Difficulty PG Distance 2.1 to 5 miles General information: Dogs allowed General information: Hikes with free parking Rating: 7-8 San Diego County - Mountains & Eastern county Season: Late Winter/Spring

Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve: West Vista Loop Trail


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West Vista Loop Trail, Santa Ysabel, CA
View from the West Vista Loop Trail
West Vista Loop Trail, Santa Ysabel, CA
Oak woodlands, West Vista Loop Trail

Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve: West Vista Loop Trail

  • Location: Highway 79, Santa Ysabel. The staging area is on the east side of the road, 1.3 miles north of the junction with Highway 78, 5.8 miles south of the junction with Highway 76 and 13.5 miles south of Warner Springs.
  • Agency: County of San Diego
  • Distance: 4.2 miles
  • Elevation gain: 950 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 2.5 hours
  • Best season: October – June (8am-sunset daily)
  • USGS topo maps: Santa Ysabel, Warners Ranch
  • Recommended gear: hiking poles; insect repellent; sun hat; sunblock
  • More information: Description here; Trail map here; Yelp page here
  • Rating: 7

If you just can’t get enough of the rolling, oak-dotted hills of the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, the West Vista Loop Trail is for you. Like the Kanaka Loop Trail to the east and the western section of the preserve, the West Vista Loop offers a true rural escape about an hour from San Diego’s suburban sprawl–complete with grazing cattle.

Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, San Diego County, CA
0:00 – Trail head on Highway 79 (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

From the small dirt turnout on Highway 79, head east past the information board and trash cans, into the preserve. Most of the work happens in the first 1.1 miles, as the trail ascends about 700 feet through open fields and oak woodlands. As you climb, your efforts are rewarded with increasingly panoramic views of Santa Ysabel and the hills to the west.

Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, San Diego County, CA
0:33 – Start of the loop (times are approximate)

At 1.1 miles, you reach the start of the loop. By going counter-clockwise, as described here, you can take a break from climbing and enjoy a peaceful stroll among the oaks. At 1.8 miles, you reach a shaded picnic area situated at a junction with the Coast to Crest Trail. That trail branches off to the right, heading east for 3 miles to reach the Kanaka Loop Trail and ultimately to the Farmer Staging Area on the preserve’s eastern side (with car shuttles set up, a 7-mile one way traverse of the preserve is possible.)

Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, San Diego County, CA
0:54 – Picnic area at the junction with the Coast to Crest Trail

Past the picnic area, the trail heads north and climbing gently to reach a high point of about 3,800 feet above sea level. The trail starts its descent, bending southwest and taking in more views of the valley below. After entering a meadow and passing by a few particularly impressive oaks, the loop is completed (3.1 miles from the start). Retrace your steps, descending the steep trail back to the parking area on Highway 79.

Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, San Diego County, CA
1:20 – Looking west from the descent, shortly before the end of the loop

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.

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2 comments

    1. Thanks Ruth! I just point and shoot and let Mother Nature do the rest. Hope you and the family are well.

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