Elfin Forest - Escondido Trailhead - #ElfinForest
Elfin Forest - Escondido - San Diego County - #ElfinForest
Elfin Forest is off Harmony Grove road between Carlsbad and San Marcos. Exit the I 15 at Valley Pkwy in Escondido, go south 1 block to Auto Pkwy and turn right. Turn left on Howard Ave. (about 1/2 mile). Turn right on Harmony Grove Rd. Stay on Harmony Grove Rd. for about 3 miles to Elfin Forest on your left. There is a large parking lot with water and restrooms at the trailhead. Elfin Forest is one of the many gems in San Diego County. The Area has enough trails to ride for a couple of fun-packed hours. Thomas Guide page 1149 A1
GPS: Latitude: Longitude: Elevation:
Rating , Intermediate
44 Updates0 Trails0 Stories0 Photos
Trail Conditions
Del Dios Highlands Trail - If you didn't know, you can also access Elfin Forest from the other side, starting near Lake Hodges and going up the Del Dios Highlands trail. Here's some more info:

I did this yesterday and it is STEEP! This is a very wide, gravelly (but not too bad) dirt road that will get you to the top, and then you can ride around up there for a while before returning. It is not technical, and not as fun as Way Up Trail on the other side of the mountain. The main reason for doing this trail is to challenge yourself aerobically - this one is about 45 minutes as an uphill, about 6 minutes as a downhill! Worth a try...
Seaclasper a 38 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Iridescent Balloon-Knot from Uranus
Posted on 02/02/09 Alert moderators of this post

Elfin Forest - Trail is in good condition, but the Lake Hodges Overlopk Trail is closed due to the recent fires.
seaclasper a 37 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Ellipsoid Marital Aid from Croikey, Ohio
Posted on 11/26/07 Alert moderators of this post
Way Up to Lake Hodges Overlook - This was the first time I've gone since the Lake Hodges Overlook trail opened, and I must say it is a great addition to the system. Nice singletrack that leads to the overlook, and then a short (1-mile) loop from there that takes you almost down to the water's edge at the reservoir. Trail conditions are good, but already getting a tiny bit slippery on the steep parts. LOTS of people there today, which I guess I should have expected for a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Watch them hikers - I came around a corner and there was a mom pushing a stroller up the Way Up trail! Luckily I was way in control, but she got a little scared anyway...
Seaclasper a 36 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Partly Congealed Porkrind from San Dee Eggo
Posted on 04/23/06 Alert moderators of this post
Lake Hodges Overlook is longer - Just thought I would post this update although a week late. Rode the Way Up to the Lake Hodges Overlook trail to the lookout and around. It used to just stop there at the benches but now they opened a little loop past it. Still waiting for more access to the trails beyond. I heard rumors that plans are in the works for a Elfin-Lake Hodges connection behind the dam in the next year or so! Those trying to make this happen can give me a call if you need a helping hand. The highlight of my ride was clearing "the steps" at the bench/lookout on the Way Up Trail without putting a foot down. Man that felt good! After getting to the bottom we carried the bikes back over the creek and rode the "creek trail". Sandy but a fun warm up/cool down. Good time.
ICPAYDIRT a 32 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Santa Cruz Superlight from Pacific Beach E-mail:this user
Posted on 10/05/05 Alert moderators of this post
North County Favorite - I rode this trail a couple of weekends ago. I have to say this is one of my favorite trails. This trail is lots of fun despite climbing some difficult switchbacks in the front. The top of the hill offers some beautiful sites. To the west near equine (forgot how to spell that trail)incline you can see the some beautiful green hills. Not to mention that the trail offers a fantastic downhill.
All the way to the east you have a real nice view of lake hodges. And coming down the switchbacks to the parking lot is really fun even though your hands get tired from the braking. All in all thumbs up for me.
grimace10 a 28 year old Weekend Warrior riding a CDALE F700 from MISSION VALLEY
Posted on 08/03/05 Alert moderators of this post
Elfin Forest, CA -- The acoustic duo 'Berkley Hart' will perform at The Escondido Creek Conservancy's 4th Annual Summer Celebration, Silent Auction and Moonlit Dinner Concert. The event will be held on Saturday, August 20th, 2005 at the Lazy J Ranch in Elfin Forest, beginning at 6 pm. The $50 per person donation includes concert, dinner, drinks and dessert. A silent auction will be held. Tickets may be purchased at Lou's Records in Encinitas, at, or by mailing check to: The Escondido Creek Conservancy, PO Box 460791, Escondido, CA 92046. Call (760) 471-9354 or write for more information.

xbike a 44 year old Die-hard Enthusiast riding a Sugar from Elfin Forest URL:
Posted on 07/26/05 Alert moderators of this post

Elfin Forest is open!! - Today we rode Elfin Forest and not only is it open but it's better than ever! I've got to tip my hat to the rangers who brought in a geologist who helped them strategize on how they will rebuild the trails. You will find The Way Up is every bit as challenging as before in some places and easier in others. New land features, drainage structures, and stone steps look and feel like they are built to last. The Way Up seemed easier at first but your in for some suprises as you make your way up! The Lake Hodges Lookout trail that reopened last December is also open and offer a great view of Hodges from the top. Some of the old trails are now buried by the reservoir but plans are in the works to build a trail behind the Elfin dam that will connect Elfin and Hodges over the next couple of years. Can you say epic ride? We rode the Equine Incline up to the Elfin Lookout and then back again. The Equine Incline trail was as exciting as always however it could use a little weed work or perhaps a little more traffic (only two hikers while we were out there). The hills were all very green, flowers were blooming, and it smelled great! What can I say about the way back down, it was a little different this time but same CLASSIC ELFIN! No longer do you have to make the drive east for a physically and technically challenging trail that's way fun! Be aware that there was lots of hikers enjoying the trail today and know that we mountain bikers have a good rep out there right now so let's all keep it that way! Happy trails!
Ride rating: Advanced
Ride distance: 13 miles Elevation change: 2000
Singletrack=50% Dirt Road=40% Truck Trail=10%
ICPAYDIRT a 32 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Santa Cruz Superlight from Pacific Beach
Posted on 03/27/05 Alert moderators of this post
Closed for Flooding / Landslide - The Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve is closed due to unsafe trail conditions. The Reserve has suffered several slope failures including a large mud/rock slide blocking the "Way Up Trail". Geologists are on
site assessing damage and making recommendations for repairs. The Reserve is will be closed until repairs can be made.

Currenttly there is no timeline for re-opening the Reserve. Please check or call (760) 753-6466 for closure updates.
EBasil riding a Manitou HT or a Fisher Cake from San Diego
Posted on 01/21/05 Alert moderators of this post

9/19/2004 - First time at Elfin Forest today. I used the San Diego Mountain biking guide to get there--realized it was published in 1998...roads have changed, as well as trails. Finally got there, and it was a nice 800 foot climb up the way-up trail. The trail is rocky and I had to walk in a couple spots, but it was a great ride. At the top, I saw no other bikers, and just a couple hikers. The lake is nice, but there are still several trails blocked off around it because of "blasting" or whatever. Nice ride overall.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: 1000 miles Elevation change: ~1000 ft
Singletrack=70% Dirt Road=30%
Adam Burch a 24 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Fuji Hardtail from San Diego E-mail:this user
Posted on 09/19/04 Alert moderators of this post
Elfin Forest - Got to the trailhead at 4:15 and had a nice ride up, despite it being mid-August, and didn't see a dang soul at the top (it's Saturday no less)! When are they gonna open up the trails on the other side of the "emergency" reservoir?

Ride rating: Novice
Ride distance: 8 miles Elevation change: some
Singletrack=80% Dirt Road=20%
The Seaclasper a 34 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a gentrified horse and buggy from the depths of Hades
Posted on 08/21/04 Alert moderators of this post

Efin Rocks! - Just went to Elfin recently for the first time, and really enjoyed it. That first 1.6 miles or so is somewhat of a beeeeatch, steep and rocky, but when you get to the top you realize how much fun it was! It also seems to serve to keep out lame-o crowds who are too lazy to peddle/hike up an actual hill. The Equine trail is a must-do - this is where I saw my first ever horny-toad sighting, the little bugger was sitting in the middle of the trail scarfing up literally hundreds of flies that were apparently mating. Besides, the single-track is real nice there.

I can see how the area on the other side of the reservoir could have high riding/trail potential. Although the Resrve staff seem to have done a nice job making the place user-friendly, I just hope they don't make it TOO user-friendly by removing the technical aspects of this area, that really is the best part of Elfin, as far as I can tell.

Also, I came across some horse-riders on this trail. Please, since we all share the trail, ride slowly or stop when horses are passing. A little friendly cooperation goes a long way...
Ride rating: Novice
Ride distance: 11miles Elevation change: 1500
Singletrack=50% Dirt Road=50%
The SeaClasper a 34 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a A souped-up pogo stick from the hard streets of Compton
Posted on 04/11/04Alert moderators of this post

THanks for the update. I'd be happy to help build some new stuff out there.
Old Heckler
Posted on 03/01/04Alert moderators of this post
Help SDMBA help you - Here is updated information about Elfin Forest:

The San Diego Mountain Biking Association is beginning to get involved with the Rangers at Elfin Forest. We have a trail work event on Saturday April 10th, 2004. It is our goal to educate and work with the land managers on maintaining sustainable trails without removing any of the technical challenge, and specifically ensuring we keep them as challenging as possible. I have seen the complaints and the damage of the trailwork done there recently, and we look to remedy this situation.

The reservoir is scheduled to be filled by August or September of this year. At that point, and once the land managers have passed their appropriate environmental impact studies, we will begin working with them to design up to 12 miles of new, challenging trails. Stay posted to and the mailing list (posted on the web site), to get your chance in building new singletrack!

For now, please keep to the main trails, and as always, ride with courtesty and respect of the other trail users.

Chris Hamilton
Elfin Forest Liaison
Board Member, San Diego Mountain Biking Association
Posted on 03/01/04Alert moderators of this post

Help us out - Hey, if you've seen the sign, how about figuring out where/to whom local riders can give some input to the "rangers" there? Post it here and maybe over on SDMBA's site.

Post it somewhere I can find it, and I'll make sure it gets spread around.
EBasil riding a Manitou HT from San Diego
Posted on 02/27/04Alert moderators of this post

They can have it. The place bites.

Old Heckler
Posted on 02/27/04Alert moderators of this post

Review Period for Mtn Bikers - Signs are posted at trailhead stating that mountain biking at elfin forest is currently under review. The review period ends 5/1/04. One of the rangers said that they are getting too many complaints about speeding mountain bikers and mountain bikers failing to yield to hikers and horses. They may close elfin forest to mountain bikers!!! Please, do your part to follow the rules at elfin forest and pass the word on. I do not want to lose this place! The sign says "the actions of few are affecting many." Please be responsible know who you are.
Posted on 02/27/04Alert moderators of this post
The trail is pretty much just like everybody else below describes it. I got a flat near the top at dusk and we tried to patch it in the last remaining light but the patch didn't last. We had to walk all the way down with a led headlamp sort of lighting our way.
When we got across the stream and into the empty parking lot and started up the hill to get out to the road, there were a lot of creepy noises.

Mainly sounded like someone down in the far end of the lot hitting a pipe against a rock or a piece of metal on the asphalt. It would stop every time I shined my puny led lamp in the direction it was coming from and start back up when I looked away.
Whoever it was accomplished their goal of scaring the shit out of us and we couldn't get the bikes into the truck and drive away fast enough.

so remember next time you're at Elfin Forest with the sun shining and all of those hikers and other riders around you, that they will all be gone when the sun goes down, and It'll be just you and the insane people that live in the canyon!@!!! MOOHOOHAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!
Druranium a 22 year old Die-hard Enthusiast riding a Nunu from Fallbrook
Posted on 03/11/03Alert moderators of this post

Elfin Forest - Yea well the all the construction from the damn dam has most of the southern trails, the fun ones marked off. Only thing left right now is the Way Up trail, Equine Incline, the Tykes trail, and one fire road that comes to a sign that says do not enter due to construction. This stuff has been going on for at least three years now, and maybe even more, and i was talking to a ranger the other day when i was there, and he said it might not be finished until 2004 or 2005. If anyone knows anything about this, or if it is okay to use some of the trails that have been closed for so long, please e-mail me.
Oh, and another thing, the only fun part of the Way Up trail, has been modified from the Hikers and Horses Combined union or whatever they call themselves, so just know that.
Well like i said, please e-mail me if you know about the damn project - any info is helpful. Thanks!!!
One more thing, watch out for elves, i almost hit one on the Tykes trail. It was kinda dressed up like my baby cusin. Whatever - just be careful!
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: depends Elevation change: approx 2000
Brenden a 16 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Jekyll 3000 from Carlsbad E-mail:this user
Posted on 12/24/02 Alert moderators of this post
Elfin Forest - I went 11/30/02, the "Way up trail" is quite technical on the way up, the sand, loose rocks, switchbacks on deep sand, and small steps are enough to make it quite a challenge to make it up in one shot without stopping (voluntarily or involuntarily) a few times. It's pretty straight forward on the way down - watch out for the hikers.

The "Way up trail" climbs from 492ft at the parking lot to Escondido Overlook at 1200ft. The other peak in the park, the Elfin Forest Overlook is at 1346ft. There are a few very short (less than 0.5 mile) loops in the park. Mainly the park comprises of three parts. The "Way up trail" which is probably about 1.5 miles each way, "Tykes Hike loop" which is a mix of fire road and single track for 1.25 miles. And the "Equine Incline loop" which is 2.5 miles. Tykes hike probably has a gain/loss of around 200-300ft, and the Equine Incline probably 300-400ft, but I'm guessing on the elevation of each.

I was looking for a 20 mile ride, so after two loops of Tykes, three of the Equine incline, and a few smaller loops I was pretty bored and left with only 15 miles. The park has no "forest" to speak of, it's just sand, rocks, and scrub bush. Perhaps the scrub bush is an Elf style Forest, and hence the name?

It's not the prettiest of parks. A couple of days prior I had ridden the Nate Harrison Grade up the Palomar mountains which was far more interesting.

I've rated "Advanced" as the "Way up trail" was tough enough to stop me once or twice, there's nothing scary or really technical though.

Ride rating: Advanced
Ride distance: 15 Elevation change: 2500
Singletrack=80% Dirt Road=20%
Roland a 29 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Klein Adept from Folsom, CA
Posted on 12/01/02 Alert moderators of this post

trails no, fire road yes - This is a fun after work sprint ride.
they sure have gone out of the way to keep you from the old trails.
I rode a fast down hill after a short loop inside the park that dropped off twards the coast and ended up coming in from the other side of the parking area. Not sure if it's legal, doesn't matter. If they can build a damn that size, then a nice fun trail that we can all enjoy should have little to no enviromental impact.
If your into climbing silty/rocky uphills this is the place.
it sure has changed in the past couple years.
Ride distance: 8 Elevation change:
T-dog a 34 year old Die-hard Enthusiast riding a Marin wildcat-(meow) from san marcos
Posted on 08/01/02 Alert moderators of this post
Elfin Forest - Haven't been to Elfin forest since the dam construction began. I pulled into the empty parking lot wondering where everyone was. Last time I was here I had to park along the highway and it was packed with bikers. Got to the top (love that technical climb) and thought what a geat day with nobody around. I began to explore the trails only to find out that half of them were closed due to the dam. I was really disappointed at how much was off limits to the hikers and bikers and will not be going back until more trails are open. I believe I rode all of the available trails and I was seeing only 7 miles or so on my GPS.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: 7-9miles Elevation change:
Singletrack=50% Dirt Road=50%
Brian a 33 year old Cross-Country Rider from Encinitas,CA
Posted on 05/13/02 Alert moderators of this post
Elfin Forest - Escondido - The dam is coming along great. Since I am an engineer on the project I routinely jump on my bike after shift and take off on the trails. The little bit of rain that is seen in this part of the country has not damaged the trails other than add a little more character. I am always looking for the power climbs in the area I am working and would like to hear from other riders who know of trails with the same intensity.
Ride rating: Advanced
PT a 36 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a Trek 8000 from Any where and every where
Posted on 04/19/02 Alert moderators of this post
Looking for an Update - I have nothing to offer but questions for anyone that's ridden here recently. How did the trails hold up to the rains? How's the dam project coming along? How's trail traffic?
Rico Sanchez a Cross-Country Rider riding a Manitou HT from Chatsworth, Calif.
Posted on 01/22/02 Alert moderators of this post
Elfin Forest - Forest???? Rode this trail for the first time in late January. It looks like there has been a fire within the last couple of months..bummer. The Way up trail was rideable (not by me) 100% of the way. I did make it through about 75% of the swicth backs. Did the big loop on top. The trail was in pretty ok shape.

The way down was..mmmm.well swithbacks are funner on the way up.

I look forward to seeing the area regrow. It was a good day.
Ride rating: Intermediate
Ride distance: good question Elevation change: I don't care to know
Singletrack=yep% Dirt Road=yep% Paved Path=nope% Truck Trail=not really%
The Mighty Lipitor a 24 year old Cross-Country Rider riding a 95 GT Zaskar from Lake Forest E-mail:this user
Posted on 02/18/01 Alert moderators of this post

Ugh! - The 'Way Up' trail is just that. Short switchbacks, lots of rocks, deep sand makes it tough. I had to walk parts of the first 1/8th mile, but I was able to stay on the bike for most of the remainder of the trail. Lots of rest stops along the way! Once on top, I took Tyke's Hike, a nice trail which has been damaged by horses recently. Once past the switchbacks there, it smoothes out nicely. At the end is the Equine Incline trail...even better. Nice single track on this one with some good climbs and still more switchbacks. Going down the Way Up trail was much more fun, and it does teach a lot of bike handling skills. I ran into a female ranger at the bottom who was very helpful. I asked about when they expected to open the rest of the Oak Valley area of the park. She said about two years, but that the trail maintenance crew was heading out to Elfin as soon as the heat goes down a bit (couple weeks?)
Ride rating: Advanced
Ride distance: 9 miles Elevation change: +/- 750
Singletrack=45% Dirt Road=55%
ATPMatt a 26 year old Weekend Warrior riding a Schwinn S[9five].2 from San Marcos, CA
Posted on 07/21/00 Alert moderators of this post
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