This enjoyable hike has a little bit of everything: oak-shaded meadows, canyon and mountain views and cabin ruins. There are many possible routes of all lengths in the 6,100-acre preserve. The 4.6-mile round trip described here is a good moderate day hike, easy for beginners or families with small kids but varied enough to appeal to veterans.
From the staging area, follow the trail gradually uphill through a meadow. Thanks to recent rains in the San Diego area, the grass is exceptionally green as of this writing. You reach a ridge and descend to a Y-junction. Both routes soon hook up again (if you head left, bear right on the dirt road after you cross the stream.
The two trails rejoin half a mile from the start. Continue heading north northeast into Hollenbeck Canyon, heavy with coastal live oaks, sycamores and a few Engelmanns and wild palms. While at the beginning of the hike you may have heard traffic from the nearby roads, at this point, except for an occasional aircraft overhead, there are virtually no signs of civilization. A bench at 1.1 miles from the start makes a nice place to rest. Soon after, the trail climbs out of the canyon. At about 1.3 miles, a short spur on the left leads to the ruins of a brick cabin. This too is a good spot to sit for a minute; when the grass is green during wet winters and springs, the brick ruins surrounded by the rolling landscape can easily make hikers forget they are in San Diego County.
Shortly beyond is another Y-junction. Head right and continue hugging the left wall of the canyon. At 2 miles, you begin a descent, soon reaching a junction with the Honey Springs Ranch Truck Trail. Turn right and cross the stream to an oak-lined meadow, 2.3 miles from the start. This pleasant spot is a good turnaround point; you can enjoy a snack while sitting on one of the rocks below the trees. One oak in particular has merged against a granite boulder, appearing almost to grow out of it.
Text and photography copyright 2016 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.