Eagle Rock Trail (Pacific Crest Trail) – Warner Springs, San Diego County, California
If you are an avid hiker and live in San Diego County, most probably you already know this unique trail. If you haven’t been here, then this is one trail that you might want to check out. It is a short and easy trail, where you will find a big mass of rock shaped like an eagle ready to fly. It’s a long drive from the city, but then of course there are other activities in the area that you can include as part of your outdoor experience with the family. Just make sure you have things to protect you from the intense sun, snacks to to boost your energy and plenty of water to drink.
TO GET HERE
There are different ways to get to the trail coming from downtown San Diego. You can take the shortest route, an hour and forty minutes via CA-163 N and I-15 N. Then take exit 27 to E. Via Rancho Parkway/Bear Valley Parkway to CA-76 E and CA-79 N. You will pass Lake Henshaw on this route. A more direct route is about an hour and fifty minutes via I-8 E/Kumeyaay and CA-79 N.
Coming from Ramona, the closest major town, follow Main Street/CA-78 all the way to Santa Ysabel, where you turn left on CA-79 and go to the Eagle Rock Trailhead, beside the CAL FIRE Warner Springs Fire Station. Just park your car at the side of the road right across the fire station.
- THE HIKE -
This trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a popular long distance (2,653 miles) hiking and equestrian trail. The best time to hike here is during winter or spring. The trail is mostly in the open. We hiked here in early January.
EAGLE ROCK TRAIL – 6.5 miles
The beginning of the trail is right by the fire station. If you haven’t hiked on the PCT, then this is your chance, so that you can later boast that you hiked part of it. This trail is shared with equestrians, so you might find some riders on the trail. We did. Starting early and on a weekday is a plus hiking here, you won't find many hikers vying to take pictures at the Eagle Rock.
From the trailhead, the first two miles of the hike is shaded with huge oak trees. You won’t be able to resist stopping, staring and wondering about how old they are. Some have gnarled trunks and winding branches touching the ground. It was wonderful walking under them, a different hiking experience for Hermann and me, as we usually hiked among pines and aspen trees in Colorado. You see, we just don't hike, we observe the surroundings, admire the wildflowers and enjoy the beautiful views. These oak trees are one of the perks of hiking on this trail.
Engelman Oak trees are native to southern California, but due to urban sprawl, most are only found in San Diego County today. One of the most spectacular stand of trees can be found in the Engelman Forest near Lake Dixon. This type of oak tree reach up to 65 feet high and 98 feet wide.
The grove of trees eventually ends, and your shade does as well. From here on you will be in the open meadows all the way to the Eagle Rock - that’s why it’s best to hike here on cool days. The lack of trees was replaced by interesting rocks, undulating hills and mountain views.
The trail is well-maintained and well-used so you can't really get lost finding your way to the Eagle Rock. It might be a short hike but the heat can slow you down.
You might wonder where the Eagle Rock is from looking at the open meadows around the trail. Your patience will be rewarded once you find two clusters of rocks on a small hill; the pacific Crest Trail runs between them. At the highest point is where you will find the Eagle Rock, facing northeast.
The Eagle Rock is a wonderful surprise at the end of the hike. You might wonder if this was really created by nature as you look at it. As one hiker mentioned, it should be protected from vandalism. Indeed, it should be, so that it can be preserved for next generations of hikers to enjoy.
This is an amazing hike; though it's kind of remote, Eagle Rock is worth driving here just to see it. It's a fantastic experience in anyone's hiking adventures.
The Eagle Rock sits at the foot of Hot Springs Mountain. It is San Diego County's highest peak (6,535 feet), located in the Los Coyotes Reservation. You have to pay to hike up there.
From the Eagle Rock, we extended our hike (see map below) to Camino San Ignacio Road. We did this just out of curiosity to see if there is a parking lot, or a trailhead, by that road. There is none.
Eagle Rock Trail, captured by GPS and downloaded to Google Earth