Claire Reiner

Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve

Claire Reiner
Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve

A favorite for both hikers and animal lovers, Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve is located just outside of Julian. This beautiful preserve features 3,800 sprawling acres of oak woodlands and a bevy of unique cohabitants--cows and calves. The 13 miles of hiking trails pass through a cattle preserve, where cows and their calves happily graze. The beautiful wildflowers and endless hills offer a perfect backdrop to the idyllic vision. The preserve offers a chance to view a wide variety of California's natural flora and fauna, across all of its climates. The Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve is a fantastic place to hike and explore. 

The natural landscape on view is unique and exciting to experience. As a San Diego local, the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve (and Julian, in general) provides a taste of the seasons. The rolling hills with cows grazing lazily in the sunshine feels more like Northern California than the South, and perhaps more like a cheese commercial than real life. The oak woods that crowd the trails provide the perfect amount of shade from the heat. The hike is moderate, but the hills can become strenuous. Definitely don't forget to bring water and snacks! 

Dogs, as long as they are on a leash, are welcome to join you at the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve. For more information regarding the preserve, click here.

The expansive Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve can be accessed from two points, the West Entrance and the East Entrance. The San Diego Parks and Recreation Department provides these directions, as the winding roads of Julian and Santa Ysabel can make certain entrances hard to find. 

  • East - Farmer Staging: Take Highway 78/79 into Julian, to Main Street. Going north, Main Street turns into Farmer Road. Take Farmer Road to Wynola Road and turn right, then a quick left back on to Farmer Road. Pass the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve sign on your right. Santa Ysabel Preserve will be on the left side, approximately one mile from the Volcan sign. Parking is available in the staging area.
  • East - Hwy 79 Trailhead: Take Hwy 78 into Santa Ysabel. Turn north on to Hwy 79. Trailhead is 1.5 miles north of Santa Ysabel or just south of the Santa Ysabel Mission. Parking is available along Hwy 79.  
  • West: Take Highway 78 to Santa Ysabel. Staging Area is one mile west of Santa Ysabel on Highway 78 at call box #495 or across the street from 29313 Hwy 78.

After cruising along with the cows, stop off at "The Barn"--a unique vintage marketplace and antique store. On my last visit to the Santa Ysabel Open Space Preserve, I by chance stopped off at this beautiful store and found a vintage First-Aid Kit (something close to my family's heart). The shop is filled with treasures and has so much to peruse.