We are starting 2022 off on the right foot- with a hike of course! The first hike of the year did not disappoint, it may just be our new favorite! Located about 20 minutes inland of Carlsbad, Elfin Forest was the beautiful backdrop of today’s hike. There are quite a few trails located in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, 12 to be exact, and we completed 2 of them to share with you!
Location of Trailhead
When we started this hiking series, we frequently consulted our friends on what their favorite hike is. When asking which hike to do next, there was a common answer of one specific hike: The Way Up Trail in Elfin Forest. So, we decided it was finally time to tackle this hike- and we picked the best day to do so! With a high of 75° and clear blue skies, we almost forgot it was January. One thing we did not forget was sunscreen! For this hike we opted for our Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Gel-Lotion in both face and body for all over sun-protection.
This hike is located in the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve, an expansive 784-acre reserve near San Marcos, California. To get to the trailhead, follow signs for the reserve and head down to the parking lot at the bottom of the hill. From here, follow the sound of flowing water- the creek marks the start of the trail!
The Hike Itself
The Way Up trail is a 2.2-mile loop trail that leads up to Harmony Grove Overlook and Ridgetop Picnic Area. Once crossing the creek, the trail begins with a gradual incline on a dusty path. Make sure to keep on the trail as there is plenty of poison oak in the area! As you continue to climb up the trail, stop for some stunning views of Elfin Forest, and to catch your breath!
This trail is easy to follow as it is marked with trail markers noting your mileage every so often. About halfway up the trail, there is a sign noting the continuation of the Way Up trail, or the Botanical Loop Trail. We continued along the Way Up trail on our way up (dad joke!) the mountain but decided to take the Botanical Loop trail on the way back down. You will know you are continuing on the correct trail when you see a huge sign explaining sun safety for dogs. Here at Bare Republic, it is no surprise that we are big dog lovers, so we were thrilled to see a designated informational sign noting heat/sun safety for our four-legged friends!
As you begin to get closer to the Harmony Grove overlook, you will notice that the trail gets even rockier, and changes direction as switchbacks lead you up the mountain. Be extra careful and watch your footing as you work your way up the mountain as some of the rocks can come loose underfoot. When you feel as if you have completed about 5 switchbacks in a row, you know you’re getting close to the top! Once we reached Harmony Grove Overlook, and took a breather sitting under the shaded awning, we admired the views around us and what a sight it was! We quickly learned why this trail is called the “Way Up” trail, because you are way up above the reserve!
Once we caught our breath and had a water and sunscreen reapplication break, we decided to continue along the trail to reach the very top- Ridgetop Picnic Area. After a few more switchbacks, the trail evens out at the top of the mountain and leads you towards the most picturesque spot for a picnic. Ridgetop Picnic area has stunning views of the Olivenhain Reservoir. With picnic tables aplenty, scenic views, and some much-needed shade, getting to the top of the mountain was well worth the hike up!
Once you are ready to head back, begin taking the Way Up trail back down the mountain. We followed along the trail for most of the way down but veered off on the Botanical Trail for a change of scenery at the end of the hike. We 10/10 recommend doing this! The Botanical Trail still leads you to the carpark but takes you through a grove of oak trees. Keep in mind that at one point on this trail, you will need to cross the creek again and this time there is no bridge, you cross via rocks (this was our favorite part)!
The first hike of the year is complete, and we absolutely loved it! The Way Up trail is a new favorite of ours, and we hope we have inspired you to get out there and try it yourself! As always, don’t forget your SPF and leave the trail better than you found it. If you would like to donate to the Escondido Creek Conservancy, please follow this link to do so. Have a hike for us to take on next? Let us know by reaching out to us @barerepublic or firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might hike it next!