Daley Ranch is a wildlife reserve owned by the City of Escondido. It’s on the territory of the old Daley Ranch, started by Robert Daley, a British immigrant, in 1869 and spans about 4,000 acres north of Escondido, California, adjacent to Dixon Lake and it’s various campground and recreational opportunities. There is an entry to Daley Ranch off of Beven Drive and East Valley Parkway, just before it exits town and leads to Valley Center.
I have marked the peak (red arrow) and the trailhead (blue arrow). Turn left of Beven, go to the end, follow the signs to Humane Society, and turn left at the gate. There is a small dirt parking lot.
The trailhead is right behind the sign on the left. This section of the trail is called the Caballo Trail.
Upon entering, you can’t help but see the warning sign about mountain lions. This is classic mountain lion territory.
Of course, in 35 years of hiking in Southern California, I have never encountered a mountain lion. Regardless, it’s good to be prepared and know what to do. Here are the reminders.
This is the beginning of the trail, heading up.
Here is the map of my hike up. It was a 7.35 mile roundtrip, and it took me about 3.5 hours. The elevation at the beginning was 785 feet, and the peak is at 1,956 feet. So it’s a good elevation change that makes the heart beat go up. I went up the Caballo Trail, and at about a mile, turned right on the Quail Run, which is a small, narrow and sometimes overgrown connector trail of about 0.65 miles that connects up to the big Sage Trail – which is essentially a wide dirt road all the way to the peak.
Here is a view of the peak from the beginning of the trail. You can see the brush in the foreground, which is completely typical for Southern California wilderness. It is as high as a man, and impenetrable.
Here is another view of the peak from farther up the trail, not quite at Quail Run yet.
Here is the peak. I have set down my hiking poles and backpack before taking this picture, facing east.
Here is the view looking north. The road below is the 4-lane highway leading to Valley Center. The large ridge in the back is Palomar Mountain, home of the world-famous Palomar Observatory, with the 5-meter mirror, which, for a number of decades, was the largest telescope in the world.
Here is the view looking west. Below, Mallard Pond is visible through the blue reflection of the sky. This is a large pond in the middle of Daley Ranch. In the distance, the blue band near the horizon is the Pacific Ocean. The hill on the left side is Double Peak, which is the highest peak in San Diego North County and provides good views – and you can comfortably drive up to the very peak. Believe it or not, there are housing developments right below the peak.
Here is the view south. At the blue arrow, you can see the Pacific again off the coast of La Jolla. The green arrow points to a section of the Caballo Trail, where I came up. The red arrow points to our house. We actually live within half a mile of the Caballo Trail head. I don’t even need to drive to do this hike – just roll out of bed and put the boots on.
The trails of Daley Ranch are well-used, by hikers, hardy mountain bikers, and sometimes equestrians. It gets hot and dry, so you have to bring a good supply of water. The popular Sage Trail is busy, and you can easily see a few dozen small groups of hikers in an hour, but the side trails, like Coyote Run or Quail Run are very isolated, and you likely pass nobody at all. You can do short 1-hour hikes, and you can do 20 mile hikes on Daley Ranch, depending on your pick.