Hikers will be required to pay for daily visitor passes; the cliffs around the pool at the base of the falls will be off-limits; and the possession and consumption of alcohol in the area — at the San Diego River Gorge and Saddleback trailheads and along the San Diego River Gorge Trail and Eagle Peak Road trails that lead to the falls — will be strictly prohibited. The trail that begins in the San Diego Country Estates in southern Ramona was closed to the public in July 2011, for several reasons all related to overuse, said Cleveland National Forest spokesman Brian Harris. The falls in recent years — due partly to social media networking — had become as much a party destination as a hiking destination. Often hundreds of cars would line the streets around the trailhead’s parking lot, which has only 29 spots. The situation angered Country Estate residents. Trash would often be left behind, and unauthorized trails were being created by all the people, causing environmental damage.
Safety also became an issue. The number of rescues having to be carried out along the trail had skyrocketed as unprepared hikers wearing inappropriate clothing and drinking beer rather than water would fail to appreciate the difficult climb back up to their cars and become overheated. And there had been a number of deaths at the falls over the years, often caused by people jumping or slipping from rocks above the pool. “It was really just the overuse of the area in addition to degradation of our natural resources out there,” that led to the new rules, Harris said. “Many of the visitors that were using the area were also consuming a fair amount of alcohol at the same time. We really feel that just the hike down there is hazardous enough that you need to be physically and mentally prepared and the use of alcohol in trying to make that hike to the falls is just not a good combination.” A plan to deal with the overuse of the Cedar Creek trails had been under development for several years. Then on July 6, 2011, a 16-year-old boy from El Cajon died when he fell from a cliff. The trails were shut down a few days later until a full plan could be implemented. The permit system and closures are scheduled to begin in early April. Until then the trail from the Ramona side will remain closed. Hikers now can access the Falls from the eastern side of Eagle Peak Road. That area was reopened earlier this year but is far less accessible. The online permit reservation system has not yet been implemented, Harris said, and the details are still being worked out. Initially 75 visitor use permits for individuals or groups of up to five people will be available each day by reservation. Each permit will cost $6.
From Escondido – Go north on Broadway to Cougar Pass Road.
From Valley Center – Take Valley Center Road south approximately ¼ mile and turn right at the Dixon Lake Filtration Plant access road.
Daley Ranch is a 3,058-acre conservation area acquired in 1996 by the City of Escondido and is managed in perpetuity for the preservation of a biologically unique and diverse habitat area of regional importance. 1.5 miles from the La Honda entry is the Daley Ranch House, a redwood barn, and numerous outbuildings of historical interest. Daley Ranch offers over 20 miles of multipurpose trails for hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian use. Six distinct trails cover most of the property. Most popular are the Boulder Loop Trail (2.4 miles) which affords outstanding views of Escondido, and the Ranch House Loop (2.5 miles), which passes two small ponds and the site of Daley's original log cabin.
From Route 52 take Santo Road exit. Proceed south on Santo Road to Clairemont Mesa Blvd., turn left. Proceed east on Clairemont Mesa Blvd. to the end of the street, 1.7 miles. The trailhead is on the east side of the parking lot.
This peak has incredible views ranging from Mexico to the South, the Laguna Mountains to the East, Mt. San Jacinto to the North and the Coronado Islands and Pacific Ocean to the West. It can be climbed in an hour from the base, but most hikers enjoy approaching from the waterfalls and creek crossings of Oak Canyon.
Fortuna Loop: From the Jackson Drive trailhead, start North toward the obvious River canyon ahead. The River crossing may be too difficult during particularly bad downpours, but is usually no problem to cross. Continue up the trail to a fork and head to the right. You will see a sign pointing the way to Fortuna, but an optional way is to take a more exhilarating trip down Suycott Wash and up the steep ascent to South Fortuna. The trail then leads to a saddle and Fortuna can be climbed from here. Total distance from trailhead to the summit is approximately 3.2 miles. Proceed down the North Side of the Mountain to another fork and turn right. This will lead you to Oak Canyon. Continue through Oak Canyon until you reach the Old Mission Dam, and join the Junipero Serra Trail. This trail will lead you to the Visitor Center. Take the Visitor Center Loop for a mile and you will be back at the Jackson Drive trailhead. Total distance for the loop: 9.6 miles with 2,600 feet of elevation gain/loss.
From Highway 52 -Take the Mast Blvd. exit. Driving from the west, turn left onto Mast Blvd., go under the freeway to the second traffic signal at West Hills Parkway, and turn right. Driving from the east, turn right onto Mast Blvd. and turn right at the first traffic signal onto West Hills Parkway. Continue 2/3 mile to Mission Gorge Rd. and turn right. Proceed south on Mission Gorge Road for 2.4 miles. Look for the large wooden Mission Trails Regional Park sign on the right side of the road, and turn right onto Father Junipero Serra Trail. The entrance to the Visitor Center parking lot is on the left, just before the pipe gate, off Father Junipero Serra Trail.
From Highway 125 – Take 125 north to Mission Gorge Road and turn left. Proceed west on Mission Gorge Road for 3.7 miles, staying left at the merge past the east Father Junipero Serra Trail entrance. After you pass the light at Golfcrest Drive, look for the large wooden Mission Trails Regional Park sign on the right side of the road, and turn right onto Father Junipero Serra Trail. The entrance to the Visitor Center parking lot is on the left, just before the pipe gate, off Father Junipero Serra Trail.
From Route 15 - Take 15 to the Friars Road exit and proceed east on Friars Road, which changes into Mission Gorge Road, for approximately 4.2 miles. After you pass the light at Jackson Drive, turn left onto Father Junipero Serra Trail. The entrance to the Visitor Center parking lot is on the left, just before the pipe gate, off Father Junipero Serra Trail.
Cowles MountainFrom I-8 take the College Avenue exit. Proceed north on College Avenue 1 mile to Navajo Road. Turn right and proceed on Navajo Road 1.9 miles to Golfcrest Drive. Turn left on Golfcrest Drive to enter parking lot.
3 Miles RT
From Route 52 - Take the Mast Blvd. exit in Santee. Driving east, turn left onto Mast Blvd., go under the freeway to the first traffic signal (West Hills Parkway) and turn right. Driving west, turn right onto Mast Blvd. and right onto West Hills Parkway. Take West Hills Parkway to Mission Gorge Road and turn right. Proceed down Mission Gorge Road 1.9 miles to Golfcrest Drive. Turn left onto Golfcrest Drive and proceed to the top of the hill. The staging area is on the left at the intersection of Navajo Road and Golfcrest Drive.
From Route 125 - Take 125 north to Mission Gorge Road. Exit at Mission Gorge Road and make a left. Proceed down Mission Gorge Road 3.3 miles to Golfcrest Drive. Turn left onto Golfcrest Drive and proceed 1 mile to the top of the hill. The staging area is on the left at the intersection of Navajo Road and Golfcrest Drive.
The trailhead is easy to find within the Observatory Campground, and the trail itself is clearly defined throughout. A spectacular view of Mendenhall Valley is offered from an observation platform within a half-mile of the start, and wildflowers are profuse during the months late in the spring. At trail's end (after slightly more than 2 miles), one can continue up to the Palomar Observatory just to the right of the trail's end and visit the 200-inch Hale Telescope or retrace your steps back to the campground.