Parks and Rec

Featured Park: Santa Ysabel County Preserves

Image Credit: Scott Turner
Santa Ysabel County Preserves

Explore Santa Ysabel County Preserves before lacing up your hiking boots, strapping on your bike helmet or saddling up for a horseback ride on more than 17.5 miles of trails. Supervising Park Ranger Michael Hubbell takes you off the beaten path with this Q&A on the ecologically diverse County park, which is split into an east and west section.

Q: Describe your facility.

Hubbell: The all-encompassing Santa Ysabel Preserves stretches from western Santa Ysabel deep into Julian. It is surrounded by oak woodlands, native grasslands and fields of wildflowers—a beautiful setting for hiking, biking and riding adventures within the boundaries of this 3,800-acre preserve. Plus, the Santa Ysabel Creek runs along the entire northern boundary of the preserve.

Q: Anything new going on?

Hubbell: We have a new land acquisition that joins Santa Ysabel West and East. This will someday be another link in the Coast to Crest Trail. The initial stages of the Santa Ysabel Nature Center have just begun. We believe this will be the crown jewel of the department once finished.

Q: What can the public expect this time of year?

Hubbell: As summer transitions into fall, hikers and equestrians can experience the wide outdoor opportunities our backcountry has to offer. Blackberries along the trail have just begun to ripen. Flocks of turkey chicks can be seen running across the trails and open fields. And deer and bobcat can be seen in the early morning and late afternoon.

Santa Ysabel County Preserves
Santa Ysabel County Preserves

Q: Any new features?

Hubbell: The “Triangle” in Santa Ysabel East has been refurbished with new fencing and a “you are here” map to guide our hikers at this three-point connection deep within the Preserve. The Triangle is where the West Vista Loop trail and the Coast to Crest trail meet. Plus, an amphitheater, built from downed cedars, has just been completed and is ready for use.

Q: What projects are you currently working on?

Hubbell: We have been updating all our kiosks and interpretive signage throughout the Preserves. We are improving all our trail markers throughout the 13+ miles of trails. The trail system throughout Santa Ysabel is getting a facelift. Trimming, rut fixing, water bar building, rock kicking and trail smoothing are all taking place.

Q: Any unusual fact or tidbits about your park?

Hubbell: Santa Ysabel West contains the largest concentration of Engelmann oaks anywhere in the state. The headwaters of the San Diego River and San Dieguito River lie within the Preserves.

Santa Ysabel County Preserves
Santa Ysabel County Preserves

Q: Are there any new programs for the public?

Hubbell: We have three events coming up. Nature Touch Table takes place on Sept. 18, Mountain Lions in the Backcountry! is featured on Oct. 16 and the Hike All The Way Across! is on Nov. 19.

Q: This is your chance to brag about your facilities… please do so.

Hubbell: Santa Ysabel Preserves is one of the largest preserves in the County Parks system. It has three public access points, each one unique in its terrain and ecosystem, from heat in the summer to freezing temperatures and snow in the winter. It is uncommon to leave the preserves without seeing a wide array of wildlife. Deer, coyotes, hawks and turkeys are almost an everyday sight. But with a little luck, a red fox, golden eagle, horned lizard or even a mountain lion can be seen.

If you are planning a visit, be sure to carry plenty of water. Santa Ysabel can be hot and dry during the summer and there is no water available on the trails.  

Michelle Mowad is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact