Vien R. Guenther
Oak Oasis County Preserve – Lakeside, San Diego County
Updated: Jan 6
This is a newly discovered hiking trail for us, short and easy plus you get to see a great view at the end of the trail. The view of San Vicente Reservoir on this trail is worth driving here. This is a nice and interesting nature trail for families with kids and dogs, or horses. The park contains lush groves of oaks and other native plants. In warmer months camping is available here and stargazing is said to be great in this area.
This park is small and there is only one trail. The 2.5-mile loop trial is part of the future Trans-County Trail System which begins at Torrey Pines State Preserve and goes to the Anza-Borrego Desert, pretty much connecting the Pacific Coast with the Salton Sea. The system is also known as TCT or Sea to Sea Trail, The Oak Oasis preserve has nearly 400 acres of chaparral, manzanita and woodlands. Though small, its lush vegetation supports several types of habitats and wildlife species. Indeed, we found plenty of wildlife scats along the trail
Past the staging area of the park, at the end of Oak Oasis Road, is the Oak Oasis County Preserve Campsite. If you are into camping and stargazing, the campsite has available amenities such as covered a picnic pavilion, restrooms, tent camping, amphitheater with center firepit and cabin.
TO GET HERE
From downtown San Diego is about a 35-minute drive or so to the Staging Area/Trailhead via I-8 E. Then CA-67 N to Mapleview Street to Wildcat Canyon Road. The Oak Oasis County Preserve is right across from the popular El Cajon Mountain/El Capitan Open Space Preserve.
- THE HIKE -
The Oak Oasis Loop Trail is short, but you can hike an extra two miles by adding a segment of the Trans-County Trail. You will get the same view as from the Oak Oasis Loop Trail, but at a different angle and elevation. I would say, the highlight on this trail is the view of the San Vicente Reservoir.
TRANS-COUNTY TRAIL - 1 mile one way
Hiking the Oak Oasis Loop trail, you will encounter a junction with a sign that points you to the Trans County Trail. We followed this trail first before continuing the loop trail to find out what kind of a view we can get from the trail.
The trail is mostly downhill, and you will be going back the same way. But then it's just a mile of trail, an overall two-mile addition to the loop trail. If you are a seasoned hiker, it's worth adding this trail since you will have a different view of the San Vicente Reservoir. Take a camera with you and take advantage of the photo opportunities along the way. We always do.
This trail will be part of the future Trans-County Trail System I mentioned above. The maintained trail ends abruptly, so it's a good time to turn around and hike back up.
We hiked here in winter, but it must be impressive to find the vegetation and cacti here in bloom during springtime. Something to look forward to next time. You might notice a rusted chair among the cactus. Who brought it there I wonder?
OAK OASIS LOOP TRAIL - 2.5 miles one way
The Oak Oasis Loop Trail is shared with equestrians and avid bird enthusiasts. But when we hiked here before Christmas on a weekday, we almost had the trail to ourselves. We met a couple of hikers but they did not stay long.
The San Vicente Reservoir is so huge that you won't be able to see some parts of the lake from the viewpoint. Hiking to the highest point is not an option, unless you want to bushwhack, but what you can see is great enough such that you want to keep coming back here.
SAN VICENTE RESERVOIR
San Vicente Reservoir is the largest reservoir, in terms of water volume, in San Diego County. It was originally constructed in 1943, but was raised by 117 feet and was re-opened in 2016. It is the tallest dam to have been raised in the United States. The reservoir is part of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Emergency and Carryover Storage Project. Water activities such as boating and fishing is allowed here.
Completing the loop trail, after satisfying yourself with the view from the viewpoint, there is a slight elevation gain. But then the last section of the trail is pretty much level - like "a walk in the park". The lush vegetation along this trail is a pleasant experience that you don't see much along some other trails in San Diego County.
Oak Oasis County Preserve Trail Map
San Vicente Reservoir