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Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve Trail Professional Review and Guide
"The 750-acre Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve serves two purposes: water management and recreation. The newly constructed Olivenhain dam and reservoir within the reserve holds 8 billion gallons of water—an extra, temporary supply for the region in case an earthquake severs or damages aqueducts that transport water from Northern California. The water storage scheme also helps to regulate the local demand for electricity. At times of peak electrical energy usage, water released from the Olivenhain reservoir generates supplemental electricity as it falls toward Lake Hodges. During periods of lesser demand, often at night, water in Lake Hodges can be pumped back up the hill to replenish the supply in the Olivenhain reservoir."
--Jerry Schad, Afoot & Afield: San Diego County (Wilderness Press).
The way up trail is the only access and it is steep switchbacks. It gives you access to a wide range of much gentler trails at the higher mesa and views over Lake Hodges. This is a great trail for a morning workout. It is often busy with dogs, mountain bikes, and hikers.
As mentioned in other reviews, the "Way Up Trail" provides a short but steep access to the mesas and ridgelines surrounding the reservior. Though rocky at times, the trail is plenty wide and offers nice views of the Harmony Grove area as you climb. Once you arrive at the upper picnic grounds, you'll find water, restrooms, picnic tables and burgeoning shade trees. I imagine that in a few more years, the trees will finally provide shade that is much needed in the summer months. The entire area is well loved, fortunately not too much as of yet. The water district has done a great job of creating and maintaining a little gem of a hiking area in north county inland San Diego. It's worth your time to visit this place.
I walked the way up trail with a loaded hiking pack ( testing it out ) - it was a good amount of exercise up the steep grade. I encountered around 10 groups of people during the hike, so it is not too crowded considering the proximity to the city. This seems to be a popular trail for mountain biking.
Good hiking by San Diego standards. Short trails near entrance along a lush creek under live oak. No parking fee. Switchback ascent is well maintained, with a covered bench lookout 2/3s up and some benches under live oak near the reservoir.
Great Hiking. Steep grade in the Beginning. Rocky at times. Great Views. The creek crossing is nice.
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