Today I had the intent to finally tackle another peak, since it’s been almost month since my last epic adventure in Anza-Borrego. It was sort of an impulse hike. I tend to keep some of the local peaks in my head as last-minute hikes in case I get a free moment. These hikes are typically fairly easy on well-maintained trails that are frequently visited by locals.
In this case, I wanted to hike Burnt Mountain in Daley Ranch. Burnt Mountain is on the Ranch’s official trail maps, but a trail is not shown to the peak. Thinking that I would either find a small use trail or simply bushwhack to the summit, I quickly packed my car up this morning and drove to the trailhead. I had seen reports of other peakbaggers summiting this peak over the last decade, so I figured there must be a way up.
Feeling almost giddy at being on the trail again, I was overcome by the beauty of Daley Ranch. Trails criss-cross the entire park, but much of the area is off limits. The care in maintaining this park is evident in the green meadows and oak-shaded trails. It was a joy to be there.
However, once I got to the base of Burnt Mountain and tried every established trail, I finally decided to make a call to the ranger, who is located at Dixon Lake nearby. My suspicions were confirmed. Burnt Mountain is off-limits for hiking. Dejected, I hiked the trail back to the trailhead.
While I didn’t finish another peak, I did have a great morning in a beautiful park.
Daley Ranch is a relatively new park in the scheme of San Diego Parks. It was acquired by the City of Escondido in 1996 and is also used as a mitigation bank for sensitive habitat. It encompasses over 3,000 acres of beautiful country. While earlier inhabited by local tribes, it was settled by westerner Robert Daley in 1869.
There are many miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horses. They are often visited and well-maintained. There are ponds, streams, oak-lined trails and rolling meadows. Wildflowers bloom in the spring.
There is a free shuttle service on Sundays that takes you from the southern entrance to the Ranch House on the half hour and returns you to the lot every quarter-hour. It runs from 8AM to 4PM. There are no vehicles allowed in the park. Guided Naturalist Hikes are also hosted at the park. See the Daley Ranch Website for more information.
Notes: The Ranch House itself is private property and is there to merely view from a distance. There is no visitor center or (non-horse) water within the park. There is a drinking fountain at the south entrance, but that’s about it.
There is, however, a lovely picnic area with benches right where you are dropped off by the shuttle. Shuttle times are approximate. I was the only rider on the shuttle to and from the Ranch House on a Saturday.
It is a busy park on weekends. Keep an eye out for horses, people with dogs, and out-of-control mountain bikers.
Features: Wildlife, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Horseback Trails, Picnic Grounds
Peaks: Stanley Peak, Burnt Mountain (Off-Limits)
Daley Ranch Trail Map (PDF)