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 western trailhead for Engelmann Oak is on the Cougar Ridge Trail 0.70 miles from the Cougar Pass entrance to Daley Ranch. The trail is a 2.52 mile loop trail that returns to the Cougar Ridge Trail 1.62 miles south of the Cougar Pass entrance. The distance on the Cougar Pass Trail between the northern and southern trailheads for Engelmann Oak is 0.92 miles.

There is an elevation gain of 549 feet between the western trailhead and the highest point along the trail. The latter occurs on the southern portion of the loop at the Hidden Springs Trailhead. This large elevation gain, and gives the trail a “difficult” rating.

The greatest elevation gain on the hike is between the northern trailhead and the trailhead for the Bobcat Trail. During this 0.90-mile section of the trail the altitude increases 340 feet – from 1,368 feet to 1,708 feet. The trail continues upward to its highest point at the Hidden Springs trailhead before declining to 1,782 feet at the trail’s end.
The trailhead marker for the Cougar Ridge Trail indicates the trail is 2.50 miles long. This is virtually the same length indicated on our GPS unit, namely 2.52 miles. 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 rapidly rises as one leaves the northern trailhead. Looking forward up the trail are trees along both sides of the trail. Looking back down the trail towards the west is a view of some buildings on a hill. Zooming in with the camera reveals one of the buildings to be a red barn. (Click on the image at right for a brief slideshow!)
Between 0.13 miles and the Bobcat trailhead the trail passes between trees on each side of the trail. Off in the distance are residences that lie outside Daley Ranch. An occasional Our Lord’s Candle is viewable from the trail. (Click on the image at right for a brief slideshow!)
At the Bobcat trailhead the Engelmann Trail has ended its steep incline and although it continues to gain in elevation, it does so at a more moderate rate. Off in the distance to the east of the Bobcat trailhead are views of the area around Valley Center. (Click on the image at right for a brief slideshow!)
Trees, a rock outcropping and a hillside containing a “grove” of Our Lord’s Candles (Yucca whipplei) are visible along the trail between the Bobcat trailhead and the halfway point on the Engelmann Oak Trail. This many Our Lord's Candles in one area is a rare sight on the ranch. (Click on the image at right for a brief slideshow!)
At 1.35 miles from the trailhead a large dead oak tree stands as a sentinel guarding the trail. One of its branches arches out over the trail and an opposing branch extends out to the west. The tree with all its branches forms a beautiful silhouette against the blue sky.
From this same spot a large green water tank is visible to the east of the trail. Looking south from this point one sees a large dead tree along the west side of the trail. From the water tank it is a short distance to the Burnt Mountain Trailhead.
Burnt Mountain Trail is a short 0.4 mile trail that extends from the east side of the Engelmann Oak loop to the south side of the loop. Burnt Mountain is visible at the opposite end of the Burnt Mountain Trail where it reconnects with the Engelmann Oak Trail.
When we have passed the two mile mark on the Engelmann Oak Trail, after passing a rock outcropping and a few large flowering bushes, one reaches the trailhead for the Hidden Springs Trail. This is the highest point on the Englemann Oak trail. (Click the image at right for a brief slideshow!)
It is a short distance between the Hidden Springs trailhead and the trailhead for the southern end of the Burnt Mountain Trail. A few beautiful flowering bushes line the trail in this area. (Click the image at right for a brief slideshow!)
The Engelmann Oak Trail continues downhill through an oak grove and past rocky outcroppings to its end at the Cougar Ridge Trail.
The Cougar Ridge Trail continues northwest to the Cougar Pass entrance of Daley Ranch, and southeast to its junction with the Boulder Loop Trail.