Upper Santa Ysabel Creek Trail

Julian, California 92036

Upper Santa Ysabel Creek Trail

Upper Santa Ysabel Creek Trail Professional Guide

Detailed Trail Description from our Guidebook

"As San Diego County’s newest (2006) open space park, the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve is already establishing a reputation as one of the county’s finest parcels of unburned montane landscape. Actually, the Cedar Fire in 2003 did lick its way capriciously through the hills and valleys of the former Santa Ysabel Ranch, sparing most of its acreage. Since a large fraction of the forest near Julian and in nearby Cuyamaca Rancho State Park was thoroughly incinerated, perhaps to a point beyond repair, the remaining unburned areas around Julian—this one in particular—are even more valuable than before."

Upper Santa Ysabel Creek Trail Trip Reports

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We too started early. The ranger had just opened the gate. Beautiful October morning in Julian. I am not easily excited by wild life but...saw the best looking SoCal white tail buck with three does in front of a home just down the road from the trail head...flocks, yes, flock(S) plural of wild turkeys...well, semi-wild as they were not nearly as shy as those I have hunted...one healthy looking coyote eyeing some turkeys...lots of hawks and yes, lots of cattle (and cow patties). Weather was perfect! We were back at the car around 12;30 as it was beginning to get hot...just in time for lunch and a glass of red in Julian. Worst part was the drive from Oceanside. This trail surpassed our expectations. There is one fairly steep climb near the beginning and yes, once you climb up into the meadow, there is scant shade. Go in fall/winter and get there early for best temperatures. There was water in the creek but once you climb away from it, nothing. Plus, be prepared to filter/treat that creek water. With all the cattle around, no way I would chance it untreated. Definately recommend hiking this loop!
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Gorgeous! But hot and very very dry. Bring lots of water, especially for your four legged friends. You can come in via the West or the East side -- start at the East side entrance (outside of Julian), the scenery is much prettier on that side. At least 4 different routes to chose from -- 3 miles to as many as 15+ if you want to do all the loops and go from East to West and back again. Great trail for beginners. Did I mention how dry, though? :-)
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Beautiful hike. Lucky for us it was a breezy morning and we started just as the ranger opened the gate at 7:40am. Lots of cows having a mooing contest that early. First part of hike is shaded, but then the majority is open field so don't go when it's hot! Nice to see the new growth of pines coming through where the burn went through 2 years back.

Upper Santa Ysabel Creek Trail Photos

Trail Information

Nearby City
1,200 feet
Elevation Gain
Trail Type
Moderate to Difficult
Skill Level
3.5 hours
October through June
San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department
Local Contacts
USGS Julian, Santa Ysabel
Local Maps

Trail Log