If you are staying in Carlsbad/Ocean Side/San Diego take a day and go hiking at Daley Ranch, a 3,000 acre Mountain Park with Boulders the size of Mini Vans. There are many trails and I would rate the hiking as family perfect as there are some steep hills but not difficult. I have completed all the trails and just finished Engelmann Oak - Cougar Ridge - Bobcat and Burnt Mountain hikes about 6.2 Miles in 3 Hours (I am 55 so not too fast). The Engelmann Oak trail has one small oak tree that I found with acorns (rather small) but was good to find right on the trail.
There are incredible views from many of the peaks in the park and I think the best find is a large Boulder near the end of Rock Ridge - it is hard to find but worth trying to find it as there are a few pennies on top if you find it and can manage to climb it!
If you are doing the Cougar Pass entrance I recommend going to the right and complete Cougar Ridge then Burnt Mountain then go around and take Bobcat down or Engelmann Oak down to the base.
Best route I think is from La Honda Drive and then do the following Creek Crossing - East Ridge, Jack Creek, Meadow Loop, Hidden Spring (This I think is the steepest Climb) then Engelmann, Cougar Ridge, Boulder Loop then Ranch House Road back to parking (3 Hours).
Here is the website link for directions:
To get to Daley Ranch, you’ll need to drive to one of three entrances to the preserve. Once parked at an entrance, you can enter Daley Ranch on foot, bike, or horse. However, before you leave home, you should know some important facts and choose the driving directions and entrance that are best for you:
1) La Honda Drive (most popular)
Trailheads & Physical Difficulty: Easy to Moderate. Once you park your car, you can choose from either the Ranch House or Creek Crossing trails to start your journey.
Driving Difficulty: Easy. Access by car is via paved city streets.
Parking Availability: Plentiful. A large gravel lot offers numerous parking spaces directly across the street from the entrance to Dixon Lake.
Address & Driving Directions: 3024 La Honda Drive, Escondido, 92027. From eastbound El Notre Parkway, turn left onto La Honda Drive. From westbound El Notre Parkway, turn right onto La Honda Drive. Drive all the way to the top of the hill, and just before La Honda dead-ends, turn left into the gravel parking lot. Get exact directions from your location on Google Maps…
2) Cougar Pass
Trailheads & Physical Difficulty: Difficult. Once you park your car, you can start your journey into Daley Ranch on the Cougar Ridge North trail, which is largely uphill.
Driving Difficulty: Moderate to difficult. Access by car is via paved city streets for most of the way. However, the last mile is an unpaved, uphill road.
Parking Availability: Moderate. A gravel lot offers some parking spaces directly across the street from the Cougar Pass entrance / Cougar Ridge North trailhead.
Address & Driving Directions: Cougar Pass Road, Escondido, 92026. Take Broadway north to Cougar Pass Road and turn right. Keep winding uphill on Cougar Pass until you reach a gravel parking lot across the road from the Cougar Pass entrance to Daley Ranch. Turn left into the gravel lot and park there. Get exact directions from your location on Google Maps…
3) El Caballo Park
Trailheads & Physical Difficulty: Difficult. Once you park your car, you can start your journey into Daley Ranch on the Caballo trail, which is all uphill.
Driving Difficulty: Moderate. Access by car is via paved city streets. However, the last few turns can be a little tricky because they aren’t major intersections.
Parking Availability: Plentiful. A large gravel lot offers numerous parking spaces near the Escondido Humane Society, right next to the El Caballo Park entrance / Caballo trailhead.
Driving Directions: Take Valley Parkway East, then turn left onto Beven Drive. Next, turn right onto Burnet Drive. Continue straight on Burnet, and just before you reach the Escondido Humane Society, turn left into the gravel parking lot next to the Caballo trailhead. Unfortunately, Google Maps does not seem to be able to generate reliable directions to this entrance.
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