Start at Lake Poway, end up at Lake Ramona. In between, enjoy chaparral oak woodland habitats and, on a clear day, views of the Pacific.
14644 Lake Poway Road, Poway
Lake Poway Recreation Area is a convenient starting point since it provides abundant free parking during much of the year. The lake also provides numerous additional recreational opportunities. The hike to Lake Ramona offers a variety of habitats, including shady oak woodlands and chaparral, a great ocean view; one can see a peak at San Clemente Island if visibility is clear. The trails are all heavily used and well signed, making navigation easy with the view of Lake Ramona dam as well as much of the trail visible from Lake Poway.
Map of Lake Ramona via Lake Poway
Find the Lake Poway Trail entrance on the left side of the landscaping building and head north. The trail completely circles Lake Poway, but you will be on it for less than a mile as it winds up and over a hill northwest of the lake and down the front side of the dam. At 0.87 mile from the parking lot, the trail forks. The circumferential Lake Poway Trail continues to the right. A sign indicates that Lake Ramona is 2 miles ahead, following the trail to the left. This trail, which is actually a dirt road (but with no motorized vehicles allowed), follows an oak-forested canyon and will shortly join the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve Trail, also a dirt road. Before reaching this junction, you will pass what was once the Lake Poway Campground. Camping is no longer permitted here, but it is an attractive well-maintained area, set in a dense coast live-oak forest, with picnic tables, running water, and toilet facilities.
The hike continues near or through the oak woodland as you go north to the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve trail (labeled on many maps as the Green Valley Truck Trail). Once you reach this trail, go right (east). In addition to the live oaks, the forest blends with a lush riparian habitat and includes California sycamores, arroyo willows, mule fat Baccharis, and, of course, abundant poison oak. In another quarter of a mile is a signed junction. The road to the right leads to a pumping station and is closed to the public. Take the trail to the left. From this point, it is 1.2 miles to Lake Ramona, up a steep but well-graded dirt road. Lake Ramona offers few recreational opportunities other than fishing from the shore — in season and with a license — but the view to the west is outstanding. San Clemente Island can be seen on the clearest days. After exploring the lake and enjoying the view, return to Lake Poway the way you came.
Distance from downtown San Diego: Approximately 28 miles. Take SR-163N and merge onto I-15 to Rancho Bernardo Rd. Take Rancho Bernardo exit east, which becomes Espola Rd. in Poway. Turn left on Lake Poway Road and go east less than 1 mile to the entrance of the recreation area. Park in the northeast lot, near the landscaping building.
Hiking length: 5.6 miles round trip.
Difficulty: Moderate with elevation gain/loss of 1750 ft. Facilities and potable water. Park hours are from 6:00 a.m. to sunset. Parking fee in summer.