My favorite part of Daley Ranch in Escondido is the northern end with the Cougar Ridge, Engelmann Oak, Bobcat and Burnt Mountain trails.
Maybe that’s because it was the first hike we did at Daley Ranch, back in 2010. But more importantly, while the Cougar Pass trailhead/staging area is just 10 minutes east of I-15, it is so secluded that one immediately gets the refreshing feeling of being far enough away from civilization. Scott Turner agrees and mentions it in his blog post “The Best Hikes in San Diego that almost nobody ever hikes” – he’s the co-author of the upcoming update of “Afoot & Afield in San Diego County” hiking book and did all the hikes in the book, so I guess he knows! :-) (I just hope we’re not drawing too much attention to the northern part of Daley Ranch now.)
I was up early on the last Sunday in March and hit the trail around 7am. The sun had just risen and parts of the trail and meadows were still in the shade, nice and cool. Up at Cougar Ridge where the Engelmann Oak trail branches off the sun was out and filled the meadows with warm light.
To confirm Scott’s observations about the relative solitude there: I saw two mountain bikers, later two ladies with their dogs on the Bobcat trail (which runs through a beautiful shady ravine with an absolutely fantastic “patriarch” Live Oak), and later another young couple when I was on the Cougar Ridge trail again, on my way back to the trailhead. :-)
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