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Daley Ranch is located in the hills north of Escondido, CA about five miles off of I-15. The Ranch has a myriad of trails that can easily be combined to over 24 miles. This trail is usually rated as an intermediate ride but I think there is trails for everyone here. With one exception, there is no way to go but up from the parking lot. The parking lot is at 1200' and the highest spot on the trails is 1910'.
Directions: From San Diego take the I-15 north to El Norte Parkway exit. (Next exit after HWY 78). Take El Norte Parkway east for about 3 miles. Go left on La Honda Drive (you will see signs for Lake Dixon) and go up the hill for 1.5 miles to the end of the road where your options are the parking lot left or Lake Dixon on the right. Hit the parking and get ready to hit the trail at the north end of the parking lot.
HAZARDS: It can get hot here during the summer so you may want
to avoid the middle of day during that time of year. The ranch sees a lot
of traffic on the weekends so stay sharp.
Download the TOPO! file for this ride HERE. This TOPO file doe not a single large trip laid out. Instead I have annotated all of the individual trails in different colors with the exception of the single track. All of the single track is shown in red. The map below was made from the TOPO file.
Please follow this map as I describe the Ranch. When you click on this link it will open another windows so you can toggle back and forth with the notes.
Number of times Ridden: Numerous
From the parking lot you have the option of heading up and north on the paved road or you can hit a trail to your right. If you are only doing a portion of the ranch at once this is your best way to split up the ranch down the middle of Jack Creek Meadow. My opinion is that the western half of the ranch has the best trails but it also the steepest climbs and they hit you pretty soon into the ride. For me I not usually warmed up when I hit them so I generally like the hang a right at the trailhead. There are also trail maps available at this split so pick one up.
Creek Crossing and on to Sage Trail (green and purple on the map) offers a great warm-up climb. It offers you some great views of the surrounding mountain ranges as well as small pond which often is home to ducks. The climb is pretty much a hard packed fire road with a few ruts and loose spots the will not give most riders any problems. If you continue along the entire length you come over a small rise to the see the Jack Creek meadow below you and to the north. Jack Creek Meadow with its flowing grasses and sporadic trees offers a stark contrast to the rocky hilly climb you have just finished. As you descend down into the meadow watch the trail closely as it can surprise you will unexpected ruts and rises that can give you some unplanned airtime. The trail makes sharp left-hand turn at the bottom. It is obvious to see from the tire marks into the brush that some other riders missed it. Shortly after the turn you intersect with the Jack Meadow Loop trail. To have some real fun on this trail peel off onto either Coyote Run or Rattlesnake single tracks shown on red on the map take them to the intersection of the East Ridge trail and (Black on map) then head north on this roller coaster of fire road to the Ranch House.
The Jack Meadow Loop is not a trail I go out to ride on purpose. It always ends up as a connector trail for me, but it is always fun to ride. It is for the most park flat with a slightly higher elevation at the north end. You can certainly get some good speed built up on this stretch of trail. Normally I would stay on the Sage Trail until it runs into Ranch House.
The Ranch House is a good place to stop and use the toilets and fill up the water bottles or bladder. Palomar Mountain Spring Water has a free water facet setup out there just for you. What a deal. A Port-a-Potty is there as well. From there I head south on the dirt road that quickly becomes paved. There two trails off to your right as you go along the road.
Both of these trails are part of the Boulder Loop Trail (Green). If you take the first one you are in for a really steep fire road climb that just grinds on you to no end. I generally take the second trail to the right. The trail has a really steep loose section but it is very short and then the climb is pretty easy with plenty of flat spots. The Rock Ridge single track is a nice trail that pretty much splits the loop in half. There are some technical spots but this is easily rideable from either direction. I like this single track enough that I when I do Boulder Loop I will either ride Rock Ridge in both directions then continue along my way on or Boulder Loop or I will ride Rock Ridge and then loop back around on Boulder Loop.
At the top of boulder loop I usually take the Cougar Ridge Trail (blue). This trail runs along the top of a ridge line and allows you to do some fun roller-coaster riding. Soon you will come to a Y-junction with the Engelmann Oak Loop Trail (green). I think the only way to go at this point (for max fun) to bear to your right along the Engelmann Oak Loop. You will continue onward and upward trough some oak trees until you will see a single track off to your left. This is the Burnt Mountain single track. This trail is short but it is a tight rocky, often rutted single track that requires some Body English to clean some of the tight narrow turns. Taking this single track you will bring you back on to he Engelmann Oak loop. If you decide not to do the single track and stay on the Engelmann Oak loop you will soon come to the junction of the Hidden Spring trail. This trail is all fire road which features a fairly steep loose downhill that is a lot fun and can really test your high speed cornering skills. Hidden Spring will drop you into the north end of Jack Creek Meadow.
The the north side of the Engelmann Oak Loop is very beautiful with Oaks hanging over the trail breaking up the rolling meadow. You can even get into the big chainring and kick it up a notch to do some roller coasting. What I really like about riding this section is that leads to the Bobcat trail.
The Bobcat trail is the fastest smoothest single track on the entire ranch. This single track only has a few rocks on the trail that could even classify as technical obstacles. Starting from the north end makes this a downhill ride that really begs you to air it out. The terrain and vegetation just off the trail are such that the penalty for failing to perform is not too steep which will help gravity cast her spell on you. The trail starts out in an open meadow and the trails appears to be a double track but it quickly shrinks to single track and a full flora canopy envelops this gem of a ride. This ride is so beautiful it is hard to keep you eyes on the trail, but at the speeds you maybe going you better keep them on the trail. There are a couple of turns that require some good bike handling and braking skills if you are trying to do the speed demon thing. There is one S turn that I especially like because it is fairly hard packed with some mini-banks that allow you to really get some good leans going. Near the end of the trail you bottom out elevation wise and start up a hill. You can cover a lot of the up hill just from the speed you carry into the hill. This is not the time to forget that you are in the big ring unless you have bullfrog legs.
The end of the Bobcat single track bring you back onto Cougar Ridge Trail. This section of trail is all up hill but after such a fun downhill you should be ready for a climb. This climb will grind on you and there are some rocky loose sections. But keep plodding along and you will finish the climb at the Y-junction you pass previously. From here I usually back track back south along Cougar Ridge and hang a right onto the Crest trail. This is one seriously fun single track. The trail starts off in a flat meadow of grass and sage brush. The trail then gives way to some really gnarly loose sections that will test skills. Momentum and the right line are key factors in getting through these sections. This trail offers exceptionally great views of the entire ranch. In between the gnarly sections there are some incredibly fast roller coaster style hills. You will ultimately find yourself and back at the Boulder Loop trail with a strong desire to do this one again. From here you have a multitude of options for continuing your ride or you can head south on the paved Ranch House trail back to the parking lot. My usual return back to the parking lot path is to take the paved road until I meet up with the Middle Pond trail that allows me to connect to the East Ridge trail. I take the East Ridge Trail south to the Creek Crossing and then back to the parking lot.
Around 700 acres of Daley Ranch where burnt during the
Paradise Fire. Most of the damage was done on the east side of the
Ranch. You can click here
for a rough sketch of the damaged areas. The yellow shaded area is roughly
where I saw damage. The Sage, Coyote Run, and Rattlesnake trails where
burnt on both sides for most or all of their length. The East Ridge and Jack Meadow
trail (east side) where only burned on the east side.
These photos were taken on November 22nd, 2003.
|Looking up the Sage trail||Looking south from about 3/4 the way up the Sage trail.|
|Here is rock formation that was not that far of the trail that we noticed because of the folage.||The small lake along the East Ridge trail|
|Looking down the Coyote Run single track.||Only 3 weeks after the fire and there are already sprigs of grass coming up.|
Mark (aka "Sladnas") and his wife lost thier house in the 2007 Wildfires. The members of the SocalTrailRiders.org site got together and donated enough money to put Mark on a brand spanking new (and quite tricked out) Yeti 575. It was an awesome display of the MTB community coming together to help out one of thier own. There were around 70 plus riders making for a quite a festive day throughout the park. Here are some pics.