The content on this page is from William Sherrard's e-book
Hiker’s Guide to the Trails of Dixon Lake and Daley Ranch.

The northern section of the Cougar Ridge Trail starts at the Cougar Pass entrance to Daley Ranch. The trail is 2.65 miles long, with 1.50 miles between the Cougar Pass entrance to Daley Ranch and the southern terminus of the Engelmann Oak Trail. From here the trail continues in a southerly direction for 1.15 miles, to its terminus with the north side of the Boulder Loop Trail.
This presentation covers the northern portion of the trail between Cougar Pass and the southern end of the Engelmann Oak trail. The hike originates at the Cougar Pass entrance to Daley Ranch and goes south for 1.62 miles to the southern trailhead of the Engelmann Oak Trail.

There is an elevation gain of 494 feet between the trailhead and the highest point along the trail. The latter occurs at the southern trailhead for the Engelmann Oak trail. This large elevation gain, gives the trail a “difficult” rating in terms of difficulty. The elevation gain starts about half way through the hike at an elevation of 1359 feet and continues upward until reaching its highest point of 1770 feet at the end of the trail.
The trailhead marker for the Cougar Ridge Trail (north and south sections combined) indicates the trail is 2.80 miles long. This is virtually the same length as the 2.77 mile length indicated by the GPS reading for the trail. The trail is wide enough to accommodate the trucks driven by the Daley Ranch park rangers.
If you are using a GPS unit on the hike be sure and set it back to 0.00 at the trailhead. All distances displayed on the slides assume your GPS unit has been set to zero at the beginning of the hike.

The trail starts out fairly level with only a slight elevation gain during the first 0.82 miles of the hike. At this point the trail commences a rather steep climb to the trail’s end at the Engelmann Oak trailhead.
Near the Cougar Ridge trailhead is a rather large meadow. Trees line both sides of the meadow. At 0.11 miles on the right hand side of the trail is a bulletin board displaying announcements related to the Daley Ranch. A box at the end of the bulletin board contains maps of Daley Ranch.
The foliage along the trail ranges from the brown meadow grass mentioned earlier to live and dead trees. Rather large bushes are growing at the base of the trees.
On the day of the hike there were a few fluffy clouds in the sky. They formed a beautiful backdrop to the hills on the right and left side of the trail.
Flowering bushes (pictured at right is California buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum) are in small clumps along the trail at the 0.29 mile point in the hike. They range in color from white to a rustic red.
In places tree branches form a canopy over the trail. This is especially evident when swales form a low point on the trail where water can collect for the trees. (Click on the image at right for a brief slideshow!)
The wispy clouds form a beautiful backdrop to the hills along the trail. The trees at the top of the hills make interesting silhouettes against the sky.
About half way through the hike is the northern trailhead for the Engelmann Oak trail. The trail goes east from the Cougar Ridge Trail. We will see the southern terminus of Engelmann Oak at the end of our hike. It will have looped back to the Cougar Ridge Trail at the point our hike ends. Engelmann Oak is one of the longer trails in the park.
The Cougar Ridge Trail continues under tree branches that have grown over the trail. At 0.87 miles into the hike a large dead tree is beside the trail. The dead branches make a beautiful pattern against the blue sky and white clouds. (Click the image at right for a brief slideshow!)
The Bobcat Trailhead is on the left side of the trail at around 1.19 miles from the northern trailhead for the Cougar Ridge Trail. Bobcat is a short trail with its western trailhead off of the Cougar Ridge Trail and its eastern trailhead at its intersection with the Engelmann Oak trail.
As the trail’s elevation increases there is a decline in the number of trees along the trail. This opens vistas to the west of the trail. The scenes shown in the slides are views of the landscape in the area north of San Marcos.
About one-fifth mile from the southern trailhead for Engelmann Oak are a couple of large dead tree beside the trail. These majestic trees form a beautiful pattern against the sky.