Del Dios Highlands is a 774 acre preserve adjacent to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. The Preserve has one trail, a wide fire road, which begins along the Del Dios Highway and climbs just over 900 feet to an unnamed peak. The road then goes on to connect to the Elfin Forest trail system. Surrounded by a mix of chaparral and coastal sage scrub, the trail offers some superb views of nearby Lake Hodges and Olivenhain Reservoir.
The Preserve opens at 8am, and we got there shortly thereafter. While the weather had recently been cooler, we still wanted an early start on this exposed trail with its steep hills. We passed through the gate at the edge of the parking lot and set off on our way. The trail wasted no time before beginning to ascend.
We now had great views to the west. We could see the parking lot and entrance to the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in the valley below us, and looking out over the mountain tops we could see the blue of the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
If you’re not planning on extending your hike and visiting the Elfin Forest, this viewpoint would make an ideal turnaround point for normal people. We’re not normal of course, and wanted to continue on to the boundary of the preserve to ensure we’d hiked every inch of the trail. So we continued on for approximately an additional .1 mile until we reached the boundary between the Del Dios Highlands Preserve and Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. Then, having completed our goal, we retraced our route back to the car.
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From I-15, take the Via Rancho Pkwy exit, and head west on Via Rancho Parkway. Follow Via Rancho for approximately 3.3 miles, then turn left onto Del Dios Highway. Follow Del Dios Highway for approximately .5 mile – the entrance to Del Dios Highlands County Preserve will be on the right. map
|Total Distance:||2.6 miles|
|Total Ascent:||910 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Leashed dogs allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
For more information, visit:
San Diego County Parks and Recreation – Del Dios Highlands Preserve
View route or download GPX from CalTopo