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.
Daley Ranch: Boulder and Ranch House Loop
- Location: 3024 La Honda Drive, Escondido, CA. From I-15, take the El Norte exit and head east for 3.1 miles. Turn left on La Honda and drive a mile to the dirt parking lot.
- Agency: City of Escondido
- Distance: 5 miles
- Elevation gain: 750 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG
- Suggested time: 2.5 hours
- Best season: September – May
- USGS topo map: Valley Center
- Recommended guidebook: California Hiking
- More information: here
- Rating: 6
Geology, ponds, city views, history – it’s all here at Daley Ranch. The property was purchased by English immigrant Robert Daley in 1869 and remained in his family until 1996, when it was sold to the city of Escondido. As parks located near urban areas go, this one offers a lot of scenic variety and some challenging trails, such as those included in the route described here. This loop might sound complicated, but if you print out a map or pick one up at the park, it’s pretty easy to follow.
From the parking lot, take the Ranch House trail, which gets its name for an obvious reason, arriving at the house after a mile. However, you can take a scenic and more isolated detour by turning left on the Boulder Loop trail after passing by Middle Pond (about 0.7 miles from the start.)
The trail climbs steeply but soon rewards you with views of Escondido. It levels out after about half a mile, passing through some open fields, boulders and oaks before reaching a junction with the Cougar Crest Trail. This is the highest point on the hike; you can take a well-earned break under a shade structure and enjoy views in all directions.
Continuing, the trail makes a long, twisting descent to rejoin the paved road (about 3 miles from the start.) Turn left and follow the road downhill to the historic ranch house. The house is often closed but milling around the area and looking at the various buildings from the outside is enjoyable; there are a few picnic tables for eating and relaxation.
You can return via the Ranch House Trail, but if you have time for variety, try the East Ridge Trail, which passes the other side of Middle Pond. In a mile, take a left on the Creek Crossing trail and follow it 2/3 of a mile to the parking lot.