Manchester Preserve

Sandwiched between residential developments in Encinitas, Manchester Preserve is a beautiful little oasis of native vegetation and sculpted sandstone cliffs. The preserve is a popular spot with nearby residents, and offers a scenic and quiet spot to explore or watch birds.

The Preserve has a fairly extensive network of interconnecting trails, which means lots of junctions and opportunities to create your own route. Our plan was try and hike the perimeter so we could get a feel for the entire area, but it seemed like it would be easy to take a wrong turn and end up on a different path. Fortunately, it’s a pretty small area, so you’re unlikely to get terribly lost.

We arrived fairly early, and found only one other vehicle in the dirt lot. A gap in the wood fence marked the start of the trail.

The Preserve is home to a mix of coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and a small bit of riparian habitats. We found some lovely prickly pear cactus a short way from the trailhead.

As we continued, we could see some of the beautifully sculpted cliff faces surrounding us.

The trail sloped ever so gently uphill, and soon we had a lovely view of the canyon behind us.

At just around .25 miles we came upon a “Y” junction and turned right.

Almost immediately we came to another junction and turned left, heading towards a rather steep hill.

We soon found ourselves climbing a steep slope. Wooden steps at the top aided our ascent.

At the top of the steps, we paused to turn around and enjoy the expansive views the short climb had afforded us.

Ahead of us was a short level stretch before more climbing.

As we reached the next set of hills, looking east we found some more great views of sandstone cliffs.

We reached the top of the hill and the power lines that had been mucking up our photos. There was a four-way junction here. The trail to the right appeared to lead off towards a residential area, and the trail straight ahead continued through the Preserve. The left fork led to a small overlook area, so that’s where we went.

It was just a short climb to the overlook, where we found a wooden bench and some great views.

The trail continued on the other side of the bench, so we followed it.

A wire and wood post fence guided us to a “T” junction where we reconnected with the main trail. Here, we turned left to continue along the perimeter of the Preserve.

We passed another trail branching off to the right that led to a nearby residential area and continued as the trail curved to the left.

We soon found ourselves descending back down into the canyon.

More wooden steps assisted our descent.

At .85 mile we came upon a “Y” junction and turned right.

Just beyond was another junction. We turned right once again.

We crossed over a wooden bridge which spanned a dry gully that ran through the Preserve.

Shortly after the bridge was another “T” junction. The right branch led to another neighborhood access point (Taegan Drive). We turned left to start heading back towards our starting point.

The trail followed the course of the dry creek on our left. It was mostly obscured by brush, but in a few spots we were able to glimpse some beautifully sculpted sandstone on its edges.

Continuing on, the brush thickened somewhat and we noted some more riparian plants like willow. After a bit the trail curved towards the right, following the contour of the surrounding cliffs.

At 1.25 miles we came to yet another junction and turned right, once again attempting to follow the perimeter as much as possible.

At 1.35 miles a trail branched off to the right, leading up a series of stone steps. This trail appeared to lead to another neighborhood access point on Calle Ryan, so we continued straight.

At 1.5 miles we came to a “T” junction where we met a wide dirt road. Here we turned left.

A short way up the wide dirt road, we turned right onto a more narrow path heading back towards our starting point.

Another tenth of a mile or so and we came to the first “Y” junction we had taken at the start of our hike. Here, we turned right and retraced our route back to the car.

View the full photo gallery

From I-5 take the Manchester Avenue exit. Head east on Manchester for approximately 1 mile, then turn right to stay on Manchester. Continue on Manchester for approximately .9 miles to the small dirt parking lot on your left, just before Trabert Ranch Road. map

Total Distance: 1.85 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Total Ascent: 351 feet
Dog Friendly?: Leashed dogs allowed
Bike Friendly?: No bikes allowed
Facilities: None
Fees/Permits: None

For more information, visit:
Center for Natural Lands Management: Manchester Preserve
View route or download GPX from CalTopo

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