layer to help keep us cool.

We found the trailhead at the far southern end of the parking lot. A series of signs and a wooden fence guided us to the Green Valley Truck Trail which led east, down into the canyon.20160710_DSC6035BlueSky

There were some signs warning about the presence of bees, who buzzed merrily through the flowering buckwheat along the trail, completely ignoring us. We made our way around a vehicle gate blocking the road, and headed down the hill.20160710_DSC6038BlueSky

The road started out asphalt, but quickly transitioned into soft dirt, with some patches of deep sand here and there.20160710_DSC6042-EditBlueSky

At .25 miles we spotted a branch for the Creekside Trail on the left. This narrow path led down into the thick of the trees and brush along the creek for about .25 mile before reconnecting with the main trail further ahead. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on the Creekside Trail so we continued straight along the Truck Trail. If you happen to be hiking sans canine, I highly recommend taking it as an alternate route on either the way out or the way back since it’s a beautiful and peaceful area (check out our pictures from a previous hike).20160710_DSC6048BlueSky

The main road was hardly disappointing though. As we went further along, tall oak trees lined the trail.20160710_DSC6055BlueSky

We were glad to be on a wide path since there was an abundance of poison oak throughout the canyon, lining both sides of the road in some spots. This time of year it was displaying its beautiful mix of red and green, which I always enjoyed admiring from very far away.20160710_DSC6054BlueSky

At .5 mile we passed the other end of the Creekside Trail and continued straight.20160710_DSC6058-EditBlueSky

At .95 mile, we found the turn-off leading to Lake Poway on the right. We continued straight.20160710_DSC6070BlueSky

Around 1.1 miles we came to a shaded picnic area, complete with a mid-hike port-a-potty. With all the poison oak we’d seen, numerous port-a-potties seemed like a really good idea! If it’s a really hot day or you’re just looking for an easy stroll, this makes a good turn-around point. 20160710_DSC6075BlueSky

Just past the picnic area was a “Y” junction. A partially obscured sign declared the right fork off-limits. We took the left fork towards Lake Ramona.20160710_DSC6077BlueSky

The cool, shady oak trees and flat, easy trail disappeared almost at once. From here on we were headed uphill through low-growing coastal sage scrub and chaparral.20160710_DSC6080BlueSky

The road wound its way circuitously upwards.20160710_DSC6088BlueSky

As the marine layer continued to burn off, we started to see the antenna-topped peak of Mount Woodson appear to the southeast.20160710_DSC6097BlueSky

Around 2.1 miles the dirt road transitioned once again to asphalt, and we knew we were almost there. We could see the rock covered form of the dam before us, with the road heading steeply to the top.20160710_DSC6106BlueSky

Finally, at 2.4 miles we reached the top, and Lake Ramona stretched out before us. There was yet another port-a-potty at the top of the dam, and several people with fishing poles passed us as they headed towards the lake. Green Valley Truck Trail continued across the dam and around the northern side of the lake, but this was our turn-around point for today. We found a shady spot to enjoy the breeze and cool off a bit before turning back and retracing our route.20160710_DSC6116BlueSky

View the full photo gallery

From I-15, take the Rancho Bernardo Road exit and head east on Rancho Bernardo Road. Continue as Rancho Bernardo Road turns into Espola Road. Approximately 3.2 miles from I-15 as Espola Road begins to curve south you will find the entrance to Blue Sky Ecological Reserve on the left. map

Total Distance: 4.8 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Total Ascent: 800 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed on main trail
Bike Friendly?: Bikes not allowed
Facilities: Port-a-potty and water in parking lot
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Blue Sky Ecological Reserve
Friends of Blue Sky Canyon
City of Poway – Blue Sky Ecological Reserve
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

One thought on “Blue Sky Ecological Reserve

  1. This is one of my very top favorite hikes. I love this area in the spring. It gets pretty toasty out there in the summer. A midweek Spring day is perfect. It sure looks pretty on your walk here. The mist or fog adds a bit of mystery.