Daley Ranch is a 3000 acre preserve in north eastern Escondido. It has over 25 miles of trails open to hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, and leashed dogs. The preserve contains a variety of habitats including oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, grasslands, and riparian areas. It holds several ponds, and sits adjacent to Dixon Lake. You can view a map of the Ranch’s trails here.
We began at the Cougar Ridge trail head at the most northeastern part of the preserve. Our early morning start resulted in a heavy cloud cover and wonderfully cool temperatures. Knowing that the fog would burn off before long, we took advantage of the comfortable conditions while we could and set a brisk pace.
The trail wound around through some chaparral and oak trees before passing into a wide open grassy area. The grass and buckwheat surrounding us were various shades of gold, red and brown after a long hot summer, but the multitude of oak trees were still a lush green.
At aproximately ½ mile, we emerged from the cover of the trees and progressed up a steep incline for the next .1 mile or so. The misty fog shrouded the hill tops surrounding us, making it almost feel like a winter morning instead of late August.
At ¾ mile, we came upon the intersection for the Engelmann Oak trail. This trail forms a loop which can be taken in either direction, connecting again with the Cougar Ridge trail about .8 miles from our current location. We took this first branch to traverse the loop clockwise.
At 1.7 miles, we came to the turn off for the Bobcat trail on our right. This 1 mile single track cuts across the loop we were making and connects directly back to the Cougar Ridge trail. We were just getting warmed up at this point, so continued straight along the Engelmann Oak trail.
The Form of Burnt Mountain, spotted with white granite, began to emerge on our right. At 2.2 miles, we reached the intersection for the Burnt Mountain Trail. This is a short, ⅓ mile single track trail that cuts across the loop we were currently making. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go to the summit but skirts along the side of the mountain. We continued straight along the Engelmann Oak trail.
The trail soon started to turn towards the south and then west again. At 2.75 miles we passed the junction to the Hidden Spring trail which connects to the Jack Creek Meadow trail. Definitely an adventure for another day, as the temperature was continuing to rise.
We found ourselves once again traversing some steep ups and downs along the trail. We were passed by a number of mountain bikers, most of whom were cautious and courteous as they came down the hills, but we did encounter one or two who were apparently practicing their ninja skills and did not attempt to try and make their presence known until they were right upon us. (My tip to bikers: If you’re not comfortable calling out to hikers “on your left” or something similar as you approach from behind, invest in some bells).
At 3.4 miles, the Engelmann Oak trail came to an end as we reconnected with the Cougar Ridge trail. The left branch of Cougar Ridge continues on to connect with the Boulder Loop Trail and southern section of the ranch, but we headed right to get back to our starting point.
Emerging from the trees, we soon encountered the first turn off for the Engelmann Oak trail we had taken earlier, and continued straight along the Cougar Ridge Trail to return to the parking area.
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From I-15 take 78 East. 78 ends after approximately 1 mile. At this point turn left onto Broadway. Follow Broadway for approximately 6 miles to Cougar Pass Road. Turn right onto Cougar Pass and follow it to the trail head. Note: Cougar Pass Road is a rather narrow, winding road with some rocky, pitted spots. We made it successfully in a Honda Fit so its not that bad, just take it slow. map
|Total Distance:||5 miles|
|Elevation Change:||1100 feet|
|Best Time of Year:||Year Round. Hot in summer.|