Once upon a time-not so far away or long ago-there was a magical land called the Elfin Forest where streetlights and pavement were unheard of and dragonflies, hummingbirds and other creatures co-existed in fresh air and natural wonder. Most amazing of all, this land was right in the middle of San Diego.
No, really. Here's a lil' gem I almost hate to share. It's a little known rural area of North County called the Elfin Forest that has fantastic trails for hiking, biking or even horseback riding. Runners and hardcore mountain bikers are already well aware of the spot.
The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve encompasses 750 acres with about 13 miles of trails when they're all open. Some of the trails have been closed recently due to reservoir construction. There are, however, about 10 miles of trails currently open.
One of the most impressive views has to be from the Elfin Forest Overlook, where you can experience an amazing 180-degree view from Mexico to Dana Point and clear out to the Channel Islands, but only on "Santa Ana clear days," says park ranger Todd Nordness.
The first mile and a half of the trails at Elfin Forest will weed out the wimps. They call it the "Way Up Trail" for reasons beyond that it's the only way up to the plateau where other trails branch off. You'll climb about 700 feet in elevation from the parking lot up the winding trail. The trails are multi-use, welcoming hikers, walkers, mountain bikers, equestrians and even your dog Rex, off-leash, as long as you can control him.
There are beautiful picnic spots, a botanical trail that is great to do with kids and an abundance of wide-open space and wildlife. I have come across mule deer, snakes, lizards, rabbits, frogs, hawks, coyotes and an array of birds, as well as unbelievably gorgeous California oaks, chaparral and wild blackberries.
Elfin Forest is nestled west of Escondido, south of San Marcos and east of Carlsbad, located on Harmony Grove Road at Mile Marker 6 and open from 8 a.m. daily, except Christmas.
It is one of San Diego's true treasures and well worth the trip. For those of you who have been out there, rangers expect that the Lake Hodges Trail, a local favorite, will re-open by year's end.Dunno about sprites, nymphs and magic wood elves hiding in the shadows. Guess you'll have to get your tails outta yer cars and check it out for yourself.