Nestled in the foothills between Escondido and Ramona, Boden Canyon Ecological Reserve is one of the larger open spaces accessible to the San Diego suburbs. The Lower Santa Ysabel Trail serves as an access route to the reserve but is actually on Cleveland National Forest land. Ambitious hikers can piece together out-and-back trips and loops upwards of ten miles, while those short on time will find even a brief stroll here to be enjoyable. For a moderate hike that can easily be done in the afternoon, try the route described below: starting from Pamo Road north of Ramona and following the Lower Santa Ysabel Trail to a metal fence 3.3 miles away at the entrance to Boden Canyon.
Maneuvering past the gate at the Orosco Ridge trail head may be a little tricky (watch out for the barbed wire); some hikers may prefer to climb over or through it. Follow the paved road to a Y-junction in 0.1 mile. Turn left onto the Santa Ysabel Truck Trail. (The right fork is the Orosco Ridge Trail, an option for those wanting a more ambitious hike–but be careful during hunting season; target shooting is common here.) You begin a delightful ramble through the hills above the creek, in and out of towering oak groves, with Black Mountain and its neighbors dominating the landscape to the north. The riparian scenery is similar to the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserves farther east and higher up; other than the occasional off road vehicle on Pamo Road or shooters on Orosco Ridge, there are virtually no signs of civilization.
After making the only steep ascent of the whole route, you reach a metal gate at 1.3 miles. In another almost entirely level mile, the trail crosses a seasonal tributary of Santa Ysabel Creek. Soon after, the trail makes a pronounced bend to the south. You may see the cut of Highway 78 high in the hills to the west. At 3.3 miles, you reach a locked metal gate. Though the gate is climb-through-able, unless you are planning on exploring deep into Boden Canyon, this is a good turnaround point. If you decide to continue, the trail continues 0.1 mile to a T-junction. The left fork climbs to the Highway 78 trailhead where there is extremely limited parking available; the right fork heads into Boden Canyon.
Text and 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.