Inaja Memorial Trail
- Location: Eastern San Diego County, a mile east of Santa Ysabel, during the stretch of overlap between Highway 78 and Highway 79. It’s located on the south side of the road, a mile southeast of where the two roads meet, and six miles west of Julian. From Ramona, follow Highway 78 east for 17 miles. From Escondido it’s 34, and from Oceanside, 55.
- Agency: Cleveland National Forest/Palomar Ranger District
- Distance: 0.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 150 feet
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Suggested time: 30 minutes
- Best season: All year
- USGS topo map: “Santa Ysabel”
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield San Diego County
- More information: Trip description here; Yahoo Travel page here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 7
Named for 11 firefighters who died in 1956, the Inaja Memorial Trail offers an excellent variety of scenery, especially for such a short hike. At 3,300 feet above sea level, it features the pines, manzanitas and oaks characteristic of higher elevations as well as the lowland chaparral. Also noteworthy are the terrific views both above (the Palomar Mountains, Volcan Mountain) and below (the upper San Diego River canyon.)
The trail begins on the east side of the parking area (opposite the entrance.) Pass by a few picnic tables and an outhouse where a sign indicates the start of the trail. Check the box to see if interpretive brochures are available, describing the numbered sign posts on the route. You make a hairpin turn by a large stack of granite boulders and soon come to a split, the beginning of the loop, which can be hiked in either direction. If you head counter-clockwise, you’ll get a nice aerial view of Highway 78 and the rolling terrain of Santa Ysabel; clockwise provides a striking view of the San Diego River canyon. A few unofficial trails branch off and can be explored a well.
About half way through the loop, a short spur leads to a summit where you can enjoy some sweeping views. Head back to the loop (another trail leads off the summit but soon dead-ends.) You’ll return to the split and retrace your steps to the parking lot.
As short as the trail is, it might not be worth a long drive, but it’s convenient location on Highway 78 makes it an ideal stop en route, say, from San Diego to Julian. L.A. and Orange County hikers who are looking to explore the trail-rich Santa Ysabel/Julian area won’t want to miss this trail.
Text and photography copyright 2014 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. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.