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

Daley Ranch and Habitat Preserve

The Daley Ranch and Habitat Preserve, more generally known as the Daley Ranch Preserve, is a 3,058 acre park consisting of over 25 miles of multipurpose trails for hiking, biking and equestrian activities. The city of Escondido finalized the purchase of the land comprising the park on January 31, 1997.

The land was originally used by the Kuyamaay Indians for the hunting of wild game and the harvesting of the oak tree acorn. The latter prepared into acorn meal was a part of the Kumayaay Indian’s diet.

In 1869, Robert Daley, at the age of 25, settled in the Daley Ranch area. He built a log cabin on the property and in 1874 he filed a claim for 1,600 acres. Subsequent acquisitions have expanded the ranch to its current 3,058 acres.

There are many websites that provide information about Daley Ranch. Dan McGrath has compiled a detailed history of the steps followed by the City of Escondido in establishing the land as a park and habitat preserve [1]. For an exhaustive list of the plants on Daley Ranch, compiled in February 2007, see the “Plant Checklist for Daley Ranch” [2] and James Dillane’s 2004 compilation titled “Vascular Plants of the Daley Ranch” [3]. For pictures and information on the 2003 Paradise Fire that burned a portion of the Daley Ranch see Wayne’s Word website [4]. The Friends of Daley Ranch have a website that describes their activities related to the ranch [5]. Information on the addition of Stanley Peak to the land comprising Daley Ranch is available in a January 8, 2006 article in the San Diego Union Tribune [6]. Mountain bikers can get a good description of the trails at Mountain Bike Bill’s website [7].

There are three entrances to Daley Ranch. Two of the entrances, La Honda Drive and Caballo, are at the southern end of the park. Cougar Pass is the northern entrance to the park.

The North entrance is accessed via Cougar Pass Road. To get to the north entrance from San Diego take the I-15 freeway north to the El Norte exit. Go east on El Norte Parkway to Broadway Street, turn left onto Broadway and go 4.2 miles to the intersection of Broadway and Cougar Pass Road, turn right and go east on Cougar Pass Road for 1.2 miles to the parking lot at the Cougar Pass entrance to Daley Ranch. The trails start across the road from the parking lot.

One of the two southern entrances to the park is at the Caballo Trail located at the southeast corner of the preserve. The Caballo Trail begins at the parking lot for the Escondido Humane Society located in Escondido. To get to the Humane Society from San Diego take the I-15 freeway north to the El Norte Parkway exit, go east approximately five miles to East Valley Parkway, thence north on East Valley Parkway to the Escondido Humane Society at 3450 East Valley Parkway, Escondido, CA 92027. Although parking is available in the Humane Society’s parking lot it is more convenient to park in the open space near the Caballo trailhead.

The most popular entrance to Daley Ranch is the other southern entrance to the park at the end of La Honda Drive. To get to La Honda Drive take the I-15 freeway north to the El Norte Parkway exit, go approximately four miles east to La Honda Drive. At the entrance to La Honda Drive, where you see a sign for Dixon Lake, make a left turn and go one mile to the Dixon Lake/Daley Ranch parking lot. The trails begin at the north end of the parking lot.

Hikes for the Daley Ranch can start at any one of the three entrances to the park. Most hikers favor the La Honda Drive entrance to the park because of its proximity to most of the trails comprising the park. The entrance has a large parking lot and contains a kiosk with maps and announcements for the park. The other entrances also provide kiosks, but are usually less well stocked than the Kiosk at the La Honda entrance.

  1. McGrath, Dan, “Daley Ranch”
  2. Consortium of California Herbaria, CalFlora species data and Tom Chester’s database of Southern California plants (2007)
  3. Dillane, James (2004) “Vascular Plants of the Daley Ranch
  4. Wayne’s Word, (2003) “The Paradise Fire
  5. Friends of Daley Ranch
  6. Lee, Booyean, (2006), “Peak Time for Escondido’s Daley Ranch
  7. Mountain Bike Bill, “Daley Ranch