Stanley Peak is the high point of Daley Ranch, which also makes it one of the highest points in Escondido. There are many ways to the top, but this route travels up the Caballo Trail from the parking lot near the Escondido Humane Society. There might be good views here, but I didn’t get any as the peak was socked in.
Elevation Gained: 1,200′
Critters: Rabbits, ravens
Every time I think I know a place, I invariably come to find out that there is some significant chunk or landmark about which I had remained completely in the dark. I stumbled across the route to Stanley Peak while browsing the San Diego Reader’s Roam-O-Rama column, which provides a weekly hike. This hike climbs Daley Ranch’s high point, which sits in the southeast corner of the park. As I typically spend most of my time in the park’s beautiful west side, and Afoot and Afield doesn’t mention this hike, I didn’t even know it was there.
Today’s hike was misty and damp as the storm system that is passing through had stalled over Escondido, delivering a light rain from start to finish. This precluded any extensive views, but misty mountain hopping has its own benefits, including silence, moisture, dew drops, and a sense of solitude. The first half of the hike climbs through sandy trails and chaparral and is not particularly remarkable. However, the recent moisture has started bringing some of the chaparral plants back to life. The air was rich with the scent of coastal sagebrush, which has one of the most wonderful aromas of any plant.
The highlight of the hike was neither the peak (no view) nor the climb, but a lovely meadow studded with Engelmann and coast live oaks. This hidden meadow emerged as a surprising treat after several miles of chaparral. Not that I mind chaparral, but I’ll take an open field with oak trees any day. After this meadow, the trail winds up a fire road to the peak, which, again, offered no views. On clear days, Palomar would be dominant in the landscape as it is about 20 miles east of here and about 3,000′ higher than Stanley Peak.
I didn’t linger on the peak for long as there was nothing to see but the cloud. I turned around and puttered back through the meadow, down the hill, and back to the car. Daley Ranch is one of the jewels of the San Diego hiking system, featuring meadows, rare Engelmann oaks, granite boulder gardens, and good views. This particular facet makes it even richer in opportunities.