Hiking Boulder Loop in Daley Ranch

The Boulder Loop in Daley Ranch is a nice hike with great scenery that you can do in a couple of hours. The elevation change of 666 feet from the parking lot is enough to get the heartrate up, but it does not take too much out of you.

The hike starts at the bottom of the map at the parking lot for Daley Ranch in Escondido at 900 feet elevation. It ascends the paved road toward the ranch for about .68 miles, when the actual loop starts. I walked it in the clockwise direction, which I would recommend. The loop itself is about 2.5 miles long. The whole hike is 3.75 miles. Note on the way back, when I stopped for water and put my backpack on, I accidentally put my GPS on pause until I discovered it back at the parking lot, hence the straight line (red arrow) on my map. The hike peaks out at about 1,500 feet elevation and most of the loop is in a high plateau. The climbing is steep but is over with after the first 30 minutes.

Most of the hike is on well maintained access dirt roads, like this one:

This photo is taken from the plateau at about 1,400 feet, about half way through the loop. It’s a great, short trip for a mountain bike, if you don’t mind the steep climb at the beginning.

The views are tremendous. To the north-east, you can see the broad ridge of Palomar Mountain and, with the digital zoom on my iPhone, you can barely make out the white single-pixel dot of the giant dome of the world-famous Palomar Observatory some thirty miles away as the crow flies.

Looking south-east you can see Cuyamaca Peak, at over 6,000 feet one of the highest peaks in San Diego County. Taking this picture I made a mental note I should go back there for a hike soon – it’s been many years that I have been on the top of Cuyamaca.

Much closer to home, to the east, is Stanley Peak, which I hiked just a few weeks ago and reviewed here.

Of course, the hike is called Boulder Loop for a reason. There are massive boulder fields everywhere.

Here are some more, and you can see some of the ancient dead oak trees that seem to be everywhere in the Southern California highlands.

Here is a view down into the central part of the ranch where the pond reflects the blue sky. In the foreground, you can see the thick, impenetrable brush that covers all the land.

That brings me to another pet peeve of mine – our outgoing president constantly harassing the State of California for not “raking its forests” and thereby inviting more devastating forest fires.

Obviously, he has never hiked the California countryside. The photo above is a typical view on the Boulder Loop plateau, away from the boulders. The shrubbery is as high as a man, as far as the eye can see, impenetrable, and dry as tinder. Remember “It Never Rains in Southern California….”

Vistas like these cover thousands of square miles of the California coastal highlands and could not possibly be “cleared” or “raked” no matter how massive the effort. However, a single careless match, or a powerline downed by winds (which get pretty rough here from time to time), or a lightening strike, could set this land ablaze and there is no access for fire crews other than aircraft. The notion that “cleaning up the forests” would be an option here is ludicrous. This is mountain lion country, and this land will burn, it’s just a matter of time, and then it will grow back over the next decade, as it has done for millennia, long before man was here. It just didn’t have housing developments for thousands of people just a couple of miles away.

Speaking of which, here is a view just zooming in below the Palomar ridge, and you can see several nice, prominent, expensive ranch homes on large properties on neighboring ridges. I am sure they have nice views. But they will also be in the line of fire, should one sweep through here.

I feel fortunate that I can hike to this kind of wilderness literally from my house, on foot, in a couple of hours, and be away from people, traffic and all the trappings of gross-national-product-land. Hiking this loop just before Christmas I literally saw only three people. Of course, most of my readers don’t live in climates like these where you can hike in late December in shorts and T-Shirt, so I feel doubly fortunate and grateful.

And now it’s time to go out again.

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