Elfin Forest

The Way-Up Trail – Lake Hodges Overlook Trail

Distance: 6.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 700 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 2:20
Critters: lots and lots of pooches

Pros:
– Good views of east San Diego County

Cons:
– Crowded
– Very little shade
– Aside from the views, wildflower blooms, and the crossing of Escondido Creek, there’s really not much to see

The Details:

I had a little spare time on Sunday afternoon, and so I decided to squeeze in a quick hike at Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve in Escondido. Elfin Forest spans a plot of land that includes the Olivenhaim Resevoir and several trail networks comprising about 30 or so miles worth of trails. The resevoir itself exists as an emergency water supply for North County in times of drought. The rest of the reserve is dedicated solely to recreation.

I arrived on a hot, crowded Sunday, which is never a good time to be hiking, in my opinion. Therefore, take this somewhat negative review with a pinch of salt. By now, anybody who has been reading this blog knows my feelings on crowds, mountain bikers, and maybe even dog crap, and there was an abundance of that on this day.

The best part of this hike is the start when you can walk along cool, shady Escondido Creek for a brief spell before you tackle the 600 vertical feet of switch-backs that leads you to the rolling plateau upon which the resevoir is situated. The first quarter mile of the way-up trail climbs through relatively shaded chaparral. With the shade comes more water retention, and the abundance of ferns, grasses, and wildflowers make this first stretch very pleasant.

The trail soon comes around a bend and hits full sun, and from there, it is one long trudge up to the top and beyond to the Lake Hodges overlook loop. I didn’t make it to the overlook loop. Instead, I stopped short, enjoyed the view for a few minutes, turned around, and sped home.

I can’t say I’d recommend this trail or Eflin Forest in general, unless you come here just to fool around by the creek. The creek is great. The rest of the trail is pretty non-descript and unremarkable. However, that isn’t to say that the views are bad; one can see a sliver of the ocean, Palomar Mountain, the Cuyamaca mountains, and most of east county. Even San Gorgonio showed its snowy head on this clear day.

There are better places to get those views – Mt. Woodson, Daley Ranch, Black Mountain, etc.Go here if it’s convenient to you, or if you don’t mind hot, sunny hikes without interesting vegetation and a ton of people around.

Miles in March:  11.4 Miles
Year-to-Date: 258.1 Miles

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