Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Burnt Mountain

Hiked: 5/12/2015
Distance: 8.7 miles round trip on trail and use trail
Summit Elevation: 2135'
Elevation Gain: 1400'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.12
Round trip time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Recommended water: 64 oz.
Parking/Fees: Free at Daley Ranch Parking Area
Difficulty: Moderate

update: I've been informed the peak itself is considered off limits so I can't recommend making this climb. Stanley Peak appears to be directly on trail as an alternative and the park itself is worth a visit.

Burnt Mountain in San Diego County is the high point in Daley Ranch, a 3,058-acre park maintained by the City of Escondido. I started at the La Honda Drive parking area, though a shorter route is possible from Cougar Pass Road. Daley Ranch is open dawn to dusk and parking is free as far as I can tell. I started up the paved Ranch House Road and got a good view of Stanley Peak as I reached the top of the first hill. Stanley is accessible from this trailhead, but it would have to wait for another day. I branched left on the dirt Boulder Loop trail, taking the longer leg. I saw a couple of hikers going the other way and a couple of equestrians on the East Ridge trail. The terrain is typical boulder strewn rolling hills in northern San Diego County, something I happen to enjoy. I took another left at the Cougar Ridge trail, then right on the Engelmann Oak trail. There are a lot of little ups and downs on the route. Once I was near Burnt Mountain, I looked for a way up along the ridge but the faint trail I followed ended abruptly.

Daley Ranch entrance at La Honda Drive

Stanley Peak, water tank below the summit

Junction of Boulder Loop and Cougar Ridge trails

Approaching Burnt Mountain

I found a well established use trail past an open area with tall grass, so I didn't trample any vegetation. There are a couple of tricky turns around some boulders and slabs, and light scrambling was needed in a few places. The summit had some interesting boulders and three marks. The benchmark and two reference marks were all within a 50' circle. The register was at the actual high point in a cluster of boulders about 10' higher than the benchmark. Inside the register were several loose scraps of paper. I signed the one with Mike Sullivan and Bob Burd on it. This peak could use a real register. There were fine views all around on this sunny day. I jogged the downhills on the way back resulting in a brisk (for me) 3.2 mph average pace.


Flowers and boulders on use trail

Reference Marks No. 1 and 2. Mark No. 2 is wet with my sweat.

Burnt benchmark placed 1939

Lower summit area with benchmarks

Register at the high point


  1. Nice job getting up there. I called the ranger from the foot of Burnt Mountain years ago and she confirmed it was off limits. Since I was writing a book, I didn't want to encourage anything off limits. :)

    1. Hey Derek,

      I just read your report. I don't want to encourage anyone either. I found a pretty cool trip report on peakbagger last year and wanted to get the high point. The use trail looks like it has seen a lot of traffic. It was in good shape. Thanks for the heads up.