Ramona Grasslands Preserve
- Location: Highland Valley Road, between Poway and Ramona. From Poway, take Highway 67 north to Archie Moore Rd. (3.4 miles north of the junction with Poway Road). Turn left onto Archie Moore Road and go 1.5 miles to the junction with Highland Valley Road. Stay straight onto Highland Valley Road and go another 0.3 mile. The preserve entrance is on the left side of the road. From Ramona, take Highway 67 southwest for 3 miles to Highland Valley Road. Turn right, go 2.3 miles and turn left to stay on Highland Valley Road. In 0.8 mile, the preserve entrance will be on the right.
- Agency: San Diego County Parks & Recreation
- Distance: 3.2 miles
- Elevation gain: 250 feet
- Suggested time: 1.5 hours
- Difficulty Rating: G
- Best season: November – May (sunrise to sunset)
- Dogs: Allowed on leash
- Cell phone reception: Good
- Water: None
- Restrooms: Chemical toilets at trail head
- Camping/backpacking: None
- Recommended gear: sun hat
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot and Afield: San Diego County
- More information: Trip descriptions here and here; article about the preserve here; Yelp page here
- Rating: 7
This little gem of a hike is like a shorter, but no less scenic, version of the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve trails farther inland. The Ramona Grasslands Preserve is one of San Diego County’s newer natural areas, opening in June of 2011 with the mission of protecting native grasslands. It’s hard to believe that the rolling, oak-dotted hills of the preserve are less than an hour from downtown San Diego.
Currently, 480 of the preserve’s 3,521 acres are open to the public. That amount may increase in the years to come, but for now, hikers can enjoy two looping trails: the 0.8 mile Meadow Trail and the 2 mile Wildflower Trail (connected by a short link). The Meadow Trail starts immediately at the entrance gate, heading west parallel to Highland Valley Road before looping back to meet the segment heading north to the Wildflower Trail. The Wildflower Trail loops through the back area of the park, weaving through groves of Engelmann oaks, taking in views of the Cuyamaca Mountains to the east and Mt. Woodson to the south. Other than a few scattered hillside homes and the occasional small plane coming in and out of Ramona Airport, sights and sounds of civilization are slim to none. Like the Santa Ysabel preserves, cattle graze freely on these lands, so don’t be alarmed if you see a few.
At the southwestern corner of the loop, don’t miss a small spur leading to a seasonal pond. Especially when the water levels are high (which they are as of this writing, thanks to the rainy winter of 2016-17) this is a peaceful spot to sit and decompress.
Text and photography copyright 2017 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.