Hiking Burnt Mountain on Daley Ranch

Here is a hiker’s map of Daley Ranch.

[as always, you can click on the image to enlarge]

In the upper left corner there is the Engleman Oak circle trail basically around Burnt Mountain. You can walk or bike there from the main entrance by Dixon Lake, but it’s a longish hike. But you can you also access it from the Cougar Pass trailhead. Here is a more detailed section of the same map:

The red arrow points to the trailhead. When you use Goggle Map directions, even coming from the south in Escondido, it directs you to the Hidden Valley Road exit off I-15, which is out of the way. The easiest way to get there is to just go north on Broadway in Escondido. After a while it becomes rural. About five miles out of town, there is a turnoff labeled Cougar Pass Road. This is a dirt road with some washboard damage that snakes up the hills, but it’s totally safe for a regular vehicle. I might note that the Google Maps-recommended way also includes several miles of dirt road driving. There is a good parking lot at the trailhead and there is always enough space, since it is fairly remote and not well-known.

The Cougar Ridge trail ascends sharply from about 1,200 feet at the trailhead to about 1,900 feet where it joins the Engleman Oak trail. The last section is a steep fire road, with direct southern exposure to the sun all day long. I have to pace myself there to keep the heartrate reasonable. Once you turn left on Engleman Oak, it becomes mostly flat. The trail is dotted with boulders on both sides, and partly shaded by a lot of old oaks.

I marked the peak of Burnt Mountain with the blue arrow. This is a rounded, rocky peak with no published trail to it. But on previous hikes about at the spot marked by the green arrow, I noticed a faint foot trail into the brush.

If you look carefully, you can see the faint trail in the foreground on the left side. The peak is not directly visible behind the high point in this photograph. It’s all boulders and brush. But the foot trail looked promising. Every time before, when I was there, I was alone and I didn’t think it would be smart to hike there by myself. It’s mountain lion country. But more importantly, if I were to injure myself through a fall, nobody would come by to save me. Nobody would find me. Not a smart thing.

So last week, my son Devin was in town. Devin is a wilderness first responder and very experienced hiker and climber. The right guy to take along when you’re scared of going on a sketchy, unknown hike by yourself. So we headed up.

Here is Devin taking a selfie of us at a rest stop along Cougar Ridge trail.

After twenty minutes of scrambling through steep tiny trails, under bushes and through brambles, we got to the top. There were a few places that required some bouldering, using hands to pull up between large rocks, but nothing too scary. We both wore long pants in anticipation, something I would strongly recommend. I got my arm scratched bloody somewhere. Here is one of the views from the very top.

Here you can see the elevation of 2,222 feet at the peak, which is about 300 feet above the plateau where the foot trail started.

Here is another shot from the top, pointing east. On the bottom you see the Engleman Oak trail from the plateau where we started. The green arrow points to Cuyamaca Mountain some 50 miles away. At over 6,000 feet, it is one of the highest peaks in San Diego county. The red arrow points to the top of Stanley Peak, which I have hiked and described here.

And of course there is always a victory photo when there is a partner to take my picture.

Here is a shot of Devin on the way down on the barely discernible trail.

Here is the profile map of our hike. The green arrow points to the start of the foot trail. On the way back, we turned left on the Burnt Mountain trail rather than completing the Engleman Oak trail, which is a fire road, versus Burnt Mountain trail being a nice trail. The same thing on the way back, we took the Bobcat trail back to the other side, rather than continuing down straight the Engleman Oak road, which is very steep, rocky and not all that inspiring.

The whole trip, including the peak and back, took three hours and was 5.40 miles long. We took plenty of rest on the top, so it can certainly be done faster if need be.

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