Sunday was the first clear and sunshine-filled day after a week of serious storms here in Southern California. I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather before the next set of storms was to dampen San Diego County. Searching for a hike with views of surrounding mountain ranges, I settled on the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in Escondido. Apparently a lot of people had the same idea about getting outside, as both parking lots were full and I had to park on the side of the road. I made my way down to the main entrance, crossed the rushing Escondido Creek (more like a river), and started on the Way Up Trail, which literally means just that.
The 1.4 mile trail is dotted with chaparral and there are lots of switchbacks. I quickly warmed up as the trail is somewhat steep. A few mountain bikers passed me and I gave them kudos for tackling such a strenuous trail.
I finally made it to the top which meets the Ridgeline Maintenance Road. From here there are great views of Olivenhain Dam, Escondido, and Palomar Mountain. A couple of years ago, my family and I wanted to continue onto the Lake Hodges Overlook Trail, but it was undergoing maintenance because of the Witch Fire of 2007. This time, I was able to take this route. Turn left onto the Ridgeline Maintenance Road. After passing the Escondido Overlook, you’ll connect to the Lake Hodges Overlook Trail.
After about .75 miles, I reached the Lake Hodges Overlook where I took a break and admired the views of the lake and the mountains.
This was a rather quiet portion of the hike, as I didn’t pass any mountain bikers or families, only couples who were interested in a longer hike. The trails are well maintained and there are restrooms, picnic areas, and drinking water near the dam. Overall, a great place for a hike if you are looking to stay close to San Diego.