Santa Ysabel Creek, San Diego County, CA

Lower Santa Ysabel Trail to Boden Canyon

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Lower Santa Ysabel Trail to Boden Canyon

  • Location: North of Ramona, San Diego County. If you are using Google Maps, enter the address “21698 Pamo Road.” This is the intersection between Pamo Road and forest route 12S04 (misnamed on Google Maps as forest route 12504.) From Escondido, follow Highway 78 east for about 16 miles and bear left onto Haverford Road. In one mile, Haverford makes a hard left and becomes Pamo Road. Follow Pamo Road for 2.5 miles to the Orosco Ridge staging area on the left. There is room for several cars to park here. Alternately, from the junction with Highway 79 in Santa Ysabel, take Highway 78 west for 13.8 miles. Turn right onto Magnolia Ave. Go 1.3 miles and turn left onto Pile St. Go 0.8 mile and turn right onto Pamo Road. Go 2.4 miles to the trailhead on the left side of the road.
  • Agency: Cleveland National Forest, Palomar Ranger District/California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Boden Canyon)
  • Distance: 6.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 400 feet
  • Difficulty Rating: PG
  • Suggested time: 3 hours
  • Best season: Oct – May
  • Recommended gear: sun hat
  • Dogs: Allowed
  • Cell phone reception: None at trailhead; fair after about half a mile
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: There are several wide, shaded  spots on the trail that could work for camping. (The trail is surrounded by private property). For information on remote/dispersed camping in the Cleveland National Forest, click here.
  • More information: Trip description here
  • Rating: 7

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.

Photo gallery (click thumbnails to see the full sized versions)

Santa Ysabel Trail, Ramona, CA
Live oaks on the Lower Santa Ysabel Trail
Santa Ysabel Trail, Ramona, CA
Sunlight and oaks, Lower Santa Ysabel Trail
Santa Ysabel Creek, Ramona, CA
Fall colors in Santa Ysabel Creek
Santa Ysabel Trail, Ramona, CA
Black Mountain from the Lower Santa Ysabel Trail
Santa Ysabel Trail, Ramona, CA
Oaks and sycamores,  Lower Santa Ysabel Trail
Lower Santa Ysabel Trail, Ramona, CA
Looking back toward the mountains
Lower Santa Ysabel Trail, Ramona, CA
Crossing a tributary of Santa Ysabel Creek
Lower Santa Ysabel Trail, Ramona, CA
Looking back from the gate (turnaround point)











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.

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