Oakoasis Preserve Trail

Hiking through the oaks at Oakoasis

Khan, the amazing hiking dog

Oakoasis is a small preserve in Lakeside that offers a short, relatively easy hike through a mix of tall chaparral and a peaceful oak grove. Some great views of San Vicente Reservoir can be found from a scenic overlook near the halfway point. Oakoasis is part of the growing San Diego Trans County Trail, which will provide a 110 mile trail from the coast to the desert once its completed. This is one of our favorite hikes to take our dogs on because the trail is wide and in generally good shape, the distance is just about right for our older dogs, and its never crowded when we go early in the morning.

Trail marker sign for San Diego Trans County Trail at the Oakoasis Open Space PreserveFollow the trail from the  parking lot through the scrub oaks and manzanita. After about 400 feet you come to a “T” intersection which connects to El Capitan Open Space across the road. Don’t go that way – turn left and continue through the towering brush. You’ll pass two more junctions – keep to the right at both. Basically, anytime you see a sign that says “Trans County Trail”, go the other way to stay on the Oakoasis trail.

After .3 miles the trail begins a steep, rocky descent. There’s a few climbs like this throughout the trail but it is mostly an easy, level hike. The path makes a winding, rocky descent until you reach the start of the oak grove. The trail soon splits and forms a loop – you can go either way at this point.

Trail junction on the Oakoasis trail

Intersection where the trail splits into a loop.

Khan decided he’d like to go clockwise so we turned right and entered the trees.Strolling through the oak woods on the Oakoasis trail

Oaks and boulders line the trail sideWe were only in the oaks for a few minutes before the trail opened up again. To the left was a boulder strewn hillside, to the right was some tall grass with a few straggling wildflowers; it appears we missed the best of bloom season. At .67 miles, a side trail branches off to a private residence. A large bare section, likely a result of the 2003 Cedar fire, is being restored.Saplings get some help in a restoration area in the Oakasis Preserve

Chapparal surrounds the Oakoasis Preserve trail


Once again we found ourselves surrounded by scrub oaks, ceanothus, and other shrubby plants looming above our heads. We continued for about another quarter of a mile with some gentle inclines and downward slopes before getting a brief respite from the chaparral hedge maze. The brush opened up to reveal rocky hill tops and mountains in the distance.

A grassy field with boulder topped hills in the distance along the Oakoasis Preserve trail

We passed a prominent sign indicating the halfway point before the tall brush began to retake the trailside again, and soon found ourselves slogging up a short but steep uphill climb. Slowly, the brush began to thin out allowing us to admire the precarious looking rock formations that surrounded us.Boulders on the trail side at Oakoasis

At 1.5 miles there is a turn off to a scenic overlook on the right side of the trail. Don’t skip this short side trip, as it offers the best views of the hike. We followed the path for a couple of hundred feet to a rocky overlook, and paused for a few minutes to enjoy the view of San Vicente Reservoir.

Enjoying the view of the San Vicente Reservoir

Cactus grows along the trail at OakoasisWe returned to the path and turned right to continue our trek. At 1.7 miles there is a junction with the Upper Meadow Trail. We haven’t taken this path before, but it appears to cut across the loop we’re travelling, and according to Jerry Schad’s Afoot and Afield: San Diego County, it offers some good views of the reservoir. We decided upon the slightly longer route and continued along the main trail. A few pockets of some impressive cactus adorned the hillside beneath the trail. Again, it looks like we missed flower season.

20140526OakOasis7997At 1.85 miles we passed yet another intersection with the Trans County Trail – this section appeared to head towards the Reservoir – and then the terrain quickly transformed from scrubland to woodland as we re-entered the Oasis of Oaks. We noticed some blackened tree trunks and charred remains of fallen logs, but overall the area looked to have recovered quite well from the wildfires. We passed an interpretive sign describing a log cabin that had been in this location but was destroyed in the fire, and also encountered the other end of the Upper Meadow Trail.

As we strolled along the path here, the trees and brush were alive with birds and other critters. We saw numerous lizards scurrying across logs and through the leaf litter as we passed, squirrels darting around the rocky boulders, and even a couple of rabbits bounding away from us through the brush (much to Khan’s excitement!) If you are interested in bird watching or wildlife photography, this would be a nice spot to sit down for a bit and see what comes out when its quiet.

A shady hike through the oak trees

We soon returned to the start of the loop and headed back the way we came. The rocky descent we encountered coming in was now a steep climb out, but happily brief. Remember on your way out to ignore the junctions that say “Trans County Trail” and look for the sign that says “Parking” to get back to your car.

Trail marker shows the way back to the parking lot

View the full photo gallery

Directions to trail head:
From Interstate 8, take Highway 67 north until the freeway portion ends and turn right on Mapleview. Turn left on Ashwood, which will turn into Wildcat Canyon Road. Go a little over 4 miles, as you get to the top of the hill turn left at the entrance to Oakoasis Open Space Preserve. Proceed about 1/10 of a mile up this road and the parking lot will be on your right. Map

Total Distance 2.5 miles
Difficulty Easy, only a few short steep stretches
Elevation Change 600 feet
Best Time of Year Fall through Spring
Dog Friendly? Leashed dogs are allowed
Bikes Allowed? No
Facilities Pit toilets in parking lot, no water
Fees/Permits None

For more information visit:
County of San Diego – Oakoasis Preserve

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