One of San Diego County’s most precious natural resources, the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve offers approximately 11 miles of hiking, mountain biking, equestrian trails, as well as picnic areas and scenic mountain viewing points. In addition, the natural beauty of the Reserve includes such native plant communities as oak riparian, oak woodland, coastal sage scrub and chaparral. All wildlife and natural resources at the Reserve are fully protected so that future generations may also enjoy these wonders.Plan to visit Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve and other customer-reviewed, writer-recommended Escondido attractions using our Escondido itinerary maker website .
Weather permitting, the Reserve is open every day of the year except Christams Day. The Reserve opens at 8:00 a.m. and closes approximately 30-45 minutes before sunset.
The 784-acre Reserve was developed by Olivenhain Municipal Water District in partnership with the San Diego County Water Authority and the Bureau of Land Management, as an element of the Olivenhain Water Storage Project and the Authority's Emergency Storage Project. Owned by the Authority and managed by OMWD, the Reserve has been designed to unify the interests of domestic water supply development, natural resources management, and recreational opportunities.
The Reserve sits within the Escondido Creek watershed, which flows year-round from Lake Wohlford to San Elijo Lagoon. The creek runs adjacent to the Reserve's staging area, giving all visitors an opportunity to pass over it as they begin their hike or ride from the trailhead.
The Reserve is home to the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center Honoring Susan J. Varty, which is operated in partnership with the Escondido Creek Conservancy. The Reserve also boasts six designated overlooks, each with a shade structure and/or picnic tables and providing views of the Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands, Coronado Islands, the Laguna and San Bernardino mountain ranges, and the Olivenhain Dam and Reservoir. Other amenities include portable restrooms and drinking fountains.
The Reserve provides a wealth of opportunity for recreation, educational research, and environmental appreciation. Whether hiking, biking, riding, or just relaxing, experiencing one of the few remaining rural areas in North County is a great way to spend the day.
Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Reviews
Come here and start exploring the high desert around San Diego! Hike the “Way Up” trail and keep on exploring if you have the time. There’s an interpretative center on site for your education about th... more »
You won't regret making your way to the top of the mountain because there is a gorgeous reservoir and dam at the top. more »
A very beautiful and peaceful hike that is a hidden gem! Everyone owes it to themselves to hike some of the trails here. This time of year (spring) especially, brings out all the brightest and most beautiful vegetation to be enjoyed. It is a preserve so don't expect to be able to hike anywhere as you must stick to the designated trails to protect the ecosystem. It is packed dense enough with sights that there is no reason to.
This is my second time hiking here at the Elfin Forest. There was a snake on the trail, but it was harmless. It was not a rattlesnake, though they are out there. Gotta be careful. My friend and I went Thursday afternoon and there were hardly any people on the trail. So it was nice to have some peace and quiet. The hike itself is not hard, moderate at best with some inclines. There are some beautiful views with the lake. Great hiking spot for locals and tourists alike. There's some parking spots but not a ton. And there are bathrooms. Enjoy the hike!
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