Leo Carrillo Ranch is a hidden little gem buried in suburban Carlsbad. It was once a working ranch and the weekend home of actor Leo Carrillo, best known for his role as sidekick “Pancho” on the television show The Cisco Kid. The City of Carlsbad acquired a portion of the property, and it is now designated as both a National Historic Landmark as well as a California Historic Landmark. The park is open Tuesday – Sunday, free to the public, and hosts numerous adobe buildings, fantastic gardens, and other fun surprises to explore.
There is, of course, the option of just driving straight to the park and parking in the parking lot like a normal person, but we’re not normal… we’re hikers! A section of the City of Carlsbad’s trail system runs around the park, so we decided to hike in on the Rancho Carrillo trail. We started at a small parking lot adjacent to Carrillo Elementary School.
We had heard some rushing water while walking down the trail, but even looking down from the bridge, the creek was so thickly overgrown with Arroyo Willow and bare Sycamore trees that we couldn’t see any sign of water. We did hear some ducks quacking happily though, so were pleased that someone was enjoying the creek.
Once across the bridge, we were confronted with the option of taking the high road or the low road. Turning left immediately past the bridge would take us along the low road running next to the chain link fence along the creek. We decided to follow the paved trail uphill to the right however, and take the high road.
There were some interesting plants growing along the wall, including Burbank’s Spineless Cactus with its beautiful orange blooms. This species was originally developed by Luther Burbank as a source of food for cattle in desert regions.
The route was easy enough – we just kept turning left. Left onto Via Conquistador, then left for a very short way on Rancho Caballo, left onto Carillo Way, and finally a left onto Flying Leo Carillo Lane which led us to the entrance of the park.
From here you can wander around the park and explore the many buildings, plants, and other exhibits that are on display. We found a short interpretive path with a corresponding Botanical Guide pamphlet showcasing some of the many interesting plants on the property.
When we had our fill of exploring the park, we found the continuation of our path in the northeast corner of the park (just east of the Caretaker’s Cottage).
We headed up the path, crossing a bridge, to pick up the city trail just outside of the park exit.
After a bit the stucco wall transitioned to a short chain link fence and once again the creek was below us. Here, there were actually a few spots where we could glimpse the water below through the thick riparian brush.
Just beyond we reached the parking lot where we had begun.
From I-5 take the La Costa Ave exit and head east on La Costa Ave. Turn left onto El Camino Real. After approximately 1.8 miles, turn right onto Poinsettia Lane. Follow Poinsettia Lane for approximately 1.9 miles to Paseo Escuela where you will see the entrance for Carrillo Elementary on the right. Turn right towards the school, then turn right again into a paved parking lot. Park here and find the trailhead at the far end of the lot. map
|Total Distance:||1.75 miles|
|Total Ascent:||191 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Dogs not allowed in the park|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes allowed|
|Facilities:||Bathrooms and drinking fountain at park|
|Fees/Permits:||None. Note that the park is closed on Mondays.|
For more information, visit:
City of Carlsbad – Rancho Carrillo Trail
City of Carlsbad – Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park
Friends of Carrillo Ranch
View route or download GPX in CalTopo