Sycamore Canyon Open-Space Preserve sprawls across more than 2000 acres of granite-ribbed mountains southeast of Poway. About ten miles of old ranch roads, fire roads, and newer trails presently lace through the area. For a summer visit, either come early in the day, or wait until late afternoon to catch a cool breeze and get some walking, running, or mountain-bike exercise.
The preserve has two entrances: one (open weekends only) along Highway 67, 0.7 mile south of Scripps Poway Parkway, and the other (open seven days) at the terminus of Sycamore Canyon Road. The latter entrance, accessible from Poway by way of Garden Road, is the starting point for the 4.7-mile looping hike described here. Note that although Scripps Poway Parkway (a limited-access expressway) passes over Sycamore Canyon Road, there are no access ramps connecting the two.
From the east end of Sycamore Canyon Road, proceed on a narrow trail contouring across a chaparral-covered slope to the left. After a short, steep descent, you cross a ravine bottom shaded by overarching live oak trees. Ahead a short distance is the Martha Harville Memorial Oak Grove, a tranquil spot shaded by live-oak limbs partially grown over by poison oak. There are bedrock mortars and grinding slicks indenting the surfaces of nearby rock outcrops, evidence of early Native American use.
Continue following the trail down along the woodsy ravine. You soon reach a sloping meadow, reverberating with chirping crickets. At 1.7 miles from the start, this trail crosses a dirt road. Just beyond a side trail branches right toward the Olive Grove Picnic Area, nestled into a small grove of olive trees on the former Goodan Ranch.
Continue south past the picnic area, go up a little rise, then curve down and west toward a barn and a dirt road following Sycamore Canyon. Turn left here and head south paralleling the trickling (in winter and spring, at any rate) Sycamore Canyon stream for another 0.4 mile. At that point, take the trail to the right, which connects to a narrow, paralleling footpath. Double back on this parallel trail, going north past scattered oaks and skirting the ranch buildings. Farther on, on the same trail, you arrive at an intersection of dirt roads out in the open and north of the ranch. From there, the remaining 0.9 mile of the hike is unremarkable and perhaps tedious as you head north (uphill) on the Goodan Ranch access road to return to your car.