Wide-open space abounds at Barnett Ranch, the 728-acre preserve that is now owned by the County of San Diego. The historic cattle ranch is part of the property that was once the home of Augustus and Martha Barnett, whose adobe ranch house still stands. This was a working ranch from the early 1800s until recently. In the late 1990s, a portion of the ranch was sold to private developers. The county purchased the remaining property in January 2002, and it is now part of its Multiple Species Conservation Program, the goal of which is to maintain and enhance biological diversity in the region and maintain viable populations of endangered, threatened, and key sensitive species and their habitats. These habitats include coast live oak riparian forest, Engelmann oak woodland, coastal sage-chaparral scrub, and non-native grassland. There are also several small ponds that fill up after the rains, adding interest to this hike. A variety of birds can be found here, including white-tailed kites, rufous-crowned sparrow, loggerhead shrikes, and golden eagles. Be sure to listen for the melodic song of the western meadowlark.
There are plans to link the ranch to lands owned by the Nature Conservancy and Monte Vista Ranch to the south, which will create large trail loops. Further proposed connections will link these trails to Lakeside’s proposed community trails, go along San Vicente Reservoir, and connect to Boulder Oaks and San Vicente Highlands trails. Ultimately, the system would connect to Cuyamaca and Borrego. Each new county preserve open to the public is a step toward riding, hiking, and biking uninterrupted for miles.
This hike is actually two hikes going in opposite directions that begin from the same point. At the staging area, head west on the trail next to the paved road, then at 0.2 mile there is a choice of turning left for the Valley View Trail or going straight to connect with the Rattlesnake Trail. If there is time only for one hike, the Rattlesnake Trail is the more scenic.
When turning left at the gate and onto the Valley View Trail, there will be a low wooden fence in 0.25 mile where the trail splits. Go left. The trail to the right is not an official trail. At a little over 1 mile and a slight elevation gain, there will be another fork; go left again. The right trail is a short .06 mile to a picnic table. The left fork gradually descends for about .3 mile to an overlook into the rural San Vicente Creek valley and Stagecoach Rd.
Reverse your trek and return to the paved road and either turn right to return to your car or turn left and walk 0.1 mile to the start of the Rattlesnake Trail. This trail has gently rolling grasslands and stands of live oak. In the spring, the multitude of wildflowers is a delight. In 1 mile is the Oak Loop Trail for a 0.2-mile loop to a picnic table under an oak tree. This is a good place to stop for a snack and enjoy some bird-watching or perhaps catch sight of a coyote hunting for its meal in either the early morning or evening. From here, reverse directions and return 1 mile to the paved road, from where it’s 0.3 mile to the staging area.
The trails lead into an oak woodland.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 40 miles. Allow 1 hour driving time (Ramona). Take SR-67 N to Ramona. Turn right onto 10th St. In 0.4 mile, the road curves to the right and changes its name to San Vicente Rd. Continue on San Vicente Rd. and go 2.6 miles and then turn right onto Deviney Lane. Park in the staging area on the left at 1500 Deviney Lane/San Vicente Rd. (GPS 33.001245, 116.863374).
Hiking length: 2 out-and-back hikes of about equal length that can be combined for a total of 5 miles.
Difficulty: Easy, with about 200 feet elevation loss/gain. Hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, and dogs (on leashes) are allowed. The trails are wide and well-marked. No facilities. Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset daily. Phone number: 760-788-3326.