Difficulty PG Distance 2.1 to 5 miles Hikes with free parking Rating: 7-8 San Diego County - Mountains & Eastern county Season: All year

Five Oaks Trail/Volcan Moutain Preserve

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As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!

Through the woods in the Vulcan Mountain Reserve

Text and photography copyright 2010 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. The author does not take any responsibility for injuries sustained during hikes or walks on the routes described here. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

Five Oaks Trail

  • Location:  Near Julian in eastern San Diego County.   From Interstate 15, take highway 78 east for about 50 miles to the town of Julian.  Take a left on Farmer Road, take a quick right, and then left to remain on Farmer Road.   Cross Wynola Road and park on the street about 200 yards past the intersection, near the signs for the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve.
  • Agency: San Diego County Parks/Volcan Mountain Preserve
  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 850 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2 hours
  • Best season: All year (hot during the summer)
  • USGS topo map: “Julian”
  • Recommended gear: sun hat; sunblock; hiking poles; insect repellent
  • More information: Volcan Mountain Foundation page here; Yelp page here; trip description here
  • Rating: 7

It may be a little bit of a stretch to include this hike in a blog oriented toward L.A. and Orange County, but should you find yourself in San Diego and wanting to check out something other than Sea World or the zoo, make the drive out to Julian, where there some nice hiking trails.  The drive east quickly leaves the urban landscape behind as it makes its way through rolling hills and farmlands.  At about 4,000 feet in elevation, Julian gets hot during the summer, but the shade on the Five Oaks Trail (on which there are quite a few more than five oaks) make it a good year-round hike.

The hike has a not-so-promising start on a fire road, but after 0.4 miles, the signed Five Oaks trail heads off to the right, and immediately you enter the cover of huge black oaks.  The grade is steep in places, but never too severe, and as you climb higher, you get great views of the Kanaka Flat and Furgeson Flat areas to the north, and after a mile or so, the Anza-Borrego desert to the south.

Shortly after, the trail levels out in a wide plain, and it meets up with the fire road.  Although it is possible to make the hike a loop by turning left on the fire road (click here for a description of that route) I preferred heading back down through the oaks.   The fire road continues to the summit of Volcan Mountain, which is only accessible on reserve-led hiking trips.



  1. This looks like it would make for a beautiful spring time hike. I can just picture the photo above with a carpet of green and lupines peeking out.

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