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Del Dios Highlands

The 454-acre Del Dios Highlands County Preserve, recently unveiled just outside the North County community of Del Dios, now provides a direct connection between Del Dios Highway and the popular Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. Formerly, hikers and mountain-bikers had only one method of reaching Elfin Forest Reserve’s network of hilltop trails — the aptly named, but steep and narrow “Way Up Trail” originating along Harmony Grove Road. The new Del Dios Highlands route, although steep, offers plenty of room for travel with its generous width. That’s important for mountain-bikers, who may need maneuvering space while pedaling laboriously and crookedly uphill in one or another of their machine’s “granny gears.”

The new trail begins at 9860 Del Dios Highway (west side of Del Dios Highway), opposite Date Lane. Drive in a short distance to the Del Dios Preserve’s small parking lot, open from 8 a.m. till a half hour before sunset.

The wide dirt road ahead (closed to vehicles) curls up chaparral-clad slopes fully exposed to the morning sun, but partly shaded toward the end of the day. Waves of blue visited these hillsides last March when the ceanothus, or wild lilac, was in bloom. By now, however, the scrubby vegetation looks quite rough and drab.

A very steep section commences after around one mile of travel. Every step or pedal cycle upward, though, improves the view, which encompasses a hidden rural quarter of Escondido known as Harmony Grove, and stretches as far north as the distant San Bernardino Mountains.

As you curl around a summit at about 1.3 miles, you’ll get a wide view of the Olivenhain Reservoir, an oddly (but practically) situated element of the local water-delivery system positioned high above any natural gathering spot for water.

On just a little farther is a gate, beyond which lies the intricate trail system of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. You can obtain drinking water at the Ridgetop Picnic Area just ahead or set your sights on the Lake Hodges Overlook picnic site or head toward other destinations within the recreational reserve.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

Del Dios Highlands
Enter North County’s Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve via a novel approach from Del Dios.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 31 miles
Hiking/biking length: 3 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

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The 454-acre Del Dios Highlands County Preserve, recently unveiled just outside the North County community of Del Dios, now provides a direct connection between Del Dios Highway and the popular Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. Formerly, hikers and mountain-bikers had only one method of reaching Elfin Forest Reserve’s network of hilltop trails — the aptly named, but steep and narrow “Way Up Trail” originating along Harmony Grove Road. The new Del Dios Highlands route, although steep, offers plenty of room for travel with its generous width. That’s important for mountain-bikers, who may need maneuvering space while pedaling laboriously and crookedly uphill in one or another of their machine’s “granny gears.”

The new trail begins at 9860 Del Dios Highway (west side of Del Dios Highway), opposite Date Lane. Drive in a short distance to the Del Dios Preserve’s small parking lot, open from 8 a.m. till a half hour before sunset.

The wide dirt road ahead (closed to vehicles) curls up chaparral-clad slopes fully exposed to the morning sun, but partly shaded toward the end of the day. Waves of blue visited these hillsides last March when the ceanothus, or wild lilac, was in bloom. By now, however, the scrubby vegetation looks quite rough and drab.

A very steep section commences after around one mile of travel. Every step or pedal cycle upward, though, improves the view, which encompasses a hidden rural quarter of Escondido known as Harmony Grove, and stretches as far north as the distant San Bernardino Mountains.

As you curl around a summit at about 1.3 miles, you’ll get a wide view of the Olivenhain Reservoir, an oddly (but practically) situated element of the local water-delivery system positioned high above any natural gathering spot for water.

On just a little farther is a gate, beyond which lies the intricate trail system of the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. You can obtain drinking water at the Ridgetop Picnic Area just ahead or set your sights on the Lake Hodges Overlook picnic site or head toward other destinations within the recreational reserve.

This article contains information about a publicly owned recreation or wilderness area. Trails and pathways are not necessarily marked. Conditions can change rapidly. Hikers should be properly equipped and have safety and navigational skills. The Reader and Jerry Schad assume no responsibility for any adverse experience.

Del Dios Highlands
Enter North County’s Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve via a novel approach from Del Dios.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 31 miles
Hiking/biking length: 3 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderately strenuous

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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