Mountain views, meadows, a seasonal stream and a touch of history make this large (2,272-acre) preserve a popular destination for San Diego hikers. The ten miles of trails in Sycamore Canyon and adjacent Goodan Ranch offer many possible hiking routes. The trip described here is one of the most popular in the park, offering a good workout and a nice cross-section of the preserve’s eye candy.
Begin hiking on the signed Martha’s Grove Trail, which is one way southbound. After briefly climbing the ridge, taking in some panoramic views, it descends to Martha’s Grove, named for a local ranger who died young from cancer. The oaks here are recovering from the infamous Cedar Fire of 2003, but there is still some shade and a bench where one can enjoy the peace and quiet.
From the grove, the trail heads southeast across a meadow, crossing a dirt road at 1.6 miles and then descending to Sycamore Canyon Road, the park’s main north-south route. By this point you may notice some of the park buildings on the right (replacing the ones burned in the fire) and perhaps hear the creaks of an old windmill. At 2.2 miles, you reach the road, where the windmill stands. If you are short on time and want to cut your trip, you can follow the road about a mile back to the trail head. However, to explore more, head left toward the park’s southern end.
Less than half a mile of a pleasant stroll through a meadow brings you to the edge of the Goodan Ranch property, marked by a fence. The Ridge Trail continues farther south into Sycamore Canyon, an option if you want to extend the hike. For this route, however, turn right and follow the West Trail back north, paralleling the road only a few hundred feet away. At about 3.2 miles, the trail dovetails against the road, near the ranch buildings. It climbs a small ridge and rejoins the road at 3.7 miles. Turn left and follow Sycamore Canyon Road uphill for 0.8 miles back to the parking lot.
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.