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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.